Even Under Sanctions 30 percent of Medicine Comes From US: Chairman Of Iran's Medicine Importers Union | Iran International

Even Under Sanctions 30 percent of Medicine Comes From US: Chairman Of Iran's Medicine Importers Union

The chairman of the medicine importers union denied any problems with money transfer for importing coronavirus vaccine during sanctions, and said even under sanctions, 30 percent of Iran’s imported medicine comes from the US.

Chairman Naser Riahi told the official ISNA news: “Currently 30 percent of the medicine that enters Iran each month comes from the US, and we must note that sanctions will not include vaccines either.”

Regarding the coronavirus vaccine, he said vaccines from the American companies Pfizer and Moderna will arrive in Iran. According to the reports, the two companies have announced a 95 percent success rate for their vaccines and have received permission for mass production.

However, Riahi believes Iranians will not receive the vaccine before the Persian new year in March.

Referring to the Iranian airlines announcing their readiness to import coronavirus vaccine, Riahi said: “Maybe import conditions have changed and we have not received any information about it.”

The chairman of the union emphasized that issues like sanctions or the transfer of money create no obstacles in the import of vaccines.

“During this time of sanctions and money shortage of the Central Bank, we import 100 million Euros of medicine and medical raw material each month, and if we add equipment, it reaches around 150 million Euros a month,” he added. “We won’t have any problem putting up the money for the vaccine, of course, it would be better if we could barter the cost of the vaccine with our frozen money.”

His comments come at a time that many high-ranking Islamic Republic officials and many in the western media claim that the shortage of medicine in the country, including the recent insulin shortage, is due to the problems with the transfer of money due to sanctions.

Two More Female Political Prisoners Contract Covid In Iran Jail

Two more female political prisoners in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison have contracted Covid-19, with one prisoner transferred to hospital and one housed in the prison’s quarantine ward.

Niloofar Bayani, an ecologist serving a 10-year sentence has been put in a ward where Covid patients are transferred without any medical follow-up. If a prisoner’s health worses, the patient is taken to the prison infirmary, where she receives an IV and left alone to improve. In cases when a prisoner’s health condition worsens further, she is transferred to a hospital.

Bayani in the past had written several letters to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei complaining of, “Intense psychological torture, threat of physical and sexual torture” during at least “1,200 hours” of interrogations by intelligence officers of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, IRGC.

The IRGC arrested several ecologists in 2018 and sentenced them to long prison terms on charges of spying, while the intelligence ministry said there was no evidence to justify their punishment.

In mid-July a female political prisoner informed her husband that many women have contracted Covid in Evin prison.

Another female political prisoner Monireh Arabshahi’s attorney tweeted that she has been transferred to hospital after developing severe symptoms of Covid-19. The attorney, Babk Paknia has asked the authorities to allow give her a temporary leave from prison to that her family could take charge of her care.

Arabshahi is an anti-compulsory hijab activist who was sentenced in early 2019 to almost ten years in prison. Her daughter was also arrested at the same time and is in prison.

No Official Explanation For Fire At Iran Oil And Gas Installation

The spokesman of Arvandan Oil and Gas Company (AOGC), a major subsidiary of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) operating in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, confirmed a fire at one its storage tanks in Karun area Saturday.

Naser Farahani commented on the incident Sunday after a video was posted on social media showing a fuel tank and heavy smoke rising from behind it. Farahani, however, said the tank had been completely empty and the smoke seen in the video footage was rising from tires and a crane burning behind the tank but did not specify the cause of the fire.

The spokesman of AOGC also said the fire has caused no disruption in production. The company which has its headquarters at the strategic port of Khorramshahr, Khuzestan, is the main operator in oil and gas production from Azadegan, Yadavaran, Darquain, Jufeyr, Moshtagh, Khorramshahr, Arvand, Susangerd, and other fields, which are located in west of Karun River.

A similar incident but more extensive blaze at Tehran's Tondgooyan Refinery in June led to the explosion of one of the two LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) tanks affected by the fire. The fire took two days to put out. Authorities said eleven were injured in the incident.

Since last summer, there have been multiple suspicious incidents at Iran’s nuclear, military and industrial sites. While Israel is suspected of launching sabotage attacks on some of these sites, it has not taken responsibility for any incident.

