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Iranian press review: Middle East's highest peak gravely threatened by mining

Meanwhile, US sanctions lead to flu vaccine shortage and conservatives want the next president to be a military commander
Mount Damavand is under threat from mining in its foothills (Greger Ravik/flickr)

Conservatives say next president should be from military  

Conservatives are planning to push for a military commander to run as their candidate for the 2021 presidential elections, one who will establish a "war cabinet" to tackle Iran's enemies.

Following weeks of speculations around whether the conservatives would support a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to come to power in Iran’s 2021 presidential elections, lawmaker Malek Shariati tweeted that the country's next president needed to prepare for continued hostility with the United States.

In a tweet commemorating the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war, Shariati compared the US economic war against Iran with the eight-year conflict with Iraq, saying US sanctions were equally destructive.

“The sanctions [against Iran] will remain intact for many years, what the 1400 government [Iran’s next government] needs is a war cabinet,” Shariati wrote on twitter.

The tweet provoked outrage among reformists, as well as the supporters of moderate President Hassan Rouhani.

The pro-reformist Shargh daily slammed the conservatives for their attempts to militarise the power structure in Iran. “There is a symbolic meaning in what this conservative lawmaker [Shariati] said,” wrote the daily.

“This is not only a conservative lawmaker’s demand; many conservatives look at the next government in this way. It is about three years that they have been toying with the idea of bringing the military to power,” the paper continued.

Some Iranian commentators believe that the landslide victory for the conservatives in the February parliamentary elections was the first step in the process of handing over political power to IRGC commanders.

Following the legislative elections, a former IRGC commander, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, was elected as parliament speaker, and the new parliament introduced a proposal permitting active military commanders to enter presidential elections.

Iranian political analyst Ebrahim Fayyaz warned that the current parliament has been creating a situation in which only a "totalitarian" government can come into power.

“This parliament is the most nondescript parliament we have had since the [1979] revolution, and the only thing that gives it identity is opposing the president,” Fayyaz was quoted by the Etemad daily as saying.

“This parliament will not do anything meaningful because it is waiting for the next presidential elections, when a totalitarian government would come to power.”

Iran unable to buy flu vaccine due to US sanctions

Officials in Tehran have said they cannot import the necessary flu vaccine available on the global market due to international pharmaceutical companies’ fear of US sanctions.

Since the 2018 US withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, Washington has imposed a full embargo on Iran’s economy and banking system.

The White House says that it has not issued any sanction against trading medicine and food with Iran. However, due to sanctions against Iran’s banking system, international firms have stopped trading with the Islamic Republic.

UAE central bank failed to prevent Iran sanctions evasion: Report
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In recent weeks, health experts have warned that amid the widespread coronavirus pandemic in Iran, a shortage of influenza vaccine could lead to another health crisis.

Iran is the hardest-hit country in the Middle East by the Covid-19 crisis, with the number of deaths recorded from the virus surpassing 25,000.

Last week, Ali Asghar Bagherzadeh, head of the Iranian parliament’s health committee, said that Iran had transferred €22m (about $25.6m) to a bank in Turkey to import flu vaccines, but could not transfer the money to the pharmaceutical firms due to the sanctions against Iran’s banking system.

On Tuesday, officials announced that Iran finally received 1.5 million doses of influenza vaccine that would be used for the vaccination of pregnant women in rural parts of the country.

According to the Arman daily, Iran needs at least 2.5 million doses of influenza vaccine to carry out the vaccination of all high risk groups.  

Miners destroy highest peak in Middle East

Environmental experts have warned about the irreversible impact of mining on the foothills of Mount Damavand, the highest peak in the Middle East. 

Every day, over 500 trucks of soil are extracted from the foothills of Damavand, and the sound of excavation explosions is occasionally heard from dimension stone and construction aggregate mines, the Arman daily has reported.

Damavand is registered on Iran’s National Heritage List, and has a specific importance in its mythology and culture.

The news about excessive mining on Damavand hillsides was published a few weeks after a legal confrontation between Iran’s Department of Environment and Ogaf, the country’s endowments organisation, over the ownership of the mountain’s foothills.  

The powerful religious organisation had claimed that parts of the mountain had been donated to Ogaf. Despite public outrage over Ogaf’s claims, the case has disappeared from local media after pressure from the high ranking clerics who control Iran’s endowments organisation.

Esmail Kahrom, Iran’s wildlife and environment expert, told the Arman daily that if the current pace of excavations continues on Mount Damavand, the highest mountain of the Middle East would face the same fate as Lake Urmia.

Once the largest saltwater lake in the Middle East, Urmia has shrunk to 10 percent of its former size due to damn buildings, water mismanagement and drought.