Iran is Politicizing Coronavirus as a Conspiracy!
Iran is Politicizing Coronavirus as a Conspiracy!
Iran has become one of the most coronavirus-infected countries in the world after China. What is most concerning is that the cases they reported were fewer than those in Japan or South Korea, and even Italy, but these numbers defy reality. That is because the rate of deaths in Iran is more than 10%, which is higher than the rest of the world.
Observers inside and outside Iran are convinced that the government is hiding the truth on the coronavirus and that there is a large chance for it to turn into a pandemic. Many cases all over the world have been linked to Iran, from Afghanistan to Canada. There were large outbreaks last week. Videos on social media showed these horrifying cases despite reassurances by the government two weeks ago that the disease was being controlled. The districts most affected are Jilan, Qom and Tehran. The government announced a new campaign and sent a 300,000-member team to go from home to home and test Iranians for the disease (or at least, for symptoms).
This indicates that the government is worried about not enough people with the virus being tested, and perhaps that is out of fear of mandatory quarantine in hospitals that are short of staff and are crowded. This is one of the dangers of a lack of trust during a public health crisis. Consequently, the Basij announced that it will get rid of the illness.
Iran’s response to the virus has been mysterious so far. The regime stalled on announcing its first cases and continued to undermine the spread of the virus. However, after officials were informed of a few cases, a lawmaker announced to his constituents, in Qom, that 50 people have indeed died. Instead of starting to work, the Ministry of Health denied those numbers and Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, tasked the general prosecutor to investigate the parliamentarian's claim.
Shamkhani said, “The reports being spread are not true, and hiding the truth jeopardizes national security.” The extent of the spread of the illness in Iran, a country at the heart of one of the most unstable regions in the world, has led to an explosive uncertainty in the Middle East. Iran faces many challenges internally and externally, from internal opposition to a regional reaction to its influence in the area and pressures by the United States.
The regime’s response to this crisis will likely weaken it on all those fronts. According to some sources, security service employees were sent to hospitals to stop healthcare workers from exchanging information on the number of cases and deaths. This information is now considered a “national security threat” and is punishable by law. The infection is clearly spreading to the higher officials in the Iranian government. On
February 25, the Deputy Minister of Health, Iraj Harichi, announced that he was infected and he had personally undermined the crisis repeatedly. He was seen coughing and sweating heavily during a press conference and the video went viral. Harichi also gave a live interview on state TV a day before he was diagnosed and wiped his nose with his hand and coughed without covering his mouth, which is worrying.
In addition to covering the truth, it seems that officials are not as aware of precautionary measures as one would hope. The virus has since spread even more. According to one report, 23 MPs have been infected with the coronavirus, which is around 8% of all parliamentarians. Until now, three high-ranking officials have died of the virus, including a close advisor to the Supreme Leader. Another official is Masoumeh Ebtekar, the Vice President of Iran for Women and Family Affairs, who was known as “Sister Mary” in 1979 during the American hostage crisis.
The feeling that Iran is not telling the truth comes after the huge demonstrations against the regime, and after another trick played by the regime when in January the Revolutionary Guards shot down a Ukrainian civilian plane above Tehran. It took a few days before the regime admitted its responsibility. Observers claim that Iran is responsible for spreading the virus in Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Oman, Lebanon, the UAE, Canada and Saudi Arabia through travelers from Iran. Lack of trust in how they are addressing the outbreak has pushed people to publicly and cynically speak against the regime.
During that time, President Hassan Rouhani claimed that the virus was a conspiracy to plant fear and shut down the country. While other countries stopped all travels to China, Iran continued. In solidarity with Wilayat al-Faqih, Lebanon did not stop travels to Iran, in a move that totally undermines the lives of the Lebanese. What adds to this crisis of the Iranian economy is that the GDP has dropped by 10% in 2019 and the International Monetary Fund predicted that the GDP may reach 0% in 2020. Additionally, Iran could lose revenues from millions of pilgrims, especially to Qom, which according to government estimates was the center for the spread of the virus in Iran. This will further weaken the economy because most pilgrims are required to stay away.
Many from Lebanon no longer want to even hear Iran’s name. Iranian businessmen are finding difficulty traveling to commercial centers. In addition, it will be difficult to find new jobs for Iranian migrants looking for jobs outside, which have helped reduce the pressure on the regime because of rising unemployment, after sending money from abroad. No wonder the Iranian currency is losing its value. Iranian influence in the region is also being weakened in Iraq after demonstrations against such influence broke out, and in Lebanon where Hezbollah fighters coming back from a pilgrimage to Iran are refusing to follow quarantine instructions, claiming that all of this is part of a conspiracy against Tehran.
It is not clear what is going to happen to Iranian militias and the Revolutionary Guards, and personnel affiliated with Iran who travel to conflict areas all over the region from Syria to Yemen and even Afghanistan and accompany Hezbollah fighters. The virus has put the regime in a bad situation. Now we are entering the unknown. The economy is still under severe pressures and the trust in the political regime is receding. There is also the spread of the virus among high officials, and needless to say that the shift of authority in the religious institution amid the current crisis will make popular mobilization difficult. Are Iranians ready to leave their homes and risk being infected? They prefer to leave the country altogether.