Iran Lawmaker Confirms New Bill Restricts Access To Instagram

One of the lawmakers behind a controversial bill setting new highly restrictive internet regulations in Iran confirmed that access to Instagram will be limited if parliament passes the legislation.

Speaking in a state-run television program Saturday evening, Abbas Moradi said the bill aims to make Iranian users of Instagram, the only major social network not blocked in Iran, to "emigrate" to a domestic platform. Moradi admitted that there is no domestic platform like Instagram at the moment but promised the launch of what he dubbed as "Instagram Plus" which he said would be "safe".

Moradi explained that to encourage developers, they would be offered tax exemptions. Bandwidth currently used by Instagram users will gradually be reduced in proportion to extent of its substitution by the domestic version.

In the same program, Mohammad Keshvari, an internet expert who opposes the planned legislation said reducing the bandwidth for Instagram means the speed of access to the platform will become so slow that people give up using it.

Keshvari pointed out that foreign companies operating social media platforms will not accept the fourteen conditions set for them in the bill to prevent them from being blocked in Iran, including compulsory registration of their subscribers, and providing their information to Iranian authorities on demand. This condition will completely prevent any anonymous posting on social media.

Another lawmaker participating in the program said lawmakers behind the bill were responding to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's concerns about the harms of unregulated internet access.

With Rising Inflation, Residential Rents Climb By 39% In Iran

Residential rents in Iran’s cities have risen almost by 39 percent in the last reporting month compared with the same period last year, the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) reported on Sunday.

In the capital Tehran, rents increased by 35 percent as general inflation has reached nearly 50 percent amid depleted government coffers that leads to printing more money and creating excess liquidity. Rising inflation usually manifests itself in real estate prices and rents with a delay of a few months.

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic the government set a limit of 25 percent annual rent increase for Tehran and 20 percent in other cities. The CBI report shows authorities were not able to enforce the regulation.

Iran’s currency has lost its value by more than eightfold since the end of 2017, when it became apparent the United States would withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement. The currency rial steeply declined in 2018 as former US president Donald Trump abandoned the agreement and imposed heavy sanctions on Iran. Since then, rising inflation has pushed nearly 60 percent of the population into poverty, Iranian officials and media have said.

Real estate prices have kept their value in US dollars, while they have kept rising in the local currency as it has continued to decline. One square meter (11 sq feet) of a residential unit in Tehran costs an average of $1,200, with little change from three years ago, while in rials the price has more than tripled from 84 million rials to 300 million.

Another IRGC General Demands Parliament Pass Internet Censorship Bill

As Iranians collect 800,000 online signatures against a proposed law to further restrict access to the internet, an IRGC general has said that it is in the interest of those who complain “to engage in debauchery on cyberspace”.

Golamreza Jalali urged the parliament on Saturday to pass a proposed bill called Legislation to Protect Cyberspace Users’ Rights, saying the parliament’s step to consider the legislation was “a welcome” development. He added that criticism of the bill emanates from “misunderstandings” and is promoted by people whose interest is “debauchery”.

Another military figure, Brigadier-General Mohammad-Reza Naghdi, a senior official in the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), wrote Friday to members of parliament urging them to end the "shameful situation" of "the hegemony of foreigners on Iranian cyberspace."

The legislation would require foreign-owned social networking and messaging corporations to appoint an Iranian representative, agree to comply with Iranian laws and regulations, and to officially register subscribers and provide this information to the authorities if requested.

This could result in further steps to completely ban major social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram unavailable in Iran. Except Instagram all other major Western platforms are already blocked.

Protests against the Islamic Republic have been going on since mid-July and social media is a major factor both in mobilizing the people and also informing the world about the events and government crackdown.

Principlist Lawmaker Says West Demanding Iran Missile Curbs

Mojtaba Zolnour, a prominent principlist member of the Iranian parliament’s national security committee has claimed that “Westerners” had demanded during talks in Vienna over Tehran’s nuclear program that it limit the range of its missiles “to 200-300 kilometers”.

“They want to install cameras in military centers, like the ones the International Atomic Energy Agency has installed in nuclear facilities, to monitor military and missile installations,” Zolnour told Mehr news agency on Saturday. He gave no details.

