The Iranian regime’s severe mismanagement of the CCP virus crisis and its continuing lack of transparency has earned it the reputation of being a major center of the global pandemic, experts say.
According to the U.S. Institute of Peace, Iran has spread the pathogen to 23 countries, with cases as far away as North America, Europe, and New Zealand. Even China, the initial center of the pandemic, reported 11 cases of the infection from Iran on March 5. Other cases were linked to Iran in Australia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.
The country’s porous borders have further added to the chaos in the Arab world, according to Faisal Al-Rfouh, a professor of political science and international studies at the University of Jordan.
“I believe the Iranian government betrayed their people so they didn’t announce the extent of the coronavirus and they didn’t take the needed measurements to limit or minimize the extent of it in the Middle East,” Al-Rfouh told The Epoch Times.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China before it was transmitted worldwide.
Al-Rfouh, a former Jordanian culture minister and a visiting professor of political science at Glendon College at York University in Toronto, believes that the Iranian regime is responsible for the spread of the CCP virus across the Arab world.
News reports back Al-Rfouh’s claim—roughly 9 out of 10 of the more than 18,000 confirmed cases in the Middle East can be traced from Iran, including the first confirmed cases in Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Oman.
This irresponsible spread of the deadly virus, he says, has intensified anti-Iran sentiment in the Middle East.
“Not just angry, they are very angry! Arab nations are angry with the zero measurements or the ways with which they dealt with it and they spread this disease,” Al-Rfouh said.
While the callous handling of affairs by Iran has contributed to the outbreak in the entire Middle East, Iran’s location on the geostrategic map and the “permeability and porousness” of its borders has raised concern in the Pentagon, according to Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and South Asia.
“Iran sits in the middle of the [Middle East] theater, so their ability to pass that infection to other states is very worrisome,” McKenzie said in a March 13 briefing with lawmakers.
Al-Rfouh particularly expressed concerns about the Islamic Republic’s border with Iraq.
“The open border between Iran and Iraq is so dangerous. So I think and believe that the Arabs have all the right to blame Iran, because the Iranian regime didn’t tell the truth about coronavirus cases in their country,” he said.
The first 33 cases of infection in Iraq came from Iran, reported Tablet magazine. There are also reports about millions of Afghan refugees living inside the country, and concerns about the pandemic going unreported.
While Arab countries have closed borders and transportation links with Iran, the situation inside the country continues to grow at alarming proportions, with many reports of quarantine being broken, particularly in religious shrines. The porous borders further aggravate the situation.
On March 24, the country issued its most dire warning about the new CCP virus ravaging the country, suggesting “millions” could die in the Islamic Republic if people keep traveling and ignore health guidance.
In announcing the new warning, Iranian state TV journalist Afruz Eslami cited a study by the Sharif University of Technology that offered three scenarios: If people cooperate now, Iran will see 120,000 infections and 12,000 deaths before the outbreak is over; with medium cooperation, there will be 300,000 cases and 110,000 deaths.
If people fail to follow any guidance, it could collapse Iran’s already-strained medical system, Eslami said.
If “medical facilities are not sufficient, there will be 4 million cases, and 3.5 million people will die,” she said.
On March 23, hard-line Shiite demonstrators pushed their way into the courtyards of two major shrines that were closed because of the virus.
“We are here to say that Tehran is damn wrong to do that!” one Shiite cleric shouted, while at the shrine in Mashhad, according to a video posted online. Others joined him in chanting: “The health minister is damn wrong to do that, the president is damn wrong to do that!” Police later dispersed the crowds and made arrests.
The demonstrations occurred even after the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a religious ruling prohibiting “unnecessary” travel.
Iran Infects Other Countries
Cases originating from Iran have been reported around the globe, including in New York and Los Angeles.
Since Iran didn’t take required precautionary measures, nations with religious, economic, and political ties with the Islamic Republic became easy targets for the outbreak, Manjari Singh, a New Delhi-based Middle East expert, told The Epoch Times in an email.
“In most of the countries in the Middle East such as in Iraq, Lebanon, and Qatar, the initial spread is from the Iranian individuals who have traveled to these countries,” Singh said.
An India Today report on March 24 said that 254 Indians in Iran have tested positive for COVID-19. However, confusion arose of these cases when they were confirmed positive by the Indian medical team stationed in Iran, but negative by an Iranian team.
“Around 254 people have been tested positive by the Indian medical team, but when we went to the Iranian hospitals to recheck, they said we are not positive. According to Iranian authorities, it is not Covid-19. We are disturbed and confused. We want to go back,” an Indian pilgrim named Asgar Ali told the media.
These pilgrims continued to live in hotels and go to the markets since they weren’t provided food and medicine, thereby endangering the lives of others.
“A few days back, India brought back its expatriates from Iran and is quarantining them in Rajasthan [desert state],” Singh said.
The situation on Iran’s border with Pakistan is also discouraging. The Guardian reports that 6,000 people were quarantined in a dusty camp on Pakistan’s border with Iran in Taftan town, a stop on the trade route between two countries in Balochistan. Shia Muslims use the route to travel to religious shrines in Iran.
The infected in Taftan were lodged in tents without any toilets or basic amenities such as towels or blankets. The report mentions that the border remains very porous, and on March 24, 100 people from Iran got into Taftan by bribing officials on the border.
Singh points out that many countries in the Middle East don’t see “eye to eye” with each other, particularly with Iran. There’s a lack of coordination in crisis management and control, which eventually got better diplomatically after many countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) sent help to Iran.
“But will it transform into a bettering relation between Shia Iran and Sunni Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, that is too soon to comment on. These steps are based on humanitarian grounds and therefore their longevity can be short-lived,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.