The Saudi news agency al-Arabiya identified in a report Monday at least 17 senior members of the Iranian Islamic regime who have died from the Chinese coronavirus since the outbreak in that country began.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the largest anti-regime dissident organization, claimed on Monday that nearly 15,000 people in the country have died of coronavirus infections, about five times the death toll the Iranian regime officials claims to have counted.
Tehran has documented 44,605 cases of Chinese coronavirus within its borders and claims 2,898 people have died since the outbreak began there. In addition to the NCRI, many observers – including local Iranian officials – have disputed this number, most simply by noting that adding up the number of cases and deaths recorded by each Iranian region results in a much larger number than the one documented by the federal government.
According to al-Arabiya, 13 Iranian officials are currently struggling to overcome a coronavirus infection in addition to the 17 who already died. The Saudi outlet claims to have gotten the numbers by compiling reports from Iranian state media on individual officials who have been confirmed as carriers. The coronavirus patients reportedly span nearly all areas of the Iranian regime, including the clergy and the Iranian military, which Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei tasked with coronavirus response. Some of the dead publicly blamed the United States for the virus before their demise.
Among those listed as living elite coronavirus patients are well-known cases such as Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, Tourism Minister Ali Asghar Mounesan, and Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi, who appeared on television to urge Iranians not to be concerned about the virus shortly before announcing he had tested positive. Harirchi appeared sickly on television, exhibiting signs of fever and cough.
The high number of individuals in the upper ranks of the Iranian dictatorship who have tested positive reflect growing evidence that the outbreak is completely out of control in the country, far from the minor challenge that Khamenei claimed it at the beginning of the month, urging Iranians to wage “jihad” against the virus.
The NCRI, in its daily update using sources on the ground in the country, stated on Monday that it has evidence of over 14,200 dying of coronavirus infections nationwide. This number aligns with the prediction of a World Health Organization (WHO) officials this month that Iran’s official numbers are likely only about a fifth of the true total of cases.
Radio Farda, the Persian wing for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has kept its own estimates and documented over 66,000 cases and over 4,000 deaths, but by its own admission has stated these estimates are “very conservative, and the real number of the victims could be much higher.”
Radio Farda added that Iran is not counting any cases in Qom, the epicenter of the outbreak, and Tehran, its largest city, towards its official tally, leaving out what is likely the vast majority of its cases.
The NCRI noted that many of the deaths it has documented are occurring in Iran’s medical community, leaving a rapidly shrinking number of health experts available to treat patients.
“The high rate of coronavirus infection in the medical community and the death of many of them, as well as the high rates of coronavirus death in comparison to other countries, will remain as a great question and disappointment,” NCRI quoted Mostafa Moein, the head of the Supreme Medical Council of Iran, as saying in a letter to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who answers to Khamenei.
NCRI’s claims appear corroborated by reports of desperation in Iran’s hospitals and morgues, and satellite footage of government workers digging what appear to be mass graves to contain the bodies of all the coronavirus dead. Iran has denied that the widely available satellite footage is real.
Khamenei put the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, in charge of containing the virus, including developing a vaccine and manufacturing medical equipment. There is no known evidence the IRGC has any jihadists within its ranks with the background and experience to develop a vaccine for a new pathogen.
Khamenei, along with many members of the Iranian government and state media, have claimed that evidence exists that the Chinese coronavirus is a biological weapon deployed to attack America’s enemies. Some have accused “Zionists” of developing the weapon, a term typically used by Tehran officials as an insult against the Israeli government. Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad published a belligerent open letter to the United Nations this month demanding that it “identify the lab” that developed the virus.
Global public health experts agree that the virus originated in Wuhan, central China, last year, likely at a “wet market” where individuals are allowed to kill and sell wild animals for consumption. No evidence exists corroborating the claim that the virus is a U.S. biological weapon, a claim the Chinese Communist Party has developed to deflect blame away from itself.