News Digest: Week of June 7

June 7

Health: Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, a former member of parliament, died from the coronavirus. He passed away in a hospital in northern Tehran, IRNA reported. Mohtashamipour previously served as ambassador to Syria from 1982 to 1986 and helped establish Hezbollah, a Shiite Islamist militia, in Lebanon. In Parliament, he represented Tehran from 1990 to 1992 and from 2000 to 2004 as a hardliner. But he later joined the reformist faction and supported the opposition Green Movement, which disputed the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.

Nuclear: Iran had made no "concrete progress" in explaining the presence of uranium particles at three undeclared sites, the head of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog reported. Tehran's refusal to answer questions from inspectors "seriously affects the ability of the agency to provide assurance of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program,” Director General Rafael Grossi told the IAEA's board of governors. "The Iranian government has reiterated its will to engage and to cooperate and to provide answers, but they haven’t done that so far," he added.



June 8

Congress: Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress that "hundreds" of sanctions on Iran would remain in place even if the United States returned to the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). "If they are not inconsistent with the JCPOA, they will remain unless and until Iran's behavior changes," he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Maritime: Tehran condemned media reports that the United States was monitoring two Iranian navy vessels potentially headed to Venezuela. "Iran reserves the right to enjoy normal trade ties in the framework of international law and regulations, and considers any interference and monitoring of these relations as illegal and insulting, and strongly condemns it," government spokesperson Ali Rabiei told reporters. One of the vessels, the Makran, had been loaded with seven fast attack craft before leaving port in April, according to satellite imagery. Rabiei did not deny that the warships were transporting weapons. "Regardless what these ships carry, there is no ban on the purchase and sale of weapons by Iran," he said. 



June 9

Diplomacy: The sixth round of talks in Vienna between Iran and the six major world powers over reviving the 2015 nuclear deal would resume over the weekend, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said. "There's been a lot of progress made, but, out of my own experience, until the last detail is nailed down, and I mean nailed down, we will not know if we have an agreement," Sherman said at a German Marshall Fund event. 

Oil: Iran's crude oil production could be quickly restored to peak levels if U.S. sanctions were lifted, according to a senior official at the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). "Careful planning has been done to restore oil output to pre-sanctions levels in intervals of one week, one month and three months," Farokh Alikhani, a NIOC production manager, said. Iranian oil exports peaked at 2.8 million barrels per day in 2018 before the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Iran, Reuters reported.

Militias: Iraq released an Iran-backed militia commander for the Popular Mobilization Forces in Anbar province. The commander, Qasim Mahmoud Muslih, had been arrested on terrorism-related charges on May 26.