By Aram Mirzaei for the Saker blog
The Islamic Republic has entered its second month of battling the global pandemic caused by the Covid-19 disease. For long, Iran stood out as the hardest hit nation outside of China as the virus swiftly spread across the country, infecting several MPs and government officials as well. From the onset of the outbreak, some among the Western media were quick to criticize Iran’s handling of the outbreak, seizing a perfect opportunity to attack the Islamic Republic. Exiled opposition groups and individuals quickly took to Twitter, sharing disaster stories and videos of collapsed men and women on the streets all over Iran. Iran was immediately accused of hiding the true number of infected people and casualties, despite reassurances from the WHO that there was no evidence of a cover up in Tehran.
It could very well be true that the number of infected people in Iran are a lot higher than the official data from the Health Ministry, but unrecorded cases, so called hidden statistics exist almost everywhere. Those who aren’t considered at risk are told to remain at home and self quarantine – there’s no cover up or conspiracy in doing this. ¨
If there was a conspiracy, it would be the so called opposition activists only conspiring to mass produce fake news on Iran’s Corona fight and undermine the government’s efforts. Some of these “activists” openly call for people in Iran to make efforts to worsen the spread in a bid to bring the “regime” down. Others hoard and hide medical supplies and sanitizing products in order to undermine the country’s ability to handle the outbreak. Recently a warehouse in northwestern Iran was discovered to have hoarded 28 million masks and gloves!
Part of the reason for the quick and massive spread of the virus also lies with the government’s inability to confront the threat properly. The holy shrines remained open for a long time after the first confirmed cases in Qom, while the parliament elections were also held despite the imminent threat of an epidemic. Also, the government failed to enforce quarantines in cities such as Tehran and Qom, allowing the disease to spread across all of Iran.
The high amount of government officials and MPs infected are due to the fact that the source of the outbreak in Iran could be traced back to Qom, an important religious and political centre of Iran. A number of the infected officials have since succumbed to the disease and died during the recent weeks.
Amid this fight, it has become clear for the entire world how cruel Washington’s sanctions against Iran truly are. Not only have they refused to ease the sanctions, but they also imposed further sanctions in the recent days.
The United States has announced a new round of sanctions against Iran as part of its so-called “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that Washington had blacklisted three Iranian entities for engaging in what he called “significant transactions” to trade in Iranian petrochemicals.
While he did not name any firms or individuals, Pompeo said the measure included blacklisting Iran’s armed forces social security investment company and its director for investing in the sanctioned entities.
In a separate statement, the US Commerce Department also said it would boycott a number of entities, including five Iranian nuclear scientists, for aiding Tehran’s nuclear program.
The Iranian health sector has been hit hard by the sanctions.
Tehran’s ambassador to Madrid says Iran is the only country in the world that cannot buy medicine and medical equipment from the global market because of America’s “cruel and inhumane” sanctions, which are hindering the country’s fight against a coronavirus outbreak.
Hassan Qashqavi made the remarks in an interview with Spain’s La Razon newspaper on Wednesday.
He further said that any banking transaction requires permission from the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which blocks foreign firms from engaging in transactions and trade with countries on the US’s sanctions list.
Another interesting report:
The British government is pressing the United States to ease its sanctions against Iran amid a coronavirus outbreak in the country which has infected thousands of people, says a report.
The Guardian newspaper claimed in a report published on its website on Wednesday that UK authorities were privately negotiating with Washington for a respite to Iran sanctions.
The report did not elaborate on any further details, neither was there any mention of sources corroborating the claims.
Update Sunday March 22
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has described the US “the most evil enemy of the Iranian nation”, saying the offer by the United States to help Iran fight the coronavirus outbreak is strange.
“Today, we have no less of enemies but the most evil enemy of the Iranian nation is America,” the Leader said in a televised address on Sunday.
US officials have refused to lift draconian sanctions which are hampering Iran’s efforts to contain the coronavirus. They have instead claimed readiness to aid Iranians, with President Donald Trump saying “all they have to do is ask”.
Iranian authorities have dismissed the offer as hypocritical, saying it makes no sense when Washington keeps on imposing new sanctions which have made Iran’s access to food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies impossible.
Ayatollah Khamenei called US officials deceitful, saying they were lying as he touched on speculations that the United States has manufactured the extremely contagious disease.
“Americans have said several times that ‘we are ready to help with treatment and medicine; just ask us and we will help’. This is one of the weirdest things which they tell us to ask them,” the Leader said.
“Firstly, you have a shortage yourself and this is what American officials say. Secondly, you are accused of producing the virus. I do not know how true this accusation is, but when such an accusation is made, which wise person will ask for your help?” he added.
Ayatollah Khamenei said, “American officials are mendacious, deceitful, shameless and greedy. They are all kinds of charlatans who speak like charlatans. They are cruel, merciless, and terrorist.”
According to the Leader, “part of this virus is said to have been made for Iran by using genetic backgrounds which they have collected from Iranians, which of course is part of their hostility”.
Officials in Tehran have ordered all commercial centers closed except for major chain stores supplying foodstuff and other basic requirements as well as pharmacies as part of new restrictive measures to stem the coronavirus outbreak.
Deputy Governor of Tehran Province Hamidreza Goudarzi said on Sunday new social distancing directives about what activities were and were not allowed in the capital had been issued for the megapolis of some 12 million.
Only hypermarkets and drug stores are allowed to stay open and other businesses breaching the order will be penalized, he added. The new restrictions come as Iran is stepping up its campaign to curtail a further spread of the disease.
Head of Iran’s Food and Drug Administration Mohammad Reza Shanehsaz said pharmacies across the country are replenished with protective masks, hand sanitizers and other hygiene products and there is no shortage in this regard.
Alcohol production by Iranian companies has doubled in recent weeks. “We are currently producing 400,000 litres of alcohol on a daily basis,” Shanehsaz said.
Iranian Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on Sunday that 1,028 new coronavirus cases had been diagnosed within the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of infected individuals to 21,638.
“With 129 new deaths in the past 24 hours, the death toll from the virus has reached 1,685,” he said.
Jahanpour further put the number of patients who have recovered from the viral disease at 7,913.
Meanwhile Iran’s Health Minister Saeed Namaki said as of Sunday morning 32.7 million Iranians had been screened for the new coronavirus.
The minister said up to 60 percent of the population had confined themselves to their homes and urged the rest of the people to abide by the stay-home directives to help prevent a second wave of infections as a result of cross-country trips during the two-week Nowruz holidays.