News Digest: Week of August 16

August 16

Diplomacy: Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged that he would "enrich" the 25-year strategic partnership between Beijing and Tehran that was signed in March 2021. "Since the establishment of diplomatic ties half a century ago, the relations between China and Iran have developed steadily and the traditional friendship between the two countries has grown stronger with time," Xi told President Ebrahim Raisi.

Health: The government issued permits for U.S.-made Pfizer and Moderna vaccines despite an earlier ban on U.S. and British-manufactured vaccines by Supreme Leader Khamenei. Mohammad Reza Shanesaz, the head of the Iranian Food and Drug Administration, said that the vaccines came from "permissible sources."

Nuclear: The IAEA reported that Iran had produced 200 g (0.44 lbs) of uranium metal enriched up to 20 percent. The metal would be used to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor, Iran previously claimed. But the metal could also be used to produce the core of a nuclear weapon. The State Department condemned the move. "Iran has no credible need to produce uranium metal, which has direct relevance to nuclear weapons development," spokesman Ned Price said. Price warned that further breaches of the 2015 nuclear deal "will no provide Iran negotiating leverage" and "will only lead to Iran's further isolation."


August 17

Health: Iran received an additional 700,000 vaccine doses from China, according to the Iranian foreign ministry. Beijing had sent a total 1.55 million doses to Iran since February, said Reza Zabib, the director general of the Asia-Pacific Department. 

Nuclear: Iran was using a second cascade of centrifuges to enrich uranium to nearly weapons-grade level, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported. Tehran added a cascade of 153 advanced IR-4 centrifuges to enrich uranium up to 60 percent, according to a report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog. Uranium needs to be enriched up to 90 percent to fuel a nuclear bomb. In April, began enriching uranium to 60 percent, the highest level of enrichment that it has publicly acknowledged. In May, the IAEA reported that Iran was using 164 IR-6 centrifuges to enrich uranium up to 60 percent.

Military: Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appointed Admiral Shahram Irani as the new commander of Iran's conventional navy. Irani is likely the first Sunni or Kurdish military officer to serve at this level of seniority, The Jerusalem Post reported.


August 18

Maritime: The Israeli military pushed for a stronger response to Iran's drone attack on the Mercer Street tanker, the Jerusalem Post reported

Nuclear: Germany condemned Iran's decision to accelerate enrichment of uranium up to 60 percent. "Iran has no plausible civilian justification for these steps, and instead gains military knowledge and skills," a foreign ministry spokesman said. "We urge Iran to return to the negotiating table with a constructive stance."

Diplomacy: Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, President Raisi's foreign minister nominee, met with China's special envoy for Afghanistan, Yue Xiaoyong. The pair discussed the formation of a new government in Kabul after the capital city was captured by the Taliban.