News Digest: Week of August 9

August 9

Diplomacy: President Ebrahim Raisi spoke with French President Emanuel Macron in an hour-long phone call. The pair discussed the situation in Lebanon, maritime security in the Persian Gulf and nuclear negotiations in Vienna. Raisi told Macron that he would "welcome" French support in helping to stabilize the Lebanese economy. Macron urged Raisi to resume talks in Vienna. 

Health: Iran recorded new daily highs for infections and deaths, the health ministry reported. More than 40,000 new cases were recorded and 588 Iranians died from the coronavirus. “Every two seconds one person gets infected in Iran and almost every two minutes one person dies from the coronavirus,” state TV reported

Maritime: 

 

August 10

Diplomacy: The U.K. ambassador arrived in Tehran to start his new position and posted a welcome greeting in Persian to his Twitter account.

 

Foreign relations: Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein met with President Raisi in Tehran and invited him to a regional dialogue in Baghdad. Iraq also invited Saudi King Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the National News reported. No date was set for the meeting. 

Health: The Razi CovPars, Iran's second domestically-produced vaccine, demonstrated 80 percent effectiveness in the second phase of human trials, Iran Front Page News reported. The Razi Institute, the pharmaceutical company developing the vaccine, planned to produce 15 to 20 million doses by March 2022, a company spokesperson said. 

Unrest: Tehran demanded that Baghdad expel Iranian Kurdish rebels from Iraqi Kurdistan. Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, warned that Iran could take "preventative measures" against "these armed terrorists," if Iraq failed to comply.

 

August 11

Diplomacy: Iranian officials demanded apologies from the Russian and British ambassadors to Iran for posing in a photo referencing the 1943 Tehran Conference between the Soviet Union, Britain and the United States. In the photo, the Russian and British diplomats sat approximately in the same position as Soviet leader Josef Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill during the Allied occupation of Iran. The Russian embassy in Tehran posted the photo to its Twitter account on August 11.

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned the picture as "extremely inappropriate." The Iranian people have shown "that their destiny can NEVER be subject to decisions in foreign embassies or by foreign powers," he wrote. Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf demanded that both diplomats "swiftly and officially apologize."

The Russian embassy posted a public explanation for its actions. "We would like to note that it does not have any anti-Iranian context," the embassy tweeted on August 11. "We were not going to offend the feelings of the friendly Iranian people." British Ambassador Simon Shercliff retweeted the Russian explanation. 

 

Health: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged the government and insurance companies to provide free COVID-19 testing for all Iranians. "Today, it is not available for everyone," he said in a televised speech. "There are problems. It has costs for people. It has heavy costs for some.”

Foreign Relations: President Raisi nominated Hossein Amir Abdollahian, a hardliner, as his foreign minister. Amir Abdollahian previously served as deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs and has close ties to the Revolutionary Guards, the Financial Times reported. Raisi also nominated Gen. Ahmed Vahidi, the Qods Force commander at the time of the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Argentina, as interior minister. Vahidi has been on an Interpol "red notice" list since 2007 for his role in the bombing and was sanctioned by the United States in 2010 for his work on Iran's nuclear and missile programs. 

Nuclear: German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass warned Iran not to "jeopardize" the Vienna talks on returning to the 2015 nuclear deal. "We cannot stretch out the negotiations into eternity," Maas told journalists in Berlin. "We expect Iran to return to the negotiating table in Vienna as soon as possible, and to do so with the necessary flexibility and readiness for compromise to strike a deal."

 

August 12

Diplomacy: Iran summoned the British and Russian ambassadors over the photo referencing the 1943 Tehran Conference. Raisi's new foreign minister designate, Hossein Amirabdollahian said that the photo "showed disregard for diplomatic etiquette and the national pride of the Iranian people."

 

Updated