Iran, scene of the world’s worst fastest and deadliest outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus, followed the Chinese Communist Party’s lead and attempted to flip the political script on Thursday by claiming its response to the outbreak has been exemplary, the United States is the clearly incompetent party, and Tehran is magnanimously willing to help America get the virus under control.
“Iran is ready to help American control [the] coronavirus,” Iranian Deputy Health Minister Ali-Reza Raeisi said at a press conference on Thursday.
“The United States’ health care system is incapable of controlling the coronavirus epidemic,” he charged. “Not that we take delight in the U.S. incompetence. As a Muslim country, we do not take delight in anyone’s ailment.”
For good measure, Raesi alleged that the United States is the government on Earth most likely to cover up information on the coronavirus. In reality, Iran is known around the world for lying shamelessly about its epidemic; even local Iranian officials openly treat the central government’s numbers as absurd fabrications.
Iran’s state-run Press TV noted that President Hassan Rouhani is also helping with the incredible attempt to reframe the hideous disaster of Iran’s coronavirus response as a model for the world to follow.
“Compare Tehran to London, Berlin, and Paris,” Rouhani said at a cabinet session on Wednesday. “See for yourselves what is going on there. Shop racks have been emptied and people got into a fight over a roll of toilet paper.”
Rouhani claimed that Iran, by contrast, has done a fantastic job of keeping all basic services and goods available during the epidemic.
He also made a sneering reference to the American offer of assistance early in Iran’s terrible outbreak, which Rouhani’s government refused because it preferred to use the epidemic as a political opportunity to complain about U.S. sanctions, thus consigning countless Iranians to needless suffering and death. This explains why Iranian officials are now making childish efforts to turn the narrative around with mocking offers to assist the United States.
As U.S. officials pointed out on Friday, sanctions against Iran are not preventing humanitarian aid from reaching the country, and the Iranian regime “spends billions on terrorism and foreign wars” instead of improving health care and other public resources, so it should be held fully responsible for the effects of the coronavirus epidemic.
“At the very time Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias in Iraq are killing Americans and Brits and others, this would be exactly the wrong time to be providing any kind of economic relief to the regime. We should be sending medical supplies directly to Iranians through non-governmental organizations and bypass the regime,” Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies advised.
“Tehran’s reluctance to seek vital technical assistance from the international community and its unreliable reporting likely stem from the government’s desire to project an image of competence and control, especially as it seeks to restore its diminished reputation after the downing of a civilian jetliner in January,” a Politico analysis in early March suggested.
The Politico report suggested that in addition to the effect of sanctions, political isolation, and theocratic insanity, another factor in the coronavirus nightmare was Iran’s extreme reluctance to take any defensive measures that would have offended China, its most vital trading partner.
Much as the spread of the Wuhan virus across China and Asia was exacerbated by the Chinese holiday of Lunar New Year, so Iran’s festering epidemic threatens to spread even faster across the Middle East due to travel associated with its own New Year holiday, Nowruz.
The Wall Street Journal on Sunday accused the Iranian regime of deliberately choosing to protect its economic power and influence instead of the health and safety of the Iranian people, citing the high cost and profound embarrassment that would have been associated with quarantining Qom, the Shiite holy city at the heart of the Iranian outbreak.
President Rouhani explicitly rejected health measures that would interfere with Nowruz travel and commerce. Iranian officials clearly feared the backlash from an already restless public, which protested ferociously after an increase in gas prices last year and again after the regime murdered a plane full of civilians, if steps were taken that collapsed the already fragile economy.
“The economic embargo of Iran made them hesitate to shut down the internal economy, the internal consumption, which is what’s keeping the country afloat right now. They made the decision to put their internal economic viability ahead of public health,” Iran expert Amir Handjani of the Truman National Security Project told the WSJ.
The New York Times added that Iran’s response has been hindered by the latest in an endless series of power struggles between various political factions, with the “hardline” theocrats and the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) sensing an opportunity to blast Rouhani and his administration for incompetence and poor judgment.
The Times observed that the IRGC is looking for an opportunity to push the secular government aside and impose martial law, and the head of the theocratic wing of the regime, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, gave them written permission to do so last week. Some IRGC commanders have already refused to obey orders from Rouhani and imposed quarantine measures over his objections.
All of this is, needless to say, very confusing for the Iranian people, especially since they know both wings of their squabbling government will not hesitate to imprison or kill them for getting in the way or failing to obey conflicting commands. Sensitive to the dangers of public unrest, every faction of the Iranian regime is now peddling conspiracy theories that the coronavirus was created as a weapon in the United States and/or Israel, a propaganda tactic Iran pioneered even before the Chinese Communist Party got around to it.