♦ Reuters: Iran after making Houthis into Yemeni Hezbollah
Reuters reports stated that Iran is sending advanced weapons and military advisors to Yemen’s rebel Houthis, thus increasing support for its Shi’ite ally in a civil war whose outcome can change the balance of power in the Middle East.
The report names drones, long distance missiles, and Kornet anti-tank weapons as arms sent to Yemen by Iran, adding that Iran has deployed Arab and Afghan Shi’ites to Yemen as advisors to train Houthi rebels.
Sources said that in recent months Iran has taken a more significant role in the two-year-old conflict by increasing arms supplies and other support. This, according to Reuters, mirrors the Iran’s strategy in backing its Lebanese ally Hezbollah in Syria.
♦ Hassan Rouhani: Even 10 next governments cannot solve all problems
Hours after the leader of Islamic Republic Ali Khamenei criticized economic problems, Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani announced that even 10 next governments will not be able to resolve all issues, but the government has opted for the right path to alleviate the problems. Rouhani said, “problems will not be solved in short term,” while emphasizing that it should not be allowed that some people “plant seeds of despair and hopelessness in the youths’ hearts.”
In his message for Iranian New Year, Rouhani defended his government’s achievements in controlling inflation, economic growth and employment in 2016-2017, calling it “unprecedented in comparison with past 25 years.”
♦ Mohsen Hashemi to run for the presidency
Mohsen Hashemi, the eldest son of late Hashemi Rafsanjani, has decided to run for the presidency. Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabi, the lawyer of Rafsanjani’s family, said that Mohsen Hashemi will not run for City Councils elections, and is going to run for the presidency instead. “It has been decided that if anybody else should run for the presidency along with Rouhani, it should be Mohsen Hashemi.”
♦ Alakaram: Tehran municipality needs strategic management
Hossein Alakaram, the former leader of Iranian militant group Ansar-e Hezbollah, announced that he would run for the 5th City and Village Councils elections as an independent candidate. When asked what experience and expertise he can bring to the position, he asserted that he has Ph.D. in political science and in strategic management, adding, “Tehran municipality is in need of strategic management. And the management I have seen so far has been usual and ordinary.” He emphasized that Lebanon Hezbollah is the role model for Ansar-e Hezbollah, which implies taking part in social works and services.
♦ IAEA Chief accuses Iran again
Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, claimed that Iran has been close to violating its commitments twice during last year by producing heavy water. In a recent interview with Wall Street Journal, the IAEA Chief added if Iran continues producing heavy water, it’s a matter of time until this country reaches the threshold of 130 tons. Amano also said Iran has so far implemented the 2015 nuclear agreement with 5+1 countries. Comparing Iran with North Korea, Amano said, “The situation is very different. Easy comparisons should be avoided.”
♦ Zarif: Iran ready to return to pre-JCPOA conditions
Iran FM Mohammad Javad Zarif said if the U.S. fails in fulfilling its obligations to the extent that our national interests are undermined, Islamic Republic is ready to return to pre-JCPOA conditions. Zarif emphasized that as Iran’s leader Ali Khamenei has said, Islamic Republic is committed to its obligations, but if the U.S. does not fulfill its duties in JCPOA, Iran is ready to return even stronger than before.
He added that during past 2 months, we could make the country’s most advanced centrifuge operative, which was just an idea at the time of ratification of JCPOA. Zarif stated that these centrifuges are 20 times stronger than the ones installed before.
♦ MP Akbarian: We could not realize Resistance Economy last year
MP Aziz Akbarian, head of Industry Commission in the parliament, expressed his regrets that they failed in realizing Resistance Economy last year, promising the parliament will take effective measures to improve national production and bring down the unemployment this year. MP Akbarian emphasized that even though special attention was paid to Resistance Economy in the parliament last year, “we could not do enough to accomplish it.”
Mentioning the recession and high level of smuggling goods in the country, he added that if the current situation continues, the country would face serious damages.
♦ Naqavi Hosseini: Government to prevent bankruptcy of manufacturing and economic enterprises
MP Seyed Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, the spokesperson of Parliament’s National Security Commission, considered the government as a herald in implementing general policies of Resistance Economy and creating employment, saying that “country’s economic progress is not in Lausanne and Geneva [where JCPOA was negotiated].” He added that Iranian government and all organizations must pay more attentions to the issue of the employment and general policies of Resistance Economy.
