Skip to main content

Iranian press review: Conservatives cheer EU 'retreat' on blacklisting IRGC

Meanwhile, experts cast doubt over closure of Hormuz strait and state-supported women's conference backfires
Protestors hold a banner which reads as "Woman Life Freedom" during a demonstration in Brussels, Belgium, on 1 October 2022 (AFP)

Conservatives applaud EU not banning IRGC

Media with ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have hailed remarks by the European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in which he said the EU could not proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist group.

Last week, in Strasburg, Paris, Montreal and London, Iranians held demonstrations demanding the EU put the IRGC on its list of terrorist groups. In response, on Monday, Borell said that such a move would not be possible "without a court decision first".

Pro-IRGC politicians in Tehran praised Borrell's remark, seeing it as a victory for the Iranian establishment and "a retreat" by the EU.

Zohre Elahian, a member of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy commission, told the Fars news agency: "The EU retreat occurred because the entire establishment insisted on its revolutionary values."

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


Referring to Iran's warnings of consequences if the move went ahead, the Javan daily, which is affiliated with the IRGC, wrote: "For a while, the Europeans played with the card of adding the IRGC to their terror list, but finally they faced the real price of doing that and retreated."

Tehran 'unable to close Hormuz strait'

Iran cannot close the strait of Hormuz, according to high-profile journalist Mehdi Beik of the Etemad daily, despite hardliners' claims that the IRGC would do so if the EU blacklisted the group.

In his piece, Beik, who was last week released from custody on bail, scrutinised the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (which Iran has not acceded to) and international maritime law.

"Any attempt at closing this strait would have huge consequences for Iran," he wrote.

Iran holds military exercises near strategic Strait of Hormuz
Read More »

While the northern side of the strait lies in Iranian territory, and the south in Omani waters, Hormuz is considered an "international strait".

"The world powers will take any means necessary to keep their access," he added, "no matter if that would be a military campaign, international pressure or harsh sanctions."

He also quoted Yousef Molaei, an academic and foreign policy expert, saying that hardliners only deploy aggressive rhetoric about closing the strait of Hormuz as a deterrent.

"During the Iran-Iraq war, the same claims were made about the Strait, but it was never closed by Iran," Molaei was quoted as saying.

"According to the 1982 convention [on the law of the sea], even warships can cross international straits without requiring permission from the regional countries. I don't want to get into details, but Hormuz is an international strait and shutting it down would have vast costs for Iran."

Iranian Sunni leader threatened yet again

Conservative politicians and the paper belonging to President Ebrahim Raisi's administration have threatened Sunni religious leader Molavi Abdolhamid for supporting protestors and criticising the establishment.

On Friday, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, a conservative politician with close ties to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned Abdolhamid that he risked the same fate as Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri.

Montazeri was the designated successor to Iran's first supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, but was sacked from all official posts and kept under house arrest until his death after expressing opposition to the execution of political prisoners.

Meet Molavi Abdolhamid, Iran’s anti-establishment Sunni cleric
Read More »

Since September, Abdolhamid has criticised the ruling elite in Iran in each Friday prayer he has held in the southeastern city of Zahedan. The Sunni cleric had urged the establishment to stop the execution of protestors and to free those arrested during the 2022 demonstrations.

In an open letter published in local media, Boroujerdi accused Abdolhamid of siding with western and regional powers, which have condemned the crackdown on protests.

"It is bizarre that instead of demonstrating your gratitude to military and security authorities, you provoke public opinion," he wrote.

On January 14, the Iran daily also attacked Abdolhamid under the headline: "The CIA media count on Abdolhamid".

Officials in Iran use the term to describe the Farsi section of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe.

"Abdolhamid has been leading the riots in Zahedan… and he continues his destructive role against security and national unity," the daily wrote.

Backlash against women's conference

The announcement of the seven winners of the Women of Influence congress, hosted by President Raisi's wife, Jamileh Almalhuda, has provoked another wave of criticism against of the five-day event.

Soudeh Ghafourifard, the daughter of an influential member of Iran's Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, was one of the winners of the €20,000 ($21,800) award.

Ghafourifard's father is a former central council member of the ultra-conservative Islamic Coalition Party.

According to Sazandegi, Ghafourifard's husband, Mehdi Akhvan Behabadi, is the CEO of the state-run Hamrah-e Aval mobile telecommunications company.

Local media criticised the event and compared the hijabs that foreign guests wore to attend with that worn by Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by the morality police in mid-September for allegedly putting on an "inappropriate hijab", before dying in police custody.

Hussein Nourani Nejhad, a reformist politician, accused the establishment of double standards over the hijab law, referring to the photos published from the conference in an opinion piece for the Etemad daily.

"What should be done with some guests who participated in the recent event for women? Did not they put on a hijab different from what is in the law?" he wrote.

*Iranian press review is a digest of news reports not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.