News Digest: Week of June 8

June 8

Health: Iran’s Ministry of Health reported 173,832 infections and 8,351 deaths from COVID-19.  Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour urged citizens to wear masks in public places to stem a second wave of coronavirus infections. "Everybody must wear masks when attending places like stores or any other place where it is not possible to observe social distancing carefully," Jahanpour said on state television. 

Sanctions: The United States expanded sanctions on Iran’s shipping industry. The Treasury Department blacklisted Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and its Shanghai-based subsidiary, E-Sail Shipping Company Ltd, along with more than 100 ships and tankers. “IRISL has repeatedly transported items related to Iran’s ballistic missile and military programs and is also a longstanding carrier of other proliferation-sensitive items,” including items that can be used in Iran’s nuclear program, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Health/Diplomacy: Iran sent medical equipment to Venezuela to help stem the COVID-19 outbreak. “Right now, what we are receiving is different types of testing kits,” Venezuelan Planning Minister Ricardo Menendez said on state television. 

Economics: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised the crews of Iran's oil tankers that delivered fuel to Venezuela.  The five tankers arrived in Venezuela between May 23 and June 2.

 

Military/Technology: General Ali Jafarabadi, Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' (IRGC) Aerospace Force Space Division, said that the "Noor" satellite that Iran had launched into orbit in April was used to track Iran's fuel shipment to Venezuela. "In the Atlantic Ocean, where access (to ships) is normally more difficult, monitoring the position of the oil tankers and the situation in their surroundings was put on the agenda of the Noor satellite, and was accomplished," Jafarabadi said in and interview with Tasnim News Agency. 

 

June 9

Health: Iran recorded 175,927 cases, including 8,425 deaths from coronavirus. The Ministry of Health estimated that about 15 million Iranians, nearly one fifth of the population, had been infected with COVID-19. The virus was "much less lethal than we or the world had anticipated," said Ehsan Mostafavi, a member of the country's COVID-19 task force. 

Health: Health Minister Saeed Namaki replaced the ministry’s spokesman Kianoush Jahanpur after several controversial tweets and comments to the media that did not align with the government’s stance. Namaki  said that the spokesperson was required to get approval before expressing personal opinions on social media. Dr. Sima Sadat Lari, the Students Affairs Deputy of the Ministry, was appointed as the new spokesperson. Namaki urged Lari to refrain from "political games" and concentrate on the ministry's mission.

 

Health: Ehsan Mostafavi, the head of the Research Center for Emerging and Reemerging Infectious Diseases at Iran's Pasteur Institute, said that the country's large youth population and widespread testing had lead to a lower mortality rate than in other countries. "One determining factor is the younger population of the country. Median age in Iran is 31, while the number stands at 45 in Spain and 47 in Italy," Mostafavi said. 

Justice/Espionage: Iran announced that it would execute a man accused of providing information to foreign intelligence agencies on slain Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani. “Mahmoud Mousavi-Majd, one of the spies for the CIA and the Mossad, has been sentenced to death ... He had shared information about the whereabouts of martyr Soleimani with our enemies,” said judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili. “He passed on security information to the Israeli and American intelligence agencies about Iran’s armed forces, particularly the Guards.” Esmaili added that the case was not linked to Soleimani’s killing by a U.S. airstrike in January.

Nuclear: European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that the United States was not in a place to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran because it was no longer party to the 2015 nuclear deal. “The United States has withdrawn from the JCPOA, and now they cannot claim that they are still part of the JCPOA in order to deal with this issue from the JCPOA agreement. They withdraw. It’s clear. They withdraw,” Borrell said.

 

June 10

Health: Iran reported 177,938 cases of COVID-19, including 8,506 fatalities. Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima-Sadat Lari said that Khuzestan province was still designated a red zone, and six other provinces remained at yellow zone status.

 

June 11

Health: Iran recorded 180,156 cases and 8,584 fatalities from coronavirus. President Hassan Rouhani urged citizens to continue to follow health protocols. “If everyone follows the health instructions exactly, then all jobs can be reopened,” Rouhani said. “We are progressing slowly and step by step (because we don't want) our people to think that the coronavirus era has passed. This would pose a major health problem for us.”

Military: U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that missiles used in an attack on Saudi oil facilities in September 2019 were of Iranian origin. The weapons had designs similar to those produced by a commercial entity in Iran and were labeled in Farsi, according to the U.N. report. “Iran categorically rejects the observations contained in the Report concerning the Iranian connection to the export of weapons or their components that are used in attacks on Saudi Arabia and the Iranian origin of alleged U.S. seizures of armaments,” Iran’s mission to the United Nations responded in a statement.

Justice: Authorities confiscated two tons of morphine from drug smugglers in Tehran. Tehran province police chief General Mohsen Khancherli said that the smuggling network was attempting to transport the drugs to southwestern Iran by truck.  

 

June 12

Health: Iran’s Ministry of Health reported 182,545 cases of COVID-19, including 8,659 deaths. Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said that Iran had conducted 1,197,000 coronavirus tests.

Aviation: Iranian officials asked France’s BEA air accident agency to investigate the black boxes from a Ukrainian airliner flight, which was accidently downed by Iran’s military in January. “Iran’s AAIB recently made a request to the BEA that the recorders should be taken by Iran to the BEA’s premises in France to be read in the presence of representatives of other involved countries and ICAO, if the BEA is in a position to accommodate this,” announced Farhad Parvaresh, Iran’s representative to the United Nation’s International Civil Aviation Organization.

 

Updated