A newspaper in Iran has reported that a black market for Covid-19 vaccines is in full swing in Iran, with vaccines brought illegally from the Iraqi Kurdistan and sold for up to $2,600 a dose to wealthy Iranians.
Hamshahri newspaper reported Tuesday that several unnamed centers in Tehran inject Pfizer vaccines for $1,100-2,600, depending on who introduces the customer and at which center. This is an incredibly high amount for Iranian wage earners who make $100-300 a month, due to the depreciation of the Iranian currency since 2018.
The vaccine merchants work in secret and only people recommended by trusted middlemen can pay and be inoculated at these establishments, which are said to be equipped with special freezers able to handle the temperature requirement of the Pfizer vaccine.
Iran failed to place orders for Western vaccines last year, and early this year Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned the importation of American and British vaccines. As a result, Iran has administered just four million doses and vaccinated around two percent of its 84-million population, with Russian and Chinese variants.
In recent days, local officials in several provinces announced a halt to vaccinations as supplies dried up and one health ministry official accused Chinese companies of reneging on their promises to deliver additional doses.
According to Hamshahri, each vaccine dose is designated for a specific citizen in Kurdistan, which means medical corruption also in Iraq, allowing vaccines for Iraqi citizens to be smuggled to in Iran.
IRGC Navy Holds Parade With Hundreds Of Fishing Boats
In an unorthodox military move, Iran’s Navy conducted a naval parade in the Persian Gulf on Wednesday using hundreds of local fishing boats and its military speed boats.
The parade was on the 41st anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war that the Islamic Republic calls “Holy defense”. Admiral Alireza Tangsiri, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard presided over the naval parade that took place in the Bandar Abbas region.
The local fishing boats are dubbed by the Iranian military as “naval Baseej” or paramilitary, as regular Baseej (Basij) under IRGC’s command is known throughout Iran. One naval commander told local media that 650 civilian boats took part in the show.
It is not clear what kind of a military role the “naval Baseej” can play. It is made up of slow-moving fishing boats with civilian crews, lacking proper military training or heavy weapons.
Lacking a strong navy capable of facing US naval power, Iran has been relying on speed boats that have often come close to US vessels to show their defiance. Iran has also been developing various missiles and drones to beef up its naval power.
Iran Says Ready To Buy Pfizer Vaccines 9 Months After Khamenei's Ban
Iran has decided to import two million doses of the Pfizer vaccine made in Belgium nine months after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned the purchase of American and British Covid-19 vaccines.
An official of Iran’s Food and Drug Administration told Tasnim news agency on Tuesday that the government intends to buy the Pfizer vaccines if it can transfer the money, given US banking sanctions on Iran.
Khamenei banned the importation of American and British vaccines in January saying that he does not trust the United States and the United Kingdom. He brought up a conspiracy theory that the West can manipulate the vaccines to destroy “the Iranian gene”.
After a fourth and a fifth wave of the pandemic killed tens of thousands of people, the Islamic Republic in August changed course, saying that Khamenei had only banned vaccines made in US and UK, and if manufactured in other countries, it can be imported.
Iran’s claims that it can produce its own domestic vaccines also proved to be unrealistic, despite huge investments by the government.
Until the end of April, the United States never exported vaccines made in the US, supplying international markets from production plants overseas, but Iran still refused to place orders. As a result, its vaccination program seriously lagged behind until this month when China began shipping large quantities of its vaccines.
Iran Releases Dissident Rapper On Bail After Social Media Outcry
Prosecutors in Iran on Tuesday freed a dissident rap singer from jail on bail after whose arrest led to a social media storm and controversy among Iranian activists and journalists abroad.
Toomaj Salehi an underground rapper living near Esfahan was arrested reportedly by Iran’s intelligence ministry on September 13. After a few days the family and his lawyer found out that he was in Esfahan’s central prison and charged with propaganda against the regime.
Toomaj had recently released a song, “Buy a Rat Hole”, on social media that harshly criticized the Islamic Republic for its violations of human rights and also those that he said were aiding the regime in covering up its crimes. The song’s title and lyrics implied that people applying or supporting injustice one day must answer for their crimes.
Some journalists abroad accused the rapper of threatening those who cover up the government's injustices, while others said such an accusation could endanger the artist's life.
Thousands of Iranians on social media condemned his arrest and Amnesty International demanded his immediate release in a statement on September 17.
In a video Toomaj released immediately after he was freed, he thanked all those who supported him, and he expressed astonishment that his arrest had led to a large public outcry.
Iran Wants Nuclear Talks That Lead To Lifting Of US Sanctions -Raisi
Iran wants a resumption of nuclear talks with world powers to lead to the removal of US sanctions, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) told the annual UN General Assembly on Tuesday in a pre-recorded address.
"The Islamic Republic considers the useful talks whose ultimate outcome is the lifting of all oppressive (US) sanctions," Raisi said in his address.
Hardline cleric Raisi, who is under personal US sanctions over allegations of human rights abuses in his past as a judge, said the US sanctions, imposed by former President Donald Trump in 2018, "were crimes against humanity during the coronavirus pandemic."
