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Iranian press review: Iran accuses US of flying Islamic State fighters to Afghanistan

Meanwhile, Iran signed military agreement with Houthis and prominent reformist politicians barred from entering parliamentary elections 
Islamic State fighters surrender to Afghan forces (AFP)

Iran accuses US of ferrying IS fighters to Afghanistan

Iran’s top security chief has accused the US of attempting to relocate Islamic State (IS) fighters and their operational focus from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan, Iran’s official news agency IRNA has reported.

The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani claimed 5,000 IS fighters are now operating in enclaves inside Afghanistan and across the border with Iran.

Speaking to reporters in Tehran, he claimed IS cells had been flown into Afghanistan on charter flights, without elaborating further about the time or place of the stated relocation.

“Our assessment of the Daesh (IS) members’ move to Afghanistan confirms that they [Americans] are planning to create insecurity across Afghanistan’s borders with Iran, China and Russia,” he was quoted by IRNA as saying. 

He also rejected claims that Iran provided military aid and logistical support to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“We don’t hide it, if we provided military assistance [to other countries],” Shamkhani said. “We have provided advisory support in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, but there is no need for that in Afghanistan.”

Iranian journalists urge authorities to reveal November protest death toll

Iranian journalists asked the authorities to announce the official death toll from week-long protests in November, after the Reuters news agency reported that 1,500 were killed. 

On Monday, the Arman daily warned that if officials do not announce the exact number of casualties, foreign news agencies and human rights organisations will keep raising the figures. 

In response to journalists’ question about the death toll, the Iranian government stressed that Iran’s attorney-general is the only official institution which has the exact numbers.

However, Attorney-General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri has so far avoided answering the question. “God bless you,” was the only response by Montazeri when a journalist asked about the figures, the Arman daily reported.

In response to another journalist who said “people want to know why the number of the dead is not being announced”, Montazeri asked: “Have people chosen you as their representative?”  

“I don’t have any exact information about this and I can’t say anything,” he was quoted by the daily as saying. “All I can say is that the figures provided by foreign news agencies are so different from reality.”

Famous reformist politicians barred from 2020 parliamentary elections 

President Hassan Rouhani’s interior ministry has disqualified prominent reformist figures from entering February’s parliamentary elections, Khabar Online reported

Iran’s pro-conservative Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli is supported by Iran’s supreme leader and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Since November, Fazli has been under fire by reformist lawmakers for last month’s brutal crackdown on protestors, leading to reformist legislators moving to remove him from office. 

However Ilna news agency reported on Tuesday that the office of Iran’s supreme leader asked the MPs to postpone the process until after February’s elections.

Ali Shakouri Rad, the Secretary-General of Union of Islamic Iran People Party; Azar Mansouri, reformist politician and women’s rights activist; and well known political activists such as Emad Bahavar, Javad Emam, and Ali Bagheri are among the reformists disqualified as candidates for February’s elections.

Bahram Parsaei, a serving MP from the city of Shiraz, was also barred from defending his seat. The interior ministry informed Parsaei that he was banned because of his “lack of practical commitment to Islam”, Etemad Online reported.

To be eligible to run in elections in Iran, candidates must go through another vetting process, which is carried out by the conservative Guardian Council.

Iran, Houthis officially sign military cooperation deal

Representative for Yemen’s Houthi militia and Iran’s defence minister signed the first official military cooperation agreement between Iran and the Houthis, in Tehran on Monday. 

The Kayhan daily reported that during a ceremony after signing the agreement, Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami reaffirmed Iran’s support for a peaceful solution to the political deadlock and civil war in Yemen.

“The entire world is surprised to see [Houthi’s] military development. They can now hit targets as far as 1,000km away,” he said. 

On the same day, Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdul-Salam and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met in the Jordanian capital Amman. Iran’s Khorasan daily reported that this meeting was aimed at reaching an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Yemeni Houthis.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who have been at war with a Saudi-led coalition since 2015, are supported by the Iranian government.

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