Iran Covid Spokesman Mocks Candidates’ Flippancy On Vaccines | Iran International

Iran Covid Spokesman Mocks Candidates’ Flippancy On Vaccines

Alireza Raeesi, spokesman of Iran’s coronavirus task force, has chided presidential candidates over promises on the speed of Covid-19 vaccinations. “They think the vaccine is an ice cream,” Raeesi told a government event Monday.

“They wake up in the morning and say they will vaccinate Iran’s population in three months,” the spokesman said. “Perhaps they do not know how to count.” He added that more powerful countries had encountered problems and that Iran would achieve nothing through slogans.

Iran has been slow to vaccinate its 84-million population, with 4.5 million doses administered and 2.7 percent of people covered. John Hopkins figures – tracking Covid-19 globally – give a 0.77 percent of Iranians, or 638,000, as “fully vaccinated.”

Iran rejected Western vaccines and has relied on a limited quantity of Chinese and Russian vaccines, while saying its pharmaceutical companies are working on several domestic vaccines. Reports in recent days say that vaccination in some provinces has stopped due to shortages.

Official government figures report over 3 million cases of coronavirus with 82,000 deaths, while health officials, some politicians, and some media all say real numbers are much higher.

Several candidates in the June 18 presidential election have promised to speed up nationwide vaccination, partly by allowing the private sector to import vaccines. It was reported in April that the government had approved a number of private companies to begin imports, but it has remained unclear how these vaccines would be distributed and how they might square with United States sanctions.

Report Says '5-6 Iranians' Boarded Tanker In Sea Of Oman

A group of unidentified Iranians boarded the Asphalt Princess tanker in the Sea of Oman on Tuesday, Argus Media reported Wednesday, after it heard recording of a conversation between the ship and the UAE coastguard.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) had earlier on its website reported a “potential hijack” and advised ships to exercise extreme caution due to the incident, around 60 nautical miles east of Fujairah, one of the emirates.

The United States and the United Kingdom on Tuesday said they were closely following the incident as it seemed a potential hijack situation was developing.

In the recording, a crew member tells the coastguard that 5-6 Iranians are on board and that the ship was drifting. The crew member did not understand what the intruders wanted and suggested the coasguard talks directly to them.

UKMTO, the Royal Navy information service for shipping, reported Wednesday that the incident  was “complete,” suggesting boarders had left the tanker Asphalt Princess.

The Times Tuesday cited “British sources” saying they were “working on the assumption that Iranian military or proxies boarded the vessel.” The British foreign ministry said it was “urgently investigating” an incident on a vessel off the UAE coast.

Last Thursday, another commercial vessel was attacked in the Arabia Sea with suicide drones. The US, UK and Israel blamed Iran for the attack and are planning a response.

Iran has denied any role or responsibility in both incidents.

Rockets Fired At Israel From Hezbollah-Controlled South Lebanon

Two rockets launched from Lebanon on Wednesday struck Israel, which responded with artillery fire, amid heightened regional tensions over an alleged Iranian attack on an oil tanker in the Gulf last week. There were no casualties on the Israeli side of the hilly frontier.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket strike, launched from an area of south Lebanon under the sway of Iranian-backed Hezbollah forces.

In a statement, Israel's military said three rockets were launched from Lebanon, with one falling short of the Israeli border and the others striking inside Israel. Witnesses in Lebanon also reported that several rockets were fired at Israel.

"In response, (Israeli) artillery forces attacked Lebanese territory," the military said. Some two hours after the initial shelling, the military said its artillery had fired again at targets, which it did not identify, along the frontier.

The border has been mostly quiet since Israel fought a 2006 war against Hezbollah, which has advanced rockets.

But small Palestinian factions in Lebanon have fired sporadically on Israel in the past, and two rockets were launched at Israel on July 20, causing no damage or injuries. Israel responded to that incident with artillery fire.

The border incident comes after a fatal attack last Thursday blamed on Iran on a tanker off the coast of Oman. Iran has denied any involvement.

On Tuesday, Britain, Romania and Liberia told the United Nations Security Council it was "highly likely" that Iran used one or more drones to strike the Mercer Street - a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned petroleum product vessel managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime.

Reporting by Reuters

Iran Sentences British And German Dual-Nationals To Ten Years

A prominent defense attorney in Iran has said on Wednesday that five political detainees, including two dual nationals have received long prison terms by a Revolutionary Court.

Mostafa Nili tweeted that Mehran Raoof, a British-Iranian labor activist and Nahid Taghavi a German-Iranian dual national, both arrested last October by Iranian intelligence were sentenced each to ten years and eight months of prison on charges related to “propaganda against the regime.”