Naqavi Hosseini urged that currently manufacturing units are in grave conditions, and some of them are either closed or working with their least capacities, so government must take necessary measures to prevent the bankruptcy of manufacturing and economic enterprises.
♦ International Federation of Journalists condemns arrest of media activists in Iran
International Federation of Journalists and Association of Iranian Journalists, in a joint statement, condemned the arrest of Morad Saghafi, Hengameh Shahidi, and Ehsan Mazandarani. According to International Federation of Journalists, with Iran’s presidential elections approaching, a new wave of confrontation with journalists in Iran has started, and suppressing media and arresting media activists is increasing.
These journalists’ arrest, along with detention of some managers of Telegram groups close to reformists, has been criticized by some parliamentarians in past few days.
Reporters Without Borders says that Iran, with 30 journalists and citizen-journalists in prison, is one of the 5 biggest prisons for media activists.
♦ Ahwaz: World’s most polluted city
Iranian Parliament Member announced that heavy oil production, other industries and dust particles in Ahwaz have turned Ahwaz into the most polluted city in the world. Mohammad Kazem Nasabolbaji, representative of Ahwaz in Iran’s Parliament, added authorities care more about increasing oil production and maintaining large resources of gas and oil than protecting the environment. “Drying up a major part of Hourolazim wetland in order to extract oil is a tangible instance of such approach,” said Albaji.
He added that Oil Ministry is proud of increasing oil production from 1 million to more than 3 million barrels per day, “but which facilities or equipment have been renovated after sanctions for extraction of such amount of oil which causes a thick smoke polluting Khuzestan?”
Anadolu News Agency
♦ Ahmadinejad’s threat on verge of Iran’s presidential election
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has recently said that if Hamid Baghaei, his former Vice President, gets disqualified for the upcoming election, “he will not remain silent.” He made many efforts for qualification of Mashaei’s candidacy during 2013 presidential election but to no avail. The Representative of Supreme Leader to IRGC Abdollah Haj-Sadeghi said Ahmadinejad met with Khamenei 3 times in this regard, but the Leader had previously stressed that he would not recommend anyone to the Guardian Council.
Ahmadinejad’s words might be considered as a threat, which can wreak havoc on the verge of presidential election. He has no intention of leaving the competition arena and plans to turn into the same aggressive politician that he used to be.
♦ MP Zahedi: Government replaced hope with hopelessness
Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi, Head of Education and Research Commission in the Parliament, openly criticized the government for making promises to people, when not capable of fulfilling them. He called “this unwise, as it replaces hope with hopelessness among the people.” Zahedi continued that during a recent trip of the government cabinet to Khuzestan Province, it was promised that there would not be any more power outages in that province, but that very night the power was cut off.
Regarding the upcoming presidential election, he stated that only those candidates should be elected by Popular Front for Islamic Revolution who have the necessary rationality, respect public opinion, and have collective rationality in mind.
Fars News Agency
♦ Ahmadinejad’s official support for Baghaei
Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a statement, officially announced his endorsement of his former vice president Hamid Baghaei for upcoming presidential elections, saying that he is careful Baghaei would not be disqualified for this election.
In a video message, Ahmadinejad said, “Protecting public rights and being concerned that the country is moving in the right direction is a public duty. And therefore, it is my duty to be careful so that 2013 mistakes as to eliminating some competent people from presidential elections won’t happen again—mistakes that in actuality limited people’s elections, and postponed the country’s progress for many years.”
In 2013 presidential elections, the Guardian Council disqualified Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, one of the figures close to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Ahmadinejad also said, “Free election is people’s right and no one can restrict it, or impose his view on people.”
Hamid Baghaei was vice president to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and in 2015, was imprisoned for financial violations, but was a few months later released from prison.
♦ Jailed journalist transferred to Evin Prison
Tahereh Riyahi, a journalist who wrote for Shargh daily and Mardom-e Emrooz newspaper, has been transferred to Evin Prison’s women ward, after being detained in solitary for 2 months, reported Journalists International Federation. Riyahi, who was also the social affairs editor of Borna News Agency, was arrested by Intelligence Ministry agents on December 27, 2016. According to Journalists International Federation, Riyahi “had a seizure and foamed at the mouth in prison every day.” Tahereh Riyahi is charged with “propaganda against the regime.”
