Iranian envoy: Daesh no longer...
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This comes as despite their anti-terrorism claims and rhetoric, the US has taken no practical steps to counter Daesh terrorists in the region. It is often stated that the US has even adopted measures to support Daesh. Basically, the Americans do not favor stability and security in the region to have a pretext for justifying the presence of their military bases and forces in it.
While the world is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, movements have been reported in certain US bases in Iraq, indicating that American troops have massed in these camps. How do you assess these movements?
Americans have recently withdrawn their troops from five to six military bases and stationed them in Kurdistan Region’s Harir, Ain al-Asad base and Camp Taji. The US forces positioned in Camp Taji are advisory and training forces. These movements are mainly aimed at increasing the troops’ concentration and boosting their security and defense preparedness. It is clear that through these movements, the US is reorganizing its forces. However, the presence of American troops in the region is not justified as they are not needed here. These forces are creating problems for regional countries. The Islamic Republic of Iran maintains that the US bases must be wiped out from the region.
How do you assess the current situation of Hashd al-Shaabi forces? It appears as if the US troops have not stopped their tension-provoking moves against Hashd al-Shaabi in the aftermath of their conflicts with the pro-government Iraqi forces.
Hashd al-Shaabi is restoring vigor to its forces and reorganizing them. Over the past few months, all military operations by the US forces in Iraq have been against Hashd al-Shaabi, despite their anti-terrorism claims and rhetoric. This comes as Hashd al-Shaabi is responsible for fighting Daesh and ensuring security in Iraq. As we witnessed, Americans assassinated a number of Hashd al-Shaabi forces as well as Iran’s top anti-terror commander, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of PMU, in such operations.
Countering and weakening Hashd al-Shaabi is the main target pursued by the American troops in Iraq at present. This comes as Hashd al-Shaabi is among the Iraqi armed forces and any operations by the US against it is condemned by Iran.
How do you evaluate efforts to contain the coronavirus spread in Iraq? Is Iran cooperating with its western neighbor in this field?
Wide-ranging protective measures were adopted in Iraq to fight coronavirus, including imposing intra- and inter-city travel bans, closing common borders, public places, schools and universities as well as suspending flights. These measures were taken by the anti-coronavirus taskforce in Iraq, the country’s Ministry of Health, public and private organizations as well as Hashd al-Shaabi forces. Thus, the disease was controlled in the country and the number of the infections and deaths remained low.
Iran and Iraq have cooperated in the fight against coronavirus since the very beginning of its outbreak and exchanged experiences in this field in joint meetings. The two countries also controlled common borders very well.
What is your prediction for the reopening of the common borders?
In view of recent negotiations between the two sides, it has been decided to open common trade borders on two days (probably Sunday and Wednesday) a week for the resumption of transactions. This, of course, will be done through full compliance with the health and hygiene protocols and under special supervision to remove concerns over the further spread of coronavirus.
Iran on verge of COVID-19 containment
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday said the country was close to curb the novel coronavirus outbreak though he called on people still to stay alert.
Addressing a cabinet session on Wednesday, Rouhani praised the good cooperation of people in fighting the virus that led the country to pass the disease management and control stage, president.ir reported.
“We have been progressing at every step in the past three months... in fighting this dangerous virus and are nearly on the verge of curbing this disease,” he said.
He also hailed the medical society, saying the country has made great progress in the fight against COVID-19 thanks to the efforts the society has been making over the past months.
Iran would “even not have these problems” if health protocols “were more closely observed in some of the provinces that are currently in an unfavorable situation”, he said.
Health Ministry spokesperson Kianoush Jahanpour put the total death toll from the coronavirus in Iran at 7,183, saying the disease has taken the lives of 64 patients over the past 24 hours, IRNA reported.
Speaking at a daily press conference, Jahanpour said 2,346 new infections were confirmed across the country in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 126,949.
More than 98,800 of those hospitalized had recovered and were discharged, while 2,673 were in critical condition.
The spokesperson also said zero deaths have been reported in 10 provinces during the past 24 hours, while eight other provinces have reported only one death from coronavirus infection each.
At least 24 of Iran’s 434 counties were “red” – the highest level on the country’s color-coded risk scale, according to Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raeisi, AFP reported.
He said at a virus taskforce meeting broadcast on Tuesday that 218 counties were still deemed low-risk, which could drop to 183 since the virus had “started peaking” in some regions.
He added that most of the fatalities since Iran reported its first two deaths in February were above 70 years old, and that younger Iranians were in less danger.
Iran condemns Trump’s WHO pull-out threat
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi condemned US President Donald Trump’s threat to halt funding to the World Health Organization.
“As global health is at stake and we need global solidarity and science-led leadership more than ever, Trump’s letter to WHO Director-General is undermining the professionalism and independence of the organization, the spokesman said in his Twitter account on Wednesday.
“It is a vain attempt at the wrong time,” he said.
Trump threatened on Monday to reconsider the United States’ membership of the WHO if the organization did not commit to improvements within 30 days, and said the body had shown an “alarming lack of independence” from China.
Beijing has furiously denied the US allegations that it played down the threat and Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated at the World Health Assembly that his nation had been “transparent” throughout the crisis.
Iran’s chemical weapons survivors struggle with coronavirus, US sanctions
Veterans of chemical warfare with Iraq have long-term
respiratory ailments that make them particularly
vulnerable to the coronavirus.