Iranian security and intelligence organs, in close harmony with its Judiciary, often make vague accusations against dual nationals and dissidents they want to jail, and courts rule according to what higher authorities have already decided to do.

A relatively more recent type of accusation authorities use is “participation in managing an illegal group”, which pertains more to social media activities. This accusation was also used against the two dual nationals and the three Iranian citizens sentenced.

Western countries and human rights organizations have accused Tehran of detaining innocent foreigners as bargaining chips to extract concession from other countries.

Iran reportedly has been negotiating with the United States and the United Kingdom on a prisoner swap deal, while nuclear talks have been held in Vienna since April. On Tuesday, a website in Iran close to the security establishment quoted an unknown official that Tehran has shelved plans for a prisoner swap.

Reorts have said that Washington wants a one-time deal to include all Western prisoners, while Iran wants to exchange four detainees and also free $7 billion of its frozen funds.

Exiled Prince Says West Is Not Showing Support For Iranian People

Exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi has described a reported decision by the European Union to send a representative to the inauguration of Iran’s new president Ebrahim Raisi as "almost like a slap in the face, to say the least."

In an interview with AFP on Tuesday, Pahlavi, the sone of Iran’s last Shah who is an influential opposition leader abroad, said the people of Iran are protesting on the streets demanding their basic rights, such as access to water and the West should show solidarity.

Intense protests to lack of water erupted in Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province on July 15, which soon turned to anti-government demonstrations. Around ten people are said to have been shot by security forces and hundreds arrested. Protests have also taken place in other cities in solidarity with Khuzestan.

Pahlavi described Raisi as a “butcher”. The new president was a member of a ‘death commission’ in 1988 that executed thousands of political prisoners.

He expressed his disappointment as to how the West has responded, saying that it seems to be “stabbing the people in the back.”

Pahlavi also reiterated his recent position that he favors a Republican form of government for post-Islamic Republic Iran, with a figurehead based on democratic principles and elections.

Three Countries Tell UN 'Highly Likely' Iran Behind Deadly Tanker Attack

NEW YORK, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Britain, Romania and Liberia told the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday that it was "highly likely" Iran used one or more drones to carry out a deadly tanker attack last week off the coast of Oman.

"This attack disrupted and posed a risk to the safety and security of international shipping and was a clear violation of international law," the countries said in a letter to the 15-member council seen by Reuters. "This act must be condemned by the international community."

Tehran has denied any involvement in Thursday's attack on the Mercer Street - a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned petroleum product tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime. Two crew members, a Briton and a Romanian, were killed.

Diplomats said Britain was expected to raise the issue in a closed-door meeting of the Security Council in the coming days. The council is also coincidentally due to discuss maritime security in a public meeting on Monday, chaired by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India is council president for August.

"The United Kingdom and Romania, along with regional and international partners, are conducting a thorough investigation of this attack. We will update the council in due course," Britain, Liberia and Romania said in the letter.

Israel wrote separately to the U.N. Security Council, vowing to "continue to take all necessary measures to protect its citizens."

"Iran's unceasing hostile activities endanger our region and beyond, and we expect the Security Council to take concrete and decisive action to curb this growing threat," wrote Israel's Ambassador to the United States and United Nations Gilad Erdan.

The United States and Britain said on Sunday they would work with their allies to respond to the attack.

Report Of Incident Under Way Off UAE Coast

DUBAI, Aug 3 (Reuters) - A non-piracy incident is under way off the coast of the United Arab Emirates' Fujairah, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) reported on Tuesday.

The UKMTO warning notice, based on a third party source, advised vessels to exercise extreme caution in the area, around 61 nautical miles east of the emirate of Fujairah.

UKTMO provided no details regarding the vessel or vessels involved.

However on Tuesday afternoon a Singapore-flagged chemical tanker in roughly the same position off Fujairah named Golden Brilliant updated its AIS tracking status to "Not Under Command", according to Refinitiv ship tracking data.

This status indicates a ship is unable to manoeuvre due to exceptional circumstances.

Last week an attack on an Israeli-managed tanker off the coast of Oman killed two crew members and was blamed on Iran by the United States, Israel and Britain.

Iran denied involvement in that suspected drone attack and said on Monday it would respond promptly to any threat against its security.

The United States and Britain said on Sunday they would work with their allies to respond to last week's attack on the Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned petroleum product tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime.

Iran and Israel have exchanged accusations of carrying out attacks on each other's vessels in recent months.

Tensions have increased in Gulf waters and between Iran and Israel since 2018, when then U.S. President Donald Trump ditched Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy.