The official government news website IRNA quoted Raisi as saying, the January events at the US Capitol and images of Afghans falling from American planes in Kabul sent a message to the people of the world that “America’s domination both at home and abroad is not credible.”
Harsh sanctions reimposed by Trump since 2018 have prompted Tehran to violate the deal's limits. However, Tehran says its nuclear steps are reversible if Washington lifts all sanctions.
Indirect talks between Iran and the United States to revive the 2015 nuclear pact stopped two days after Raisi was elected as Iran's president in June. Parties involved in the negotiations have yet to announce when the next round of negotiations will resume. However, Tehran said on Tuesday that talks with world powers in Vienna to reinstate the nuclear pact would resume in a few weeks.
Biden Says US Will Prevent Iran From Getting Nukes, But Ready To talk
The United States will prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, President Joe Biden told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday in New York, at the same time reiterating his intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal.
The President who pledged to rely on diplomacy in international affairs, said, “The United States remains committed to preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. We are working with the P5+1 to engage Iran diplomatically and seek a return to the JCPOA. We’re prepared to return to full compliance if Iran does the same.”
Biden during last year’s presidential campaign repudiated president Donald Trump’s decision to leave the 2015 nuclear agreement and pledged to return to it if Iran stopped its retaliatory activities since 2019 violating the deal.
His administration entered indirect talks with Iran in April to reach an agreement on how the two sides could restore the JCPOA, but the talks so far have failed to make a breakthrough.
Diplomats were expecting a meeting of JCPOA members this week in New York, but since Monday both the European Union and Iran have said only bilateral talks would take place. Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian is scheduled to meet his French and British counterparts.
India Seizes $2.72 Billion Of Afghan Heroin Shipped From Iran
Indian officials said on Tuesday they had seized nearly three tonnes of heroin originating from Afghanistan worth an estimated 200 billion rupees ($2.72 billion) amid the chaos following last month's takeover of the country by the Taliban.
Afghanistan is the world's biggest illicit opiate supplier, but since taking power, the Islamist Taliban have said they plan to ban the drug trade, without giving details on how.
The containers had been declared as containing semi-processed talc stones from Afghanistan and had been shipped from Bandar Abbas Port in Iran to Gujarat Mundra port, the Gujarat official said, adding that forensic tests confirmed the presence of heroin.
Two people had been arrested in connection with the haul and investigations were ongoing, an official in Gujarat said, declining to be named as he was not authorised to speak publicly.
The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), India's top anti-smuggling agency, seized two containers at western Gujarat's Mundra Port on Sept. 15 after receiving intelligence they contained narcotics, the official said.
"Investigation conducted so far has also revealed the involvement of Afghan nationals, who are under investigation."
The narcotics were headed to Delhi and the two arrested people had sought an import-export licence based on a house address in Vijayawada, police in Vijayawada said in a statement on Monday.
More than 2,988 kg of heroin was recovered in one of India's biggest such hauls to date.
Reporting by Reuters
Iran Says Nuclear Talks Will Resume 'In A Few Weeks'
Iran said on Tuesday that talks with world powers over reviving its 2015 nuclear deal would resume in a few weeks, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported.
"Every meeting requires prior coordination and the preparation of an agenda. As previously emphasized, the Vienna talks will resume soon and over the next few weeks," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, according to IRNA.
Khatibzadeh added that the Iran’s foreign policy team must complete its final overview about the nature of the talks, before returning to negotiations.
The world powers held six rounds of indirect talks between the United States and Iran in Vienna to try and work out how both can return to compliance with the nuclear pact, which was abandoned by former US President Donald Trump in 2018. The talks stopped in June, pending the start of Iran's new government, but one month after the cabinet was formed Tehran has not issued an exact date about its return to the negotiations.
Asked if the nuclear issue will be discussed in a multilateral framework in New York, the spokesman reiterated that Iran would hold bilateral talks with the parties to the 2015 nuclear agreement, JCPOA. Earlier, EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell had said no collective talks would take place.
Syrian Military Chief Makes Rare Visit To Jordan Over Border Security
Syria's defense minister visited Jordan on Sunday to discuss stability on their mutual border, the first such meeting since the Syrian conflict erupted a decade ago, officials said.
The meeting comes after Syria's army reestablished control this month over Deraa, a city south of Damascus and near Jordan’s border, in a Russian brokered deal that averted an all-out military assault.
Jordanian army head Lieutenant General Yousef Hunaiti met Syrian Defence Minister and Chief of Staff Ali Ayyoub over the Deraa situation and to discuss issues such as the fight against terrorism and drug smuggling in the area, Jordan's army said.
Jordan had for years supported mainstream Western-backed rebels who controlled southern Syria until a campaign by the Syrian army in 2018 aided by Russian air power and Iranian-backed militias retook the province. Some insurgents remained in Deraa but left the area with Russian mediation after Iranian-backed forces began an assault in August.
