News Digest: Week of August 10

August 10

Health: Iran’s Ministry of Health reported 328,844 cases and 18,616 deaths from COVID-19. Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari announced that Tehran, Mazandaran, East Azerbaijan, Isfahan, Ardabil, Khorasan Razavi, North Khorasan, Gilan, Alborz, Semnan, Golestan, Markazi, Kerman and Yazd provinces were considered “red zones” due to high rates of infections and deaths.

Health: Iran shut down Jahane Sanat, a daily newspaper, for publishing an interview with an epidemiologist who said the government tally of COVID-19 cases and deaths only accounted for five percent of the actual toll. “There was no transparent flow of information...The government only provided engineered figures...over concerns about (its impact) on the election and the commemorations of the revolution anniversary,” Mahboubfar said in the interview. Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari rejected the claim and said that the ministry had always provided figures in a “transparent” manner. “The Health Ministry is not a political body and health of people is its main priority,” she added.


August 11

Health: Iran recorded 331,189 cases and 18,800 deaths from coronavirus. Health Ministry spokeswoman Lari said that 2,736,514 Iranians had been tested for the virus.

Justice/Espionage: Iran’s judiciary announced that it had arrested five Iranians for spying on behalf of Israel, Britain and Germany and handed down prison sentences to two of them. Judiciary Spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili accused Shahram Shirkhani of trying to recruit Iranians for the British MI6 intelligence service. He said that Shirkhani had provided the British government with sensitive information on banking and Defense Ministry contracts. Esmaili added that Masoud Mosaheb, the co-chairman of the Iranian-Austrian Friendship Society, had received a 10-year sentence for sharing information on Iranian missile and nuclear projects with Israel’s Mossad and German intelligence services. “We had the arrests in the foreign, defence and energy ministries as well as in the Atomic Energy Organisation,” Esmaili said. He did not provide information on the other three detainees.

Nuclear/Diplomacy: The United States released a revised resolution to extend the U.N. arms embargo on Iran set to expire in October. The revised draft was only four paragraphs, much shorter than the seven-page draft circulated in June. The resolution stated that the arms embargo “shall continue to apply until the Security Council decides otherwise” and added that its full implementation “is essential to the maintenance of international peace and security.” On August 12, Iranian officials blasted the U.S. resolution. “Until today, the U.S. has failed politically, and it will fail again...if such a resolution is passed...Its initiators will be responsible for the consequences,” Rouhani said in a televised speech. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the U.S. draft a “very illegal resolution, and in fact it uses the Security Council mechanisms to destroy the Security Council.”


August 12

Health: Iran reported 333,699 cases and 18,988 deaths from COVID-19. Health Ministry spokeswoman Lari said that 290,244 patients had recovered from the virus.

Health: Health Minister Saeed Namaki announced that Iran’s homegrown vaccine had passed human tests and were ready to move to clinical trials. President Rouhani praised the progress of scientists and researchers. “In recent months, with the efforts made, good steps have been taken to produce drugs and vaccines for the coronavirus, and this path must continue with strength and speed until the final and definitive result is reached,” Rouhani said in a press conference.