Hackers working in the interests of the Iranian government have attempted to break into the personal email accounts of staff at the World Health Organization during the coronavirus outbreak, four people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. It is not clear if any accounts were compromised, but the attacks show how the WHO and other organizations at the center of a global effort to contain the coronavirus have come under a sustained digital bombardment by hackers seeking information about the outbreak.
As Britain, France, and Germany finally on Tuesday managed to conclude Europe's first humanitarian goods transaction with the Islamic Republic under U.S. sanctions, the latest data show a significant drop in trade with Iran. A European Commission report published last Tuesday shows that the value of products the 28 EU members exported to Iran in 2019 dropped fifty percent, compared with the previous year. Meanwhile, EU's imports from Iran in the same period show a fourteen-fold decrease. Before U.S. sanctions the bulk of Europe's imports from Iran was oil.
Recent intelligence suggesting Iranian-backed forces in Iraq are actively plotting to hit U.S. troops may have stirred a new war of words between Washington and Tehran on social media, but it has done little to shock U.S. defense officials. U.S. President Donald Trump first shared word of the latest intelligence in a tweet Wednesday, warning of a "sneak attack." Later, he told White House reporters the intelligence was "very good," and that Iranian leaders would be wise to heed U.S. warnings.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
When it comes to the regime in Iran, the adage "old habits die hard" could not be truer. Even amid a negligent and botched response to the coronavirus pandemic, Tehran's leaders are investing precious resources to further their nuclear program in violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal. Some of these violations, like Iran's increasing stockpile of low-enriched uranium - fissile material that if further enriched to weapons-grade can be used for a nuclear weapon - have received much attention.
In 2018, Iran informed the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it was planning to "construct naval nuclear propulsion in the future." But could Iran feasibly manufacture a nuclear submarine? The history of nuclear underwater propulsion began sixty-five years ago. In 1955 with the USS Nautilus. The Nautilus was an American submarine, and the world's first nuclear submarine. Nuclear submarines totally changed the face of both naval warfare writ large and underwater warfare, specifically.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The Islamic Republic of Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, issued a series of jaw-dropping comments at an economic cabinet meeting on Thursday, stating that US sanctions have not stopped Tehran from combating the coronavirus crisis. Rouhani's remarks contradict the narrative that his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has delivered to Western audiences in the hope of securing sanctions relief.
The war against the coronavirus pandemic is literally a life and death fight for nations. But Iran is waging it with an economy badly crippled by United States sanctions that have Tehran bereft of financial resources to mount an effective public health response. Mahsa is a 28-year-old nurse in Mazandaran, a northern province in Iran that has been hard hit by the virus.
Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden on Thursday called for America to ease sanctions on Iran, saying the US should offer relief to the Islamic Republic and other nations to help them deal with the coronavirus pandemic. "In times of global crisis, America should lead. We should be the first to offer help to people who are hurting or in danger. That's who we are. That's who we've always been," the former veep said in a statement.
While the Iranian government is busy managing the public health fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, there are increasing calls to pay attention to the needs of the country's economy and to develop a stimulus plan. But what can the Hassan Rouhani administration do in its current financial position? Not only does it face major financial shortcomings, it also cannot access its own hard currency reserves in international banks, nor can it hope to secure international loans or issue bonds on global capital markets.
The delivery of the first batch of European aid to Iran this week does not only represent a lifeline to the regime in Tehran as it attempts to tackle the deadly impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It also presents Iran with the opportunity to begin the painful process of rebuilding relations with the outside world. Long before the coronavirus outbreak, the ayatollahs appeared to have adopted a bunker mentality, as far as their engagement with the outside world was concerned. This was prompted, in part, by their resentment at the Trump administration's unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country "only acts in self-defense" after U.S. President Donald Trump warned Tehran of a "heavy price" if it or its allies attack U.S. troops or assets in Iraq. The war of words comes amid renewed tensions between the two arch-foes despite the coronavirus pandemic. "Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq," Trump tweeted on April 1.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to warn Iran against further attacks on US forces in Iraq - the same day that Iraqi officials told the Associated Press that the new head of the Quds Force had recently visited Baghdad. "Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq," Trump tweeted. "If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!" Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif did not directly deny an Iranian plot in Iraq in his tweeted rebuttal.
Iran said Thursday it "only acts in self-defense" after President Donald Trump warned it against attacks on US troops in Iraq, as a new war of words heated up despite the coronavirus pandemic. Tensions between the arch-foes flared in Iraq where the United States deployed Patriot air defense missiles prompting Iran to warn of consequences and demand a US withdrawal, Agence France Presse reported. Both countries have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran's death toll from the new coronavirus rose on Friday to 3,294 as it claimed 134 lives in the past 24 hours, according to Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpur. The total number of people confirmed to be infected is 53,183, he said on state television, adding that 4,035 ware "under observation", a term that may mean they are in critical condition. Of the total number of people who were diagnosed with the disease, 17,935 have recovered, he said.
The speaker of Iran's parliament, veteran politician Ali Larijani, has tested positive for coronavirus and is in quarantine, the legislature's public affairs office said Thursday. Larijani is the most senior Iranian official to contract the virus, joining two dozen MPs, a vice president and various ministry officials. After running parliament for 12 years, Larijani didn't contest this year's elections and is due to be replaced as speaker.
An Iranian resistance group has published government documents it claims prove the Iranian regime was aware of potential coronavirus infections in January, long before acknowledging cases there. Officially, the Iranian regime has said the first cases of the COVID-19 virus were discovered Feb. 19, but the National Council of Resistance of Iran unveiled documents it says are copies of mission reports from the government's National Emergency Organization.
CONGRESS & IRAN
The Democratic members of the Gang of 8, a group of congressional leaders who receive high-level briefings on intelligence matters, urged President Trump in a March 27 letter to consult Congress before ordering strikes on Iran or taking other actions that could lead to war. The lawmakers cited recent media reports that suggested the administration was preparing for military action. The president tweeted on Wednesday that the U.S. had received intelligence regarding an Iranian-backed "sneak attack" on U.S. forces in Iraq, and warned Tehran of likely retaliation.
CHINA & IRAN
Iranian authorities ignored warnings by doctors in late December and January of an increasing number of patients with high fevers and lung infections in the historic city of Qom, which turned out to be the epicentre of Iran's coronavirus outbreak, said two health ministry officials, a former ministry official and three doctors. And, when the authorities did become aware of domestic cases of the flu-like virus in early January, they didn't announce the news until weeks later, out of concern that releasing detailed information would unsettle the public ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for February 21, according to a senior official with direct knowledge of the matter.
IRAQ & IRAN
Despite his busy schedule of meetings with Iraq's various Shiite leaderships over the past two days, Iranian Quds Force commander Esmail Ghaani failed to unite their ranks as the country remains deadlocked over the formation of a new government. Ghaani had arrived in Baghdad this week to try and unify Iraq's fractured political leaders as stiff opposition by the Hikma movement thwarts chances the country's latest prime minister-designate, Adnan al-Zurfi, can form a government.