Amman, with close ties to Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states, remains concerned over the presence of Iranian-backed forces on its border.
Jordanian officials have accused Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement of being behind drugs smuggling in the area. The group has repeatedly denied allegations made by the West and others that it is involved in any such smuggling network.
Reporting by Reuters
New Defense Minister Says Iran Will Defend Itself Against Israeli Threats
Iran’s new defense minister General Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani has called threats made against Iran “rants by enemies” vowing that Iran will defend itself.
Ashtiani, who was speaking at a gathering of senior managers at the defense ministry on Monday referring to “rants by the leaders of the Zionist regime”, said that Iran has prepared itself against all kinds of threats.
Israeli officials have intensified their warnings over Iran’s nuclear program and its support for militant groups recently. In August, defense minister Benny Gantz issued warnings that Israel must be prepared to act against the Islamic Republic, when a tanker was attacked in July by what appeared to be Iranian drones.
Ashtiani stressed that Iran has made advancements in military technology and would ward off all threats, But the new defense chief also underlined that Iran’s military capabilities was to defend its territory against attack and did not use customary threats against Israel. He said that “the Zionist enemy” has suffered from multiple defeats at the hands of Iran and has resorted to rants.
Since early July 2020, important facilities in Iran have suffered mysterious attacks, generally believed to have been sabotage operations by Israel. Iran’s top nuclear scientist was killed in November 2020 near Tehran in a sophisticated assassination plot involving no human attackers on the ground.
Third Iranian Tanker Sails Carrying Fuel For Hezbollah In Lebanon
A third tanker has sailed from Iran carrying Iranian fuel for distribution by Hezbollah in Lebanon, TankerTrackers.com reported on Twitter on Sunday.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Friday the Iranian fuel shipments, imported by the Iran-backed Hezbollah, constitute a breach of Lebanon's sovereignty.
Hezbollah announced in August that it had asked Iran to send fuel to Lebanon, which is experiencing the world’s worst economic crisis in modern history. Iran readily agreed, saying it would be a victory for the “resistance front” a term used by Tehran to refer to its allies and proxies in the region.
Local media reported earlier that Hezbollah will distribute part of the fuel to hospitals and other essential public institutions and will sell the rest to the private sector, or at low prices to private hospitals, bakeries, etc., Al Hurra TV reported on September 16.
SO far there are no reports about which institutions have received fuel from the shipment. Hezbollah stands to make large profits if Iran gave the fuel for free or at very low prices. Both Iran and Hezbollah are sanctioned by the United States.
The first tanker ship carried the fuel to Syria and from there tanker trucks began transporting the fuel to Lebanon.
Iran's Oldest And One Of Largest Banks On Verge Of Bankruptcy
Iran’s Bank Melli, the oldest and one of the biggest banks in the country is on the verge of bankruptcy after losing 675 trillion rials last year, equaling $2.8 billion in free market exchange rate. The losses equal 73 percent of the bank’s capital.
The bank has published its financial reports for the previous Iranian calendar year ending March 20, 2021, after years of silence. Iranian law says that if an entity’s losses exceed 50 percent of its capital the shareholders should convene a meeting and dissolve the company.
The bank was established in 1927 by an act of parliament as part of Iran’s modernization process. A former US State Department trade official, Arthur Chester Millspaugh, was its founder who helped Iran free itself borrowings from foreign governments and banks at unfavorable terms. Millpaugh reorganized the country’s finances by establishing modern budget and management practices during the reign of Reza Shah, Iran’s modernizing king.
At the time Iran regarded the United States as a liberator that helped its independence in the face of British and Russian influence and pressures.
Iran’s banks are all directly or indirectly owned by the state or state entities and have suffered from corruption and mismanagement in recent years. Government and its companies borrow money from their banks that ultimately lose money and turn to the Central Bank to be rescued.
Iran Dismisses NYT Report On Scientist's Killing As Just A Media Account
Asked to comment about a recent New York Times report on the assassination of Iran's top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh at his weekly presser Sunday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the claims about the manner of the assassination as described by the US newspaper merited attention only as "newspaper report."
Fakhrizadeh who was known as the "father of Iran's nuclear weapons program" was assassinated outside Tehran on November 26. The NYT report and others have said Israel was behind the complicated operation.
Khatibzadeh added that Iran's security and intelligence bodies had detailed reports of the incident including on "all those who had participated" in the operation.
Fakhrizadeh was shot with a machine gun controlled by Israel's Mossad operatives from hundreds of miles away, the New York Times report said on Saturday. The report claimed that the machine gun used by the Mossad team was a modified Belgian-made FN MAG machine gun attached to an advanced robotic apparatus and powered with artificial intelligence technology.
The NYT said its report was based on interviews with American, Israeli and Iranian officials, “including two intelligence officials familiar with the details of the planning and execution of the operation.”
Despite earlier eyewitness claims about assassins on the scene, two days after Fakhrizadeh's assassination the Revolutionary Guards-affiliated Fars News published a report offering details of the event and said no assassins were on the scene and a remotely controlled automatic weapons had fired at the convoy.