Zolnour’s statement raised the question as to how far the US and the three European signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal - France, Germany and the United Kingdom – have in Vienna raised issues of regional security. While the Europeans have expressed concern for years over Iran’s missile program, they have argued the nuclear deal should be revived before opening discussions on regional issues. Saudi Arabia and Turkey also pursue missile programs – and, unlike Iran, both have advanced aircraft. Iran says its missiles have a range of up to 2,000km.

The Biden Administration has continued Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” sanctions on Iran, introduced in 2018, on leaving the nuclear deal, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). Biden has said he wants to return to the JCPOA but there has been speculation that he plans to pressure Iran into other concessions.

While resumption of talks in Vienna await President-elect Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) taking office, Zolnour expressed confidence over an agreement, saying that West will eventually give in and added that the situation in Iran would “definitely” improve. Iran expects Washington to remove JCPOA-incompatible sanctions should it return to the agreement, but there have reportedly been disagreements in Vienna over which measures fit that category.

US Navy Says It Is Assisting A Tanker Attacked In The Arabian Sea

The US Navy is assisting an Israeli-managed petroleum products tanker that was attacked on Thursday off the coast of Oman, the US military said on Saturday, adding the ship was most likely hit by a drone strike. 

The Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned vessel, is currently being escorted by the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, the US Central Command said in a statement. Two crew members died in the attack.

"US Navy explosives experts are aboard to ensure there is no additional danger to the crew, and are prepared to support an investigation into the attack," said the Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia.

"Initial indications clearly point to a UAV-style (drone) attack," it added.

Israel's foreign minister blamed Iran on Friday for the attack, which killed two crewmen, a British and a Romanian.

US and European sources familiar with intelligence reporting said on Friday Iran was their leading suspect for the incident, which a US defense official said appeared to have been carried out by a drone, but stressed their governments were seeking conclusive evidence.

Al Alam TV, the Iranian government's Arabic-language television network, cited unnamed sources as saying the attack on the ship came in response to a suspected, unspecified Israeli attack on Dabaa airport in Syria.

There was no immediate official reaction from Iran to the accusation that it may have been responsible.

Indirect talks between the United States and Iran since April have stalled. One of Washington's main demands is that Iran agree to negoatiate over its role in the region, which Tehran says is out os question.

US Indicts For Canadian-Iranian For Illegal Business With Iran

 A federal grand jury in the US capital on Friday indicted a Canadian-Iranian dual national with the unlawful export of laboratory equipment from the United States to Iran, through Canada and the United Arab Emirates, a Department of Justice statement said.

Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, aka Reza Sarhang, , 46, a resident of Montreal was indicted in the District of Columbia on multiple counts, including violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which grants the president powers to determine an international threat and take up measures to deal with it.

Beginning in 2015, Kafrani began attempts to purchase mass spectrometry equipment from US companies to ship to the UAE. But Chromatography and spectrometry analytical instruments, such as some of the laboratory equipment purchased by Kafrani, are controlled for nuclear nonproliferation reasons and require a license to be exported from the United States to either Iran or the UAE.

But Kafrani and a co-conspirator were able to ship one mass spectrometer, ship it to Canada and then send it to UAE for transfer to Iran. They then tried to buy more, hiding the real destination of the equipment.

The indictment mean Kafrani has to stand trial and does not mean he is guilty as charged. Indictments are merely allegations until proven in court.


German Foreign Minister Expresses 'Growing Unease' Over Iran Talks

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has expressed concern over Iran’s delay in resuming talks in Vienna to restore its 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) with world powers.

In comments quoted by Der Spiegel on Friday, Maas has said, "I see with growing unease that Iran is delaying the resumption of the Vienna nuclear talks and at the same time is moving further and further away from the core elements of the agreement."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also warned on Thursday during a visit to Kuwait that the talks cannot drag on indefinitely. "We are committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely. At some point the gains achieved by the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) cannot be fully recovered by a return to the JCPOA if Iran continues the activities that it's undertaken with regard to its nuclear program," he said.

Maas also reiterated the US position that now it is Iran’s decision to allow the talks to succeed. "We want a return to the JCPOA and are firmly convinced that this is in everyone's interest," Maas said. "It is clear, however, that this option will not be open to us forever."

Iran has said it will resume talks some time after its new president, hardliner former judge Ebrahim Raisi takes office next week. Meanwhile, Iran’s internal situation is becoming more precarious with daily protests, a declining economy and the uncontrolled Covid pandemic.