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: Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi was elected Chairman of the Assembly of Experts, while Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif briefed the Assembly on Iran’s nuclear negotiations with the P5+1.
Ayatollah Yazdi defeated Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani in a two-round voting process to become the Chairman of the Assembly of Experts. Rafsanjani tallied 24 votes, while Yazdi received 47 of the 73 votes cast in the second round; two members abstained and 13 members did not vote (there are 86 seats). Ayatollah Yazdi is a member of the Guardian Council and served as Head of the Judiciary from 1989-1999.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reassured the Assembly of Experts that the nuclear negotiations team is adhering to the framework of the Supreme Leader. Zarif said that Iran will be victorious regardless of a nuclear deal and echoed the regime’s opposition to a two-stage deal. Zarif, moreover, responded to the open letter signed by 47 U.S. senators on March 9 addressed to senior Iranian officials: “In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy… These senators should know that the world is not tantamount to America, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, not by U.S. domestic law.” The regime will likely continue to dismiss recent actions such as Netanyahu’s March 3 speech before Congress or the March 9 open letter to undermine the nuclear talks.
- Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi elected as Chairman of the Assembly of Experts. The nominees were Ayatollah Yazdi, Ayatollah Mohammad Momen, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, and Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi. During the first round of votes Yazdi received 35 votes, Rafsanjani received 25 votes, and Momen received 13 votes, while Shahroudi withdrew his candidacy. During the second round of votes Yazdi received 47 of the 73 votes cast and Rafsanjani received 24 votes; 2 members abstained and 13 were not present. (Fars News Agency) (Tasnim News Agency)
- Zarif: Republican open letter to Iran is a baseless propaganda ploy. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to an open letter to Iranian leaders signed by 47 U.S. senators on March 9. Zarif said the letter was unprecedented and a clear sign that the authors are inept at diplomatic protocol:
- “In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy…”
- “These senators should know that the world is not tantamount to America, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, not by U.S. domestic law.”
- “It is possible that the senators that signed the [above-mentioned] letter may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, and are required to fulfil the obligations they undertake with other states…”
- “Change of government in any country does not mean this country is exempt of its international obligations. Therefore any government is required to implement its obligations…”
- “If the next president revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen, as they boast, it will have simply committed a flagrant violation of international law.” (Fars News Agency)
- Haddad Adel reacts to senators’ letter. Parliamentarian Gholam Ali Haddad Adel stated, “I believe there is competition domestically in America over the Iran issue, and in fact, this [March 9 letter to Iranian leaders] is the result of alignments which exist in domestic politics there.” The Expediency Council member noted, “What exists for us, is the preservation of dignity and the end of cruel sanctions, which we hope will be the outcome of negotiations. If another elected president in America is elected and behaves differently, we will take action accordingly. ” (Mehr News)
- Zarif and Kerry will resume direct nuclear talks on Sunday. Foreign Minister Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are scheduled to meet in Lausanne, Switzerland on March 15. (ISNA)
- Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi says no to two-staged nuclear deal. Acting Chairman of the Assembly of Experts addressed the opening of the 17th Assembly of Experts meeting this morning and said, Iran would “support any dialogue and good agreement that will bring honor to the country.” He added that the past 36 years have proved that the U.S. government does not keep promises and is not trustworthy. Therefore, Shahroudi said, Iran would not accept a two-stage agreement. (Tasnim News Agency)
- Zarif: Iran victorious regardless of a nuclear agreement. In his address to the Assembly of Experts meeting, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif outlined the progress of nuclear negotiations with the P5+1. According to one member, Hojjat al-Eslam Ali Eslami, Zarif said that if a deal is not made the world will know that the U.S. is responsible. On whether the agreement would be in one or two stages, Zarif purportedly said, “I did not agree with the detailed agreement.” (Fars News Agency)
- Ravanchi: Nuclear negotiations headed in right direction. Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Majid Takht Ravanchi made the comment during a political consultation with Finnish Secretary of State Peter Stenlund today in Tehran. Ravanchi expressed hope that the P5+1 would provide the conditions to reach a final agreement by better understanding the realities and adopting the necessary and hard decisions. Stenlund said, “now is the perfect opportunity to solve Iran’s nuclear issue and Finland is very hopeful that the negotiations will lead to a good result.” (Mashregh News)
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
- Abdollahian criticizes former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi for internal unrest. Hossein Amir Abdollahian stated that Sana’a is the official capital of Yemen and that the individuals coming from Aden to ignite a civil war will be “responsible for the consequences of this action.” The Arab and African Affair Deputy to the Foreign Minister stressed that Yemen’s security is a regional issue and added:
- “Yemen’s resigned president should have stayed in Sana’a and shouldn’t have plunged the country into the crisis with his resignation letter.”
- “Tehran supports national dialogue among all parties in Yemen, because this country belongs to all Yemenis… Tehran considers preservation of unity and the fight against terrorism to be essential in this country.” (YJC)
- Larijani calls for enhanced Iran-Kuwait relations. Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani met with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al Ahmed al Jaber al Sabah in Kuwait City. The two sides discussed regional developments and proposals to increase economic ties. (Mehr News)