New Digest: Week of March 30

March 30

Health: Iran’s Ministry of Health reported 41,495 cases of coronavirus, including 2,757 deaths. Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri warned that the government may impose “tougher measures as our priority is the nation’s safety and health.”

Justice: Enayatollah Rahimi, governor of Fars province, said that a riot broke out at Adel Abad Prison in the city of Shiraz. Rahimi said that prisoners "broke cameras and caused other damage in two sections of the prison where violent criminals are kept." A separate riot occurred at Saqqez Prison in Iran’s western Kurdistan province. State media reported that 70 prisoners had escaped during the chaos. 

Nuclear: The United States extended nuclear waivers to allow Russian, Chinese and European companies to continue working on peaceful nuclear projects in Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had initially opposed renewing the waivers, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin argued that it would be unpalatable given Iran’s struggles with the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Associated Press.

 

Media: Iran’s Coronavirus Combat Taskforce reportedly ordered all newspapers to close printing houses indefinitely to stem the spread of the virus. Some papers planned to publish electronically.

 

March 31

Health: Iran’s Ministry of Health reported 44,606 cases and 2,898 deaths related to COVID-19. President Hassan Rouhani urged citizens to remain at home and avoid public places. But he did not impose a formal lockdown. 

Economics/Health: France, Germany and Britain exported medical supplies to Iran using an INSTEX financial transaction for the first time. The three European powers launched the mechanism in January 2019 to ensure that Iran receives economic benefits under the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The remaining parties to the deal -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran, and Russia -- have committed to salvaging the deal despite the U.S. withdrawal and reimposition of sanctions in 2018. “INSTEX aims to provide a sustainable, long-term solution for legitimate trade between Europe and Iran as part of the continued efforts to preserve the JCPOA,” Britain, France and Germany said in a joint announcement of the first INSTEX transaction. “Now that the first transaction is complete, INSTEX and its Iranian counterpart STFI will work on more transactions and enhancing the mechanism.”

 

April 1

Health: Iran’s Ministry of Health reported 47,593 cases of coronavirus, including 3,036 deaths. President Rouhani said that Iran was successfully containing the outbreak. “Fortunately, the statistics I read last night from all the provinces shows a downward trend in all provinces,” he said at a cabinet meeting. Rouhani claimed that Iran’s increasingly stricter travel restrictions and social distancing curbed infections without resorting to a stringent lockdown as seen in Wuhan, China, where the disease originated. The president also said that the United States had missed a “historic opportunity” to show goodwill to the Iranian people by not lifting sanctions. “It is a good time now for them to apologize for their wrongdoing. It is a humanitarian issue, and nobody would rebuke them and ask why they retreated,” he added.

Military:  President Donald Trump warned that Iran would pay a “very heavy price” if it or one of its proxies attacked U.S. troops or assets in Iraq. In a tweet, he cited a possible “sneak attack” but did not provide further details. The message came after Trump reportedly received a foreign intelligence briefing.

 

April 2

Health: Iran recorded 50,468 cases and 3,160 deaths from COVID-19. Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said that 69 million Iranian had been screened for the virus as part of the national mobilization plan enacted in mid-March.

Cyber: Iranian hackers attempted to gain access to the personal email accounts of World Health Organization (WHO) employees, according to a report by Reuters. The “phishing” attacks, disguised as Google web service inquiries, had reportedly begun on March 2. “To the best of our knowledge, none of these hacking attempts were successful,” said WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic.

 

April 3

Health: Iran’s Ministry of Health reported 53,183 cases and 3,294 deaths related to coronavirus. President Trump said that he would have a “moral responsibility” to provide humanitarian aid to Iran if the government requested it. “They haven't even asked us to do that,” he said.

 

Updated