Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused “evil” America on Wednesday of hurting Iran’s efforts to access foreign Chinese coronavirus vaccine candidates, calling into question the status of an alleged vaccine candidate in development by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The IRGC is a wing of the Iranian armed forces and a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, responsible for systematic jihadist activity around the world for decades. Despite having no history of pharmaceutical development, IRGC leaders announced in March that they were close to debuting a vaccine for the Chinese coronavirus. Tehran has failed to update the world on the status of the alleged inoculation since then and has shifted to demanding greater access to foreign vaccine candidates.
The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) has compiled, as of December 10, a list of 52 vaccine candidates against the Chinese coronavirus — which originated in Wuhan, central China, in late 2019 — currently in clinical trials. None are labeled as having originated in Iran. The W.H.O. has also identified 162 candidates in “pre-clinical evaluation.” One of these candidates is labeled as being developed by “Iran,” but makes no mention of the IRGC.
No vaccine is currently in circulation for any known coronavirus other than the one causing the current pandemic.
Rouhani lambasted the United States as “evil” and “cruel” on Wednesday for sanctions on the regime, a response to Tehran’s status as the world’s largest and most influential state sponsor of terrorism. America has “placed an obstacle in the path of every single Iranian effort to import vaccines and medical equipment,” Rouhani said at a meeting with his cabinet, according to the state-run PressTV propaganda outlet.
“These people that were at the helm in the White House, and are spending the final days of their miserable [political] lives, were so evil that they did not even show mercy towards the health of people,” the outlet quoted Rouhani as saying, “the elderly and the disabled amid the coronavirus issue, and they acted in the most corrupt and most savage manner towards the people of the region and the great nation of Iran.”
Rouhani claimed that sanctions on Iran meant to prevent it from buying fuel or equipment for nuclear weapons — a response to the regime repeatedly urging the destruction of the entire state of Israel and the United States, the “great Satan” — “are bothering us to the extent that the entire country has to work for weeks and sometimes months to move money from one place to another.” That money, he claimed, would be used to buy medicine for coronavirus patients.
On Thursday, Iranian Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs Hossein Zolfaqari broadened Rouhani’s complaints, blaming America for every problem in the Middle East.
“All insecurities and troubles in the region have root in desperate measures of the arrogant government of the US and the illegitimate regime of Israel, Zolfaqari said in talks with his Turkish counterpart Muhterem Ince,” another Iranian propaganda outlet, the Fars News Agency, reported. Turkey is allied with the United States through NATO and thus treaty-obligated to defend America in the event of an attack.
Rouhani did not suggest the possibility of using domestically made Chinese coronavirus vaccine candidates as a solution to the issue of struggling to purchase them abroad. No major Iranian political figure has in recent months mentioned the alleged IRGC vaccine, a stark contrast from when the jihadist organization claimed it was in the running to develop a functional inoculation procedure to prevent coronavirus disease.
Rouhani had offered some indication of the failure of the homegrown vaccine in August when he ordered the Iranian Health Ministry to draft a plan for importing coronavirus vaccines, suggesting the Iranian product was not functional. Rouhani reiterated that plan in November.
“Relying on its scientists, Iran will be able to make vaccines domestically … To ensure the health of the people, the government will use domestic capacities and has also taken … measures to purchase vaccines from countries that have already developed safe ones,” Rouhani affirmed, without offering any more details on the alleged domestic option. He did not indicate that the IRGC was involved in the production of that option.
The only information available on the alleged IRGC vaccine surfaced in March when the Middle Eastern news outlet al-Monitor revealed that “a medical research center affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC),” the Baqiatollah Medical Sciences University, claimed to be developing a vaccine. The center offered no other information.
An alleged Iranian terrorist coronavirus vaccine did not return to the headlines until last month, following the death of Iranian nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. International observers had long considered Fakhrizadeh one of, if not the most, important scientists working on Iran’s illegal nuclear development. In the aftermath of his assassination, the Iranian Islamist regime claimed that he was working on a coronavirus vaccine at the time of his death.
Fakhrizadeh had made “great strides in the field of developing COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] vaccine, the news of which, God willing, will be presented to our people,” Defense Minister Amir Hatami claimed. He did not clarify what role a nuclear physicist would be playing in the development of a vaccine. He also did not offer any updates on the status of the alleged vaccine.
This week, the Iranian bureaucratic entity in charge of the coronavirus response in the country abruptly claimed that human trials of a domestic vaccine candidate would soon begin.
“The COVID-19 vaccine that recently received a license for human trial belongs to the Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam Khomeini (HEOIK), and it is hoped that by the end of January three more companies will have received a license,” Mostafa Ghanei, the head of the National Headquarters for Combating the Coronavirus, claimed.
International observers have identified Iran’s response to the pandemic as one of the world’s least effective. At press time, Tehran claims to have documented a little over 1 million coronavirus cases and 51,496 deaths. Many have questioned these figures, however, including local government officials within the country who have noted that the total sum of cases and deaths from municipalities and provinces was regularly higher than the total number the federal government published.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Iran’s most prominent dissident organization, has documented over 180,000 deaths, or over three times the official number, nationwide since the pandemic began, using sources on the ground.