By Katayoun Arsanjani, Nicole Bozorgmir,
and Gelareh Kiazand
Volunteers from the Iranian Red Crescent Society crisscross Tehran’s streets, distributing care packages of masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer to residents to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“In the early days, we didn’t even have three-layer masks in our country,” Chief of Iranian Red Crescent Society Karim Hemmati told VICE News. “We weren’t prepared for it.”
Iran was an early epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic and has remained the hardest hit country in the Middle East.
The society is focused on a unique group in Iran: The more than 70,000 people injured by chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war. It’s been over thirty years since that war ended, but many survivors of chemical attacks still struggle with long-term damage to their skin, eyes, and lungs – conditions that can manifest years after exposure and worsen with age.
Iranian officials say that efforts to combat the virus are hampered by US sanctions after its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.
Dr. Leila Moein, a physician who works with chemical attack survivors, said the new sanctions have had “an incredibly negative impact on working people in Iran and the ill, especially those whose illnesses are treated with imported medications, which are very expensive.”
An October 2019 Human Rights Watch report, released months before the global coronavirus crisis, found that even though humanitarian goods are technically exempt, US sanctions impede medical imports and “are causing unnecessary suffering to Iranian citizens afflicted with a range of conditions.”
In light of the pandemic, there have been widespread calls to ease sanctions from the international community, the UN Special Rapporteur, as well as dozens of US Congress members and a group of 24 former US and European officials, including former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency Hans Blix.
Every day Dr. Moein is answering messages from patients who are scared about contracting coronavirus, talking through their symptoms and analyzing their health records. Meanwhile, she worries about the long-term consequences of sanctions on her vulnerable patients beyond coronavirus.
“The slow progression of sanctions on Iran, especially concerning their effects on people’s health, amounts to a silent genocide,” she said. “We might think that we’re not that affected now, but in the future, maybe ten years from now, we will see what damages they’ve caused.”
Two terrorists killed in western Iran
The forces of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) forces attacked a team of terrorists in Iran’s western province of Kurdestan, killing two of them and injuring a number of others.
The public relations department of Hamzeh Sayyid al-Shohada Base of the IRGC Ground Force said in a statement that the armed clash happened at midday on Tuesday near the city of Marivan, Tasnim News Agency reported.
In the operation launched in cooperation with the intelligence forces of Kurdestan Province, the IRGC troops clashed with an eight-man counterrevolutionary group and killed two of them, it said.
Four other terrorists were injured in the operation, and the rest of them fled the scene, the statement said, adding that a manhunt is in progress.
The IRGC is tasked with protecting the country’s northwestern and southeastern borders.
In July 2018, terrorists attacked a border post of the Hamzeh Sayyid al-Shohada Base in the western province of Kurdestan, killing 11 forces of the base.
During Ramadan, the UN in the Islamic Republic of Iran has continued efforts to assist the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I extend my warmest wishes Eid-al-Fitr and I am sure that for many observing Ramadan was very different this year. COVID-19 has claimed over 320,000 lives worldwide, left us with a virus we still do not fully understand, and thrown us into the worst socio-economic crisis in almost a century,” said Ugochi Daniels, the UN resident coordinator in Iran.
Since the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Iran in February, UN agencies in the country quickly mobilized to support the national struggle against the outbreak. But the pandemic has caused a world crisis that will only be contained through large scale cooperation and collaboration. The UN in Iran is maximizing our global initiatives to sustain the government’s efforts to fight the virus.
UN response in Iran – brief overview: UN in Iran has provided technical guidance and in-kind assistance to the government, including the Ministry of Health and Medical Education to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable. Assistance includes but is not limited to:
• Test kits, arterial blood gas analyzers and other medical supplies to more than 100 laboratories and hospitals in Iran.
• Medicines to enable Iran to contribute data to the Solidarity Trial, a global UN-led study to identify already approved medicines’ effect on coronavirus patients.
• Over 76 tons of personal protective equipment for front line workers as well as professionals across Iran taking care of the elderly, children with disabilities, and other groups with special needs.
• As Iran is the 6th largest refugee-hosting country in the world, the UN has provided hygiene items and food assistance to 31,000 most vulnerable refugees living in settlements and protection items for humanitarian service workers. The UN continues to provide psycho-social counseling and legal advice through helplines, as well as targeted, one-off cash assistance when a helping hand is urgently needed.
• Other UN initiatives are supporting government efforts to protect and assist women, girls, the elderly, people living disabilities, drug users, parents, teachers and others.
It is now clear that the long-term effects of the pandemic will negatively impact the world economy for many years to come. On May 14, the UN updated its plans on how to expand global efforts to mitigate the rampant effects of the pandemic. The UN, released the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan, issuing a $6.7 billion appeal to stem the spread of the virus, distribute medicines and equipment, and protect millions of lives from the disease and accompanying impacts. As Iran is the tenth most COVID-19 affected country globally, it has been included in this global plan for continuous support.
UN in Iran acknowledges the government’s socioeconomic initiatives which are already providing relief and support to vulnerable households and small businesses. The UN is currently reinforcing and scaling up programs to sustain recovery efforts. Apart from immediate relief for the most vulnerable in COVID-19 affected families, we will focus on empowering local capacity as well as generating livelihood opportunities.
“Globally, we can see that poverty is on the rise for the first time in decades. The only way for us to get through this crisis and come out stronger on the other side, is by working together. The UN in Iran will partner with our extremely generous donors, to be able to support and contribute to the government’s efforts. We will focus on inclusive, resilient and sustainable solutions and work hard leaving no one behind”, added Daniels.
Iran’s 10th 290-seat Parliament concluded its four-year term on Wednesday, during which Speaker Ali Larijani briefed the lawmakers on its achievements.