Insider news & Analysis in Iran

On Thursday, Al Jazeera reported upon the latest iteration of the annual speech given by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to mark Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. Such speeches traditionally include the declaration of a theme for the year ahead, and Khamenei used the phrase “made in Iran” to describe this year’s theme.

On Tuesday, a report by UPI reiterated the widespread expectations of a shift in American foreign policy following the unceremonious ouster of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In announcing Tillerson’s firing, US President Donald Trump cited apparent differences of strategy over the Iran nuclear deal as a major rationale. Tillerson’s prospective replacement, current CIA Director Mike Pompeo is a noted Iran hawk who has echoed the president’s preference for scrapping the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and has also spoken in favor of regime change in Iran.

On a trip to Bahrain alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis, US Navy Commander William Urban reiterated earlier reports about the change in the posture of Iranian naval forces toward American vessels transiting the Persian Gulf. The Associated Press quoted Urban as saying there had been no “unsafe and unprofessional” actions by those forces since last August. Up to that point in 2017, there had been 14 close encounters between the US Navy and the naval forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. This compares to 35 such incidents in 2016 and 23 in 2015.

On Wednesday, the global media featured a number of different reactions to the previous day’s news that Rex Tillerson would be replaced in the position of US Secretary of State by the current CIA director, Mike Pompeo. The move has predictably met with opposition from critics of the Trump administration but praise from supporters of its assertive policies toward the Islamic Republic of Iran, because Pompeo’s views seem to align more closely with those of the president.

On Tuesday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) published a statement by Hossein Abedini, a member of its Foreign Affairs Committee, regarding that day’s celebrations of the ancient Iranian fire festival of Chaharshanbe Suri. The statement declared that Iranian authorities “anxiously expect new anti-regime protests in the coming New Year,” starting with gatherings on Chaharshanbe Suri, which precedes Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, by one week.

It was widely reported on Wednesday that Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ aerospace division, had boasted of the ongoing expansion in the size and capability of Iran’s ballistic missile program. Reuters quoted the IRGC senior commander as saying, “Our production has increased three-fold compared to the past.” He was not specific about the time period for this increase, by a number of Iranian officials have insisted in recent months that the Islamic Republic will continue to pursue missile development at full scale and will not agree to any negotiations over its military capabilities.

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