♦ Iranian MP: Arresting journalist turns Iran to police state
Head of Parliament’s Hope Fraction Mohammad Reza Aref has criticized recent arrests of journalists in Iran. Aref, in his piece for Ebtekar daily, writes that such confrontations with media activists will turn Iran to a police state, which is against the national security.
Journalists Hengameh Shahidi and Morad Saghafi were among the journalists arrested in Iran last week.
♦ LA Times: Conservatives’ failed competition with Rouhani
According to LA Times, President Hassan Rouhani’s opponents have unanimously criticized JCPOA, the most important achievement in his first 4 years of presidency; however, they have not been able to support a single candidate to challenge Rouhani. “Ten possible candidates put forward by a bloc of political leaders this month are all seen as lacking the stature to oppose the first-term incumbent”, states the report. Conservatives are extremely unruly and the last time they could agree on a single candidate was in 1997 presidential election in which they failed.
LA Times also refers to the possibility of tension between U.S. and Iran, as well as Iran’s being challenged for its Syria policies, citing Iran analyst Ali Vaez as saying disqualifying Rouhani is unlikely: “Doing so amid concerns over Trump’s policy toward Iran could add instability to uncertainty.” LA Times concludes that Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani’s refusal to join the conservatives’ bloc against Rouhani is a sign pointing to re-election of Rouhani. “With Rouhani likely to win again, Larijani could have his eye on being a candidate in 2021.”
♦ Iranian Lawmaker: Government failed in implementing resistance economy
Hosseinali Haji Deligani, the member of Budget and Planning Commission in Iran’s parliament, said, “What is happening in the society indicates the failure of resistance economy in the country.” Shahin Shahr MP added that president has not had the chance to deal with resistance economy, and it has been a while that president’s first deputy is running the president office and the government, “which naturally intensifies economic problems.”
Haji Deligani emphasized that “this year, people’s conditions at Iranian New Year are much worse than last year, and they are not capable of buying anything for their families and are in need of daily bread.”
Fars News Agency
♦ Iran’s oil export to Europe to increase to 800 thousand barrels per day
Deputy Oil Minister Ali Kardar said that Iran is currently exporting 500 thousand barrels of oil to Europe per day, but intends to increase to this to 800 thousand barrels per day in the next 2 months. Kardar also said: “Iran’s average export of crude oil in February was 2,298,000 barrels per day. And if we add average export of 700 thousand barrels of gas condensate per day to this, we will get the unprecedented number of more than 3 million barrels of exporting crude oil and gas condensate per day in February 2017.” He added that Iran will increase its oil production to 4 million barrels per day by the mid-April 2017.
♦ Four Reformist MPs’ letter to Rouhani
Four members of the Parliament’s Omid (Hope) Fraction have called on the release of recently arrested journalists and Telegram admins in a letter to Iran’s President. Lawmakers Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh, Bahram Parsaei, Mohammad Ali Vakili and Elias Hazrati address Rouhani, saying if he refuses to take action, they will invite the related ministers (including ministers of intelligence, justice department, interior and culture) to parliament to follow up the issue with them, “until the truth is revealed and the rights of arrested individuals are secured, even if it necessitates impeachment of the related ministers.”
♦ Faezeh Hashemi condemned to imprisonment again
Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of late Hashemi Rafsanjani, was once again condemned to 6 months of imprisonment. She is reportedly convicted on the charge of “spreading falsehood to disturb public opinions towards judiciary and Islamic Revolutionary Guards, as well as tarnishing the image of the regime.”
This news has not been confirmed by the judiciary officials, but it is published by some websites. It has been a while that Faezeh Hashemi prefers to remain silent, and particularly after her father’s death, she did not appear in public gatherings very much, and did not give any speeches.
Previously, Mizan news agency, close to Iran’s judiciary, had criticized Faezeh Hashemi’s interview with Dor TV, claiming that this TV network is connected with Bhai’s and the regime’s opposition.
♦ Attorney-General: 52 people with dual nationality introduced to Intelligence Ministry
Iran’s Attorney-General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri announced sending a list of 52 people with dual nationality to Intelligence Ministry, adding some of them have dual nationality, some have other countries’ residency, and some others have Green Cards. He said those with dual nationality “usually hide their second citizenship, and it is Intelligence Ministry’s duty to discover such issues.”
Attorney-General added that previously a list of 16 people was sent to Intelligence Ministry, in which “it became clear that some officials have Green Cards, 3 were residing abroad, and 2 of them gave consultation to the country’s officials, particularly to those involved in JCPOA.”
Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said regarding Telegram that 16 to 20 thousand Telegram channels are filtered every week, but “it is not enough, and the national network must be created.”
Fars News Agency
♦ Motahari slams detention of “reformist or pro-government” media activists
Ali Motahari, Deputy Speaker of Iran’s Parliament, criticized “detention of 12 managers of reformist or pro-government channels in Telegram by a security-military organization,” as well as the arrest of Ehsan Mazandarani, editor in chief of Farhikhtegan daily. Apparently, Motahari is implying that the arrests were made by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Motahari emphasized: “This measure is being taken in the last days of the [Iranian] year when there are no parliament sessions and informing process is also difficult, thus creating certain doubts on the threshold of presidential elections.”
Recently, Hengameh Shahidi, a reformist journalist and a member of National Trust Party, who was in Mashhad for her grandmother’s funeral, was arrested and transferred to Tehran. Shahidi, in a letter published from Evin Prison, accused both IRGC’s intelligence unit and Intelligence Ministry of confronting the journalists. She also criticized Hassan Rouhani’s silence on the issue.
♦ Rezai: People in poor economic conditions
Mohsen Rezai, the secretary of Expediency Discernment Council, says people are facing poor economic conditions, adding that Iran is falling behind “in producing national automobiles, economic livelihood, industry, and agriculture.” He stated, “if we want to create changes in the country’s economy and industry, revolutionary people must enter the arena.”
Former IRGC commander continued that if the revolution had entered the economic domain, “now Syrian and Iraqi markets were filled with our goods, but now these markets are full of Turkish goods instead.” Referring to Iran’s achievements in defense and security domains, Rezai noted, “the country’s military power has gone so far that Iranian commanders are in Mediterranean coasts, giving consultation to Syria and Iraq.”
Fars News Agency
♦ ‘Fundamentalists have no chance in presidential election’
Iranian academic Sadegh Zibakalam says Iran’s last two election shows that fundamentalists have extremely lost their popularity among the post-revolution generations, including the educated, youth, middle class, and urbanite. “Fundamentalists know that they have no chance in the upcoming election,” noted Zibakalam. Their only hope is that Rouhani wins the election by a slim margin, so that “they can tell him people are dissatisfied with you too,” added Zibakalam.
♦ ‘Rouhani should apologize to people’, says fundamentalist politician
Mostafa Mirsalim, the Islamic Coalition Party candidate for Iran’s upcoming presidential election, has fiercely criticized Hassan Rouhani’s administration. “People are suffering from unemployment, hardship and skyrocketing prices,” said Mirsalim in an interview with Jame Jam Online. Alluding to economy’s 7.4% growth rate announced by Rouhani, Mirsalim said making pretentious statistics and imposing it on people have become the government’s method. Mirsalim added, 5.2% out of that 7.4% rate belongs to oil revenue and only 2% comes from other activities. The President should apologize to people for releasing such misleading statistics, he said.
♦ Without JCPOA Iran nuclear facilities would be closed
Mahmoud Alavi, Iran’s Intelligence Minister, has stated that if sanctions had continued, Iran’s centrifuges would have stopped rotating. In an interview with IRIB TV, Alavi said that there were 50 tons of yellow cake left which would be enough for 3 months of uranium enrichment in Esfahan facility. Iran’s attempt to skirt the sanctions and buy yellow cake failed, said Alavi, while since JCPOA implementation, Iran has been able to purchase 340 tons of yellow cake.
During Ahmadinejad’s presidency, Supreme Leader Khamenei announced, despite the sanctions, Iran would continue its nuclear program to achieve self-sufficiency in that industry.