Bennett Warns Israel Able To 'Act Alone' Against Iran Over Ship Attack

JERUSALEM, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Israel is rallying global action against Iran over an attack on an Israeli-managed tanker off Oman last week but is capable of responding on its own if necessary, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday.

The United States, Britain and Israel blamed Iran for the suspected drone strike on Thursday in which two crew members, a Briton and a Romanian, were killed. Tehran denies any involvement.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken predicted a "collective response" to the incident, which British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described as an "outrageous attack on commercial shipping".

Standing alongside military generals during a tour of Israel's northern border with Syria and Lebanon, Bennett said Israel had shared intelligence with the United States, Britain and others tying Iran to the attack.

"We are working to rally the world, but at the same time we also know to act alone," Bennett said.

"Iran already knows the price we exact when someone threatens our security. The Iranians need to understand that it is impossible to sit placidly in Tehran and ignite the entire Middle East from there. That's over."

Iran said on Monday it would respond promptly to any threat against its security.

Iran and Israel have exchanged accusations of carrying out attacks on each other's vessels in recent months.

Tensions have increased between Iran and Israel since 2018, when then U.S. President Donald Trump ditched Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy. 

Officials In Iran Demolish Three Homes Belonging To Persecuted Baha'is

Officials of the Islamic Republic have demolished three homes on Monday belonging to members of the persecuted minority Baha’i sect in the Sari region of northern Iran.

The Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reporting the development said, “The systematic effort to force Baha’is to leave this region was the result of a meeting held one year ago by several government security organs in the area.”

HRANA added, that the land on which the houses were built belonged to the three families since at least 1963, while the Department of Natural Resources has claimed that 14 parcels of land in the Roshankuh village were forests before. The ruling was used as an excuse to demolish the homes.

The human rights monitoring group also said that in recent years there have been many systematic and planned attempts to force the Baha’is out of the region.

This is not the first instance of Baha’i homes and cemeteries being destroyed or confiscated. The ruling Shiite clerical system in Iran does not recognize the Baha’i faith and since the establishment of the Islamic Republic it has persecuted members of the community. Hundreds have been jailed, refused work and university education in what amounts to official discrimination. In many instances, businesses belonging to Baha’is have been forced to shut down.

Iran Health Officials Warn Hospitals Reach Maximum Capacity

As health officials in Iran say that hospitals have reached the end of their capacity to help Covid-19 patients, the government’s official newspaper, Iran daily quoted reports Tuesday that in some provinces victims are being buried in mass graves.

A top doctor in Tehran’s large Masih Daneshvari hospital said the number of cases is unprecedented, all beds in his hospital are full and there is no further capacity to care for patients. The health system’s dam is about to break, he warned.

Many Iranians on social media have begun openly blaming Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for Covid “massacre”, since he banned the purchase of American and British vaccines in January and set back the national vaccination effort by at least six months.

Iran has so far administered around 11 million doses of Russian, Chinese and some Western vaccines acquired through the World Health Organization’s Covax mechanism and donated by Japan. But for a population of 85 million, the country is still far from inoculating a significant percentage of the populace.

Iran daily also wrote that the pandemic has reached a stage where the real number of deaths must be more than official figures announced by the government. Deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi had also admitted earlier that the real number of cases and deaths are more than what his ministry reports.

A Tehran city official said that the number of daily deaths in the capital has reached a daily average of 180. Iran on Monday reported over 400 deaths nationwide, while Tehran has around 10 percent of the total population.

Israel Lambasts EU Decision To Send Envoy To Iran Inauguration

Israel on Monday strongly condemned a European Union decision to send a senior diplomat to Iran for the inauguration of Ebrahim Raisi, the controversial new president implicated in the killing of thousands of prisoners in 1988.

The Israeli foreign ministry on Monday called the EU decision to send Enrique Mora, the Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service and EU’s representative in the Vienna talks on Iran’s nuclear issue, a “shameful” display of “poor judgement”.

International human rights organizations have accused Raisi, a former judge, of human rights abuses, having served on a Death Commission in 1988 which sent thousands of political prisoners to their deaths. Amnesty International has called for Raisi to be investigated for crimes against humanity.

The Israeli statement also pointed to last week’s fatal attack on a tanker off the coast of Oman that the United States, United Kingdom and Israel have blamed on Iran. “The participation of the EU representative in the ceremony comes just a few days after Iran killed two civilians, one of whom was from an EU member state, in an act of state terrorism against civilian shipping.”

Israel has vowed retaliation, while the US and the UK have also said “a collective” response is on its way.

“Flattery and subservience to violent totalitarian regimes only invites more violence and aggression,” the Israeli statement said.