Iran rejected coronavirus aid provided by Doctors Without Borders, an international medical humanitarian organization, which had sent a team of medical staff and a field hospital to Iran. "Since the national mobilization for confronting corona is ongoing, and the medical capabilities of Iranian Armed Forces are entirely at its service, Iran does not need hospitals established by foreigners and such presence is irrelevant," an adviser to Iran's health minister, Alireza Vahhabzadeh, tweeted on Monday.
A German-Afghan translator for the German army has been sentenced to six years and 10 months in prison for treason after he was found guilty of having spied for Iran in exchange for money. Judges found that Abdul S., 51, had "passed on state secrets of a military nature to an employee of an Iranian intelligence service" in a "particularly serious case of treason", the higher regional court in Koblenz said in a statement on Monday. His German-Afghan wife Asiea S., 40, convicted of having aided and abetted treason and was handed a suspended sentence of 10 months, AFP reported.
The Spokesman of President Hassan Rouhani's administration said Wednesday the government will soon impose strict lockdowns to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) epidemic. The coronavirus epidemic, even according to the officially announced death toll and infection cases has claimed the lives of at least 1,934 and infected more than 24,000 Iranians. Many believe that the numbers are much higher and could even be as much as five-fold.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
There are increased calls for the United States to suspend economic sanctions against Iran, which some believe hamper Tehran's ability to contain the deadly outbreak of coronavirus that has officially killed nearly 2,000 people. The United States has offered to help Iran but has shown no desire to ease crippling sanctions reimposed on Tehran shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump exited the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018.
United Nations leadership called for rolling back international sanctions regimes around the world, saying they are heightening the health risks for millions of people and weakening the global effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. The appeal reflects mounting concerns that sanctions regimes may be impeding efforts in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe to battle the coronavirus, and enhancing the prospects of the pathogen's spread to other countries.
The International Monetary Fund is urging governments in the Middle East to take immediate action to blunt a likely economic setback that could arise from the novel coronavirus pandemic. Jihad Azour, the IMF's regional director for the Middle East and Central Asia, said in a report Tuesday that the pandemic "has become the largest near-term challenge to the region."
Like clockwork, two dozen left-wing activist groups demanded last week the United States lift sanctions on Iran to help the Islamic Republic fight the coronavirus. "With hospitals overrun and Iranian doctors struggling to procure necessary equipment, the U.S. must be part of the solution rather than part of the problem," the president of the National Iranian American Council, Tehran's de facto lobby in the U.S., explained.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran's theocratic rulers have temporarily released some 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, in an effort to prevent the spread of the Middle East's worst coronavirus outbreak, but have refused to free many Iranian Christians jailed for practicing their faith. Article18, an organization that promotes religious freedom in Iran, told Fox News on Monday that four Iranian Christians serving 10-year sentences in Tehran's notorious Evin prison are among the prisons denied temporary release "even though their requests for retrials have been accepted."
The international humanitarian organization, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders expressed deep surprise in a statement March 24 after Iranian Health Ministry officials put a stop to its plans to launch a 50-bed intensive care field hospital in Isfahan for COVID-19 victims. MSF has sent two chartered planes to Iran carrying equipment and the inflatable hospital, as well as specialized personnel. The statement sent to Radio Farda says they were received well by local officials in Isfahan but then health ministry officials said Iran has enough capacity and does not need help.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Following more primary elections last week, it appears that former Vice President Joe Biden is very likely to be the Democratic Party's nominee to compete against President Donald Trump in the November election. Recent retaliatory strikes between the US and Iran-affiliated militants in Iraq have highlighted that Iran will continue to pose a challenge for whoever is the next US president.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Amid heightened tension with Iran, the U.S. Navy is operating two carriers in the Middle East, and all signs point to increasing pressure from U.S. Central Command to maintain aircraft carrier presence that has ebbed in recent years as the U.S. focuses on competition with China and Russia. The Navy announced March 20 that aircraft carriers Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman, and their respective escorts, are operating with a B-52 bomber in the Arabian Sea to demonstrate "combined joint capability and interoperability to plan and conduct multi-task force operations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility."
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
An Iranian health ministry official said on Wednesday that 2,077 people had died so far from the new coronavirus in Iran, with 143 deaths recorded in the past 24 hours. The total number of people infected with the coronavirus has climbed to 27,017, Alireza Vahabzadeh tweeted.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that his government has prepared to introduce tough new measures against the coronavirus as the death toll reached 2,077 on Wednesday after the country recorded 143 deaths in the past 24 hours. The new measures, which could be adopted as soon as Wednesday evening, included Iran's first restrictions on movement to try to stem the spread of the virus.
Al-Monitor contributor and economic analyst Bijan Khajehpour highlighted corruption as a major reason why the Iranian government was so slow in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic during an exclusive webinar today with Al-Monitor President Andrew Parasiliti. "If I were in charge of Iran, I would clear corruption as the No. 1 national security threat in Iran," said Khajehpour. "If you go back to the question of why was Iran so slow in responding to the crisis, part of it was certainly this because the professionals, the technocrats who would have understood the dimensions of this crisis, were not in the right place.
CHINA & IRAN
Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei tweeted false conspiracy theories, first propagated by Chinese officials, claiming the Wuhan virus originated in the United States. "You're accused of having created #Coronavirus," Khamenei tweeted on Sunday. He also suggested the United States is intentionally spreading the deadly virus. "You could be giving medicines that spread the virus or cause it to remain. Experience shows you can't be trusted & you do such things."