This Week in Iranian News – September 5-12

by Shawn Amoei

Foreign Affairs

  • President Hassan Rouhani cites improved relations with Europe as a top foreign policy priority.
  • Yemen confirms that a kidnapped Iranian diplomat is in al-Qaeda custody.
  • Audio from a speech by former President Hashemi Rafsanjani blaming Bashar al-Assad for chemical attacks causes conservative backlash, forcing him to backtrack. In his latest comments, Rafsanjani states, “It is possible that individuals have infiltrated the Syrian Army and they could be behind these [chemical attacks].”
  • Foreign Minister Javad Zarif traveled to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other senior officials in his first trip abroad since taking office.
  • Recent presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei says the US would be committing a “big gamble” if it attacks Syria, with repercussions for years to come.
  • Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani warns of a “quagmire” for the US if it steps into what he calls a “trap” set in Syria by some regional countries.


  • Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham announced Iran welcomes a Russian proposal to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control.
  • Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced plans to meet with EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton in New York this month, and signaled willingness to meet with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague at the UN session.
  • President Rouhani is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly late September as part of a six-day trip to New York that includes two more speeches at a nuclear disarmament summit and a gathering of representatives from the Non-Aligned Movement.

Nuclear Program

  • President Rouhani officially transferred responsibility for the country’s nuclear from the more hardline National Security Council to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Expediency Council chairman Hashemi Rafsanjani said a nuclear agreement is within reach and Iran seeks “real negotiations, with no preconditions, that specify trust-building measures and do not waste time or opportunity.”
  • The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran is ready to move beyond the nuclear issue and seeks a “win-win solution” that relieves Western concerns.

Economic Issues 

  • Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh announced structural changes to oil contacts aimed at attracting foreign investors. Six national and multinational companies have been invited to inspect Iranian oil and gas projects, including Shell, Total, Repsol, Inpex, OMV, and Stat Oil.
  • Rouhani’s economic team released a report on the critical state of unemployment among youth and college graduates, including a survey that shows at least 43% of families have at least one unemployed family member.


  • The head of an Iraqi Hezbollah division armed and advised by the IRGC says it has 23,000 trained fighters ready to attack US interests in Iraq and the Persian Gulf if Syria is attacked.
  • General Masoud Jazayeri says Syria will fight “fire with fire” if attacked. “US allies in the region that provide money, resources and bases for the rebels are in Syria’s range and it is predicted that Syria will retaliate,” he said.

At Home

  • Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf was reelected mayor of Tehran for a third consecutive term this Sunday. His main rival was Mohsen Hashemi, the son of former president Hashemi Rafsanjani.
  • Recent presidential candidate Mohammad Reza Aref is set to open a major newspaper as part of his effort to establish a new political party. According to his office, the newspaper is expected to hit newsstands in autumn and is currently in the process of receiving a license.
  • President Rouhani appointed Masoumeh Ebtekar as Vice President and head of the Department of Environmental Affairs.

— Shawn Amoei is a London-based foreign affairs analyst, specializing in US foreign policy and the Middle East. He writes for Iranwire and the Huffington Post, and can be reached by email.

– Photo: Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham. Credit: ISNA/Erfan Khoshkhoo 

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