Two months after the coronavirus pandemic broke out in Iran, we are seeing signs of a significant improvement for the total situation. The number of daily deaths has dropped below one hundred for a week in a row, the number of new COVID-19 cases has been on a continuous decline for more than three weeks, the restrictions are gradually being lifted and the streets are again vibrant. Iran’s success in combating the pandemic is the result of mobilizing all available governmental organizations and relying on its own know-how and industrial production. Alone and under the harshest sanctions seen in history, Iran has proven to be extremely effective, compared to the leading Western countries. In the face of global disasters and the vulnerability of civilians, it is traditionally common for nations to help one another, but recently we see something quite different from the U.S. regime.
(Photo: The largest mass-produced face masks factory in Southwest Asia was put into operation in Eshtehard Industrial Town of Alborz province, west of Tehran. The head of the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order, Mohammad Mokhber said the factory will produce every day four million masks equipped with a nano filter, which guarantees a high level of protection.)
Accusations, lies, more sanctions, and warmongering
The outbreak of the pandemic in Iran and China, two largest rival countries in Asia, had come as a refreshing for American politicians. In the Chinese case, they hoped for their economic slowdown and the deterioration of their international reputation, thus opening space for expanding and strengthening America’s international policies and position. In the case of Iran, expectations were much higher. Before coronavirus fully took hold in the U.S., the Trump administration appeared to be viewing the outbreak as an opportunity to gain advantage by amplifying its maximum pressure strategy, the view that by squeezing Iran’s economy crippling sanctions will force Tehran to choose between its own economic viability and geopolitical independence.
When Iran asked for international medical assistance, lifting sanctions and a loan from the IMF, the Trump administration saw it as a confirmation of the success of their policies. Instead of showing signs of goodwill for Iranian demands, the proudly compassionate United States responded by announcing a new round of economic sanctions aimed at closing loopholes that might allow Iran to export its products and leave it in scarcity of money then desperately needed for respirators, face masks, and other medical equipment. Formerly called blockade or embargo, now rebranded as “economic sanctions,” embody the beloved fantasy that coercive pressure alone can make countries submit to America’s will.
The U.S. Treasury says its sanctions do not prohibit humanitarian contributions that ease coronