The virus could bring down the regime in Iran. Really.
And it would be entirely in keeping with the country’s traditions. The Iranian people are used to being lied to, and the virus is only the most recent example.
As of March 4, there are almost 3,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections in Iran, and the tempo of spread is increasing. The holy city of Qom is the hardest-hit, and demonstrations have been widespread, having reached medical centers. Twitter had several videos of people passing out in streets and stores, and there were reports of high-ranking officials diagnosed with the virus.
The Trump administration offered medical treatment for infected persons in Iran, but the regime of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei dismissed the offer, claiming the disease didn’t constitute a serious threat to public health, and then lying about U.S. sanctions.
“The claim to help Iran in dealing with corona from a country who with their economic terrorism has created widespread pressure for the people of Iran and even closed the paths for buying medicine and medical equipment, is a ridiculous claim and a political-psychological game,” Abbas Mousavi, the spokesman for the foreign ministry, said.
So the regime leaders lie about the disease, as they lie about everything else. Medical supplies have never been blocked by the Trump administration, and are not blocked today. A clinic in Bandar Abbas was torched, ostensibly because patients from Qom were being housed there. Two high-ranking officials of the regime have died of the virus, and a number of others are reported to have it. Over the weekend, the main international terminal in Tehran was empty.
Throughout the Islamic Republic, armed forces were patrolling the streets, purportedly to stem the flow of disease, but in reality, they were putting down demonstrations against the failed state.
The editors of the Free Iran Herald report (via Gateway Pundit) wrote:
“Suppressing the masses’ anger, rather than tending to public health, seems to be the only thing that Tehran’s officials are doing. On Sunday, March 1, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Basji units poured into the streets of Iranian cities, with trucks bearing water cannons, claiming that they were going to ‘fight coronavirus’ and that they would not return to their bases until the epidemic had passed. Of course, everyday Iranians knew this was really done in order to prevent new anti-regime demonstrations from commencing.”
It’s apparently just a matter of time before the Islamic Republic fades away. Or crashes.
Only a few weeks ago, Iran was the dominant power in neighboring countries, but the virus is tearing apart these efforts. Tawfiq Allawi resigned as prime minister of Iraq, throwing the country into political chaos, and there were daily funerals for dead Hezbollahis in Lebanon.
The editors of Free Iran Herald wrote: “The regime’s inattention to the people’s health stands in contrast to how well they treat their own. On Saturday, 10 clerics who had contracted coronavirus in Qom, where the outbreak is most intense (over 200 coronavirus deaths in Qom alone), were transported to the Towhid Clinic in Bandar Abbas, along the shores of the Persian Gulf, so that they could feel better by being in a warmer climate.”
Residents of Bandar Abbas, enraged not only by the fact that the clerics were taking needed hospital beds away from them, but also by the reality that bringing the clerics there increased their risk of becoming infected, took to the streets and set the clinic on fire.
Khamenei swore that the regime had been candid about the virus from the beginning, and added that there were countries worse off than Iran, for which Iranians were praying. Iranian military forces were ordered to combat the virus, although it wasn’t immediately obvious how military power could thwart a rapidly expanding pandemic. Nor was it obvious how the regime could prevent the pandemic.
Prisoners were released on a temporary basis, under the pretext of containing the virus, but for the most part, this was done in exchange for cash. Given the regime’s desperate need for money, and the prospect that such deals could be repeated as long as the families’ money held out, it made good sense for the captors to use any excuse to lay their hands on the victims’ savings.
There was also widespread skepticism at official announcements of high-ranking victims of the coronavirus, as for example Ramezan Pourghassem, the head of the Revolutionary Guards Land Forces counterintelligence unit. The people of Iran suspect some of these people are well, but pretending to be ill so that they can stage a miraculous recovery, which would be evidence of divine favor.
The regime’s multiple schemes may well backfire. Should Khamenei contract the virus, the people may well read the event as divine revenge on a religious kleptocracy most Iranians despise. If that happens, the next wave of demonstrations may bring a new generation to power in Iran.
Michael Ledeen is a freedom scholar at Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He has served as a consultant to the National Security Council and the departments of State and Defense, and as a special adviser to the secretary of state. He is the author of 35 books, most recently “Field of Fight: How to Win the War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies,” co-authored with retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.