Iran news round up – February 23, 2015

A selection of the latest news stories and editorials published in Iranian news outlets, compiled by AEI Critical Threats Project Iran Analyst Mehrdad Moarefian and Marie Donovan, with contributors Farzin Farzad and Diana Timmerman. To receive this daily newsletter, please subscribe online.

Key takeaway: President Rouhani reassured the domestic audience that the administration will safeguard national interests, while the Supreme Leader emphasized domestic production over imports. The Foreign Ministry condemned the February 22 ISIS attack on the Iranian ambassador’s residence in Tripoli.

President Hassan Rouhani stated that both Iran’s national interests and regional security can be achieved through political engagement and the establishment of good relations with regional states. Rouhani discussed the ongoing P5+1 nuclear negotiations and said Tehran is committed to constructive interaction and meaningful resolutions. Rouhani, moreover, praised Iranians for their support; “The nation is the well-wisher of the negotiating team; majority of the people support the nuclear talks. According to several public opinion polls… more than 80% of the people support the nuclear negotiations.” Rouhani’s speech underscores a deliberate attempt to rally national support for his administration’s efforts, while implicitly isolating conservative hardliners in the regime, who oppose negotiating with the West.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s January 26 remarks, published today, highlighted some of his economic concerns. Khamenei reportedly urged Iranian officials to implement measures that prioritize domestic-made products over imports: “Today, the pressure of imports is crippling the country, and there are very peculiar figures for the amount of flow of contraband into the country. However, allowing huge imports is no way a logical justification for the fight against commodity smuggling and for earning profit through customs.”

The Foreign Ministry condemned the February 22 ISIS attack on the Iranian ambassador to Libya’s residence in Tripoli, in which two home-made bombs caused minimal damage.

 

Official Statements

  • Khamenei urges emphasis on domestic products over imports. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s remarks from January 26, National Engineers’ Day, were publicized today. Khamenei reportedly urged Iranian officials to implement measures that prioritize domestic-made products over imports:
    • “Today, the pressure of imports is crippling the country, and there are very peculiar figures for the amount of flow of contraband into the country. However, allowing huge imports is no way a logical justification for the fight against commodity smuggling and for earning profit through customs.”
    • “You should try in different sectors of the country in question, that we can show the people through our actions, by identifying gaps and needs of the country and head toward fulfilling unfinished work.” (Leader.ir)
  • Rouhani stresses nuclear negotiations will safeguard national interests and regional security. President Hassan Rouhani addressed provincial governors, Iranian ambassadors in the Middle East, and regional ambassadors to Tehran during Sunday’s Resistance Economy Conference:
    • On regional relations: “The first step in the government’s foreign policy is to establish good relations with neighboring states; Iran seeks to strengthen tourism among countries of the region.”
    • “The message of the Iranian government in neighboring countries is the development of relations in the economic, political, cultural, society and security fields.”
    • “They [regional countries] need to know all of our programs favor the people of the region.”
    • On P5+1 nuclear talks: “The new composition of the negotiating team shows the Iranian nation’s resolute will to have constructive interactions with the world.”
    • “The nation is the well-wisher of the negotiating team; majority of the people support the nuclear talks. According to several public opinion polls on the issue, more than 80% of the people support the nuclear negotiations.”
    • “It is important that a strong majority of the people support the path that is pursued by the government.”
    • “The government’s might is thanks to its social capital, as we believe the people have thus far been present in every scene and supported the government and the support from His Eminence, the Supreme Leader.”
    • “Although there may be a minority who oppose [negotiations], but this should not be worrisome, because this is an aspect of democracy and freedom [to oppose] in the country.”
    • On economic expansion: “Without trade relations it is impossible for a country to achieve acceptable development; no country can develop in isolation.”
    • “No power can isolate us; Iran is the beating heart of the region. However, we can isolate ourselves if we do not exercise prudence [and take extra precautions in foreign policy].”
    • “Iran is in a position to connect the Far East to the West and the countries of the Mediterranean basin. If the Incheh Borun [city in Golestan Province, northern Iran], railway is created, China will be connected to Iran and the Persian Gulf, and with the construction of the Chabahar [in Sistan va Baluchistan Province, southeast Iran], railway, the world will be connected to the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean.” (President.ir)
  • Velayati: “Negotiations are not a concession given to Iran.” Ali Akbar Velayati censured recent remarks that Obama would decline a deal if Iran is unable to prove its nuclear program is peaceful by March. He said that from the beginning Iran has always announced its readiness to negotiate. Velayati added that it is the US that needs to negotiate in order for the talks to reach the point it desires. The Head of the Strategic Research Center and Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Supreme Leader stressed that Iran will not retreat from its rights on the nuclear issue and it will continue to negotiate within the framework set by Khamenei. (Fars News Agency)
  • Foreign Ministry condemns ISIS attack on ambassador’s residence in Libya. Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said that two home-made bombs exploded in front of the Iranian ambassador’s residence in Tripoli on Sunday, causing minimal damage. Afkham called for a “political agreement and national dialogue between conflicting sides” to pave the way for the “formation of a national unity government [in Tripoli]” in order to stop the ongoing crisis. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack on the residence. (Kayhan)
  • Tayyeb Nia to the Supreme Leader: we will implement your economic guidance. In a letter thanking the Supreme Leader for the “guidance” and “support” on economic issues he provided during his February 18 speech, Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Tayyeb Nia stated that his ministry has a “strategic document containing the essential elements in the general policies of the resistance economy,” and “will place its [the document’s] implementation on the agenda.” “Two strategic priorities” of the document are:
    • “‘Increasing the country’s ability to create wealth’ and “sustainable financial security of the government and reduction of the budget’s reliance on oil revenues.’” Tayyeb Nia also said that as the Supreme Leader Your Honor stated in the speech, “…liberation from economic dependence on oil… is a complex and difficult matter which is their realization of need of understanding and joint determination between the people and the government officials.” Tayyeb Nia also stated that “the main steps are underway of our Honor’s guidance on the importance of public participation in the implementation of the plan of this ministry of a major change to the country’s tax system….” (Mehr News)
  • Firouzabadi: 84% of Iranians assured of armed forces capabilities. Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi cited a poll conducted by the Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS), which claimed that 84% of Iranians held confidence in an “appropriate response to enemies of the Revolution” by the armed forces. Firouzabadi suggested that the Armed Forces General Staff (AFGS) in conjunction with the Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council should develop courses on crime prevention at universities based on the teachings of the Qur’an. (Sepah News)
  • Zolghadr: small UAVs will be used for the first time in search and rescue exercises. IRGC Brig. Gen. 2C Ahmad Zolghadr said that during search and rescue exercises conducted by 25 Beit al Moghaddas and Kowsar Battalions, drones will be used for the first time to film an earthquake training scenario. Deputies from the IRGC Mohammad Rasoul Allah unit will observe and perform “final assessments” of the exercise. In another part of his speech, the IRGC Mohammad Rasoul Allah unit Deputy Commander mentioned that a three-day defensive military exercise involving 52 battalions will take place in March 2015. (Defapress)
  • Izadi reiterates Khamenei’s assertion that the US created ISIS. IRGC Maj. Gen. Mostafa Izadi pointed to the ongoing crises in Iraq and Syria and said that Iran’s power and capabilities have reached a point that it now comes to the aid of countries, even if they were once considered an enemy (referring to Iraq). The Armed Forces General Staff Strategic and Oversight Affairs Deputy added: “The moves by ISIS to strengthen the Zionist regime [Israel] show the nature of the takfiri [excommunicated] current; the main goal of this takfiri group is to taint the image of Islam and to prevent its progress in the heart of the Europeans.” (Fars News Agency)
  • Parliament Speaker: Iran supports efforts in Syria. Ali Larijani reaffirmed Tehran’s continued support for Damascus; “the Parliament backs the adoption of any mechanism necessary for the support of the nation and people of Syria in the current situation.” (IRNA)

 

Military and Security

  • Funeral for Iranian fighters killed in Syria heldin Mashhad. Nurollah Hosseini and Abdolllah Hosseini were purportedly killed while defending the Seyyeda Hazrat Zeinab Shrine in Damascus “by Salafi groups.” (Fars News Agency)
  • Artesh Air Force: our F-14s have domestically-produced radar systems. The Artesh Air Force is creating its own “national radar” to put on the F-14 Tomcat; Artesh Air Force 8th Base Deputy Commander Col. Asghar Shafiei stated that domestically-made radar has been installed on its F-14 fighters. Shafiei added: “all institutional aircraft of the Artesh Air Force are overhauled domestically in the Force, and we do not depend at all on the country [Iran]. At the Esfahan Base in the direction of the F-14 flights, we have reached a point where we can say with certainty that Esfahan is the only place [where] these aircraft are overhauled and manufactured now, in the world.” Shafiei stated that “updating the F-14, the F-7, and the PC-7 aircraft is on the agenda.” (Mashregh News)
  • Russia reportedly offered Iran Antey-2500 surface-to-air missiles. According to Russian media outlets, Moscow has offered Tehran the Antey-2500 air defense missile systems in place of the older S-300 system; Russia agreed to deliver the S-300s in a 2007 agreement, but was later pressured to renege on its agreement by the West. (Tasnim News Agency

Nuclear Talks

  • First leg of bilateral nuclear talks end in Geneva. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry ended their talks on Sunday and are set to resume negotiations on Monday. Ali Akbar Salehi, Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran; Hossein Fereydoon, Advisor and Chief of Staff to the President; and Ernest Moniz, US Secretary of Energy also attended the talks. International and Legal Affairs Deputy to the Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Majid Takht Ravanchi, and US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with P5+1 member states in the EU mission building and later joined the bilateral talks. Zarif expressed that “there will be no final agreement until all details are discussed.” He added that “as long as sanctions remain a lever to exert political pressure in the mindset of negotiators, it will be very difficult to reach an agreement.” (Fars News Agency)
  • Tehran threatens to leave the P5+1 negotiations. Abbas Araghchi responded to President Obama’s recent remarks stating that the US will not extend the talks beyond the March 31stdeadline, saying that, “we will continue the talks with strong will and determination and whenever we sense that the negotiations are not proceeding in line with the best interests of the nation and country and are not moving toward the defined purpose, we will definitely leave the negotiations.” Araghchi also said that the remarks will not impact the negotiations and that Iran will continue negotiating as long as respectful language is used in the negotiations. He added that it is still too soon to say that progress has been made, but that the bilateral and multilateral negotiations were “constructive and useful.” (IRNA)

 

Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • Minsters of Communication of Iran and Somalia meet in Tehran. Somalia’s Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Guled Hussein Kassim arrived in Tehran today to discuss bilateral relations with Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi. (ISNA)

By AEI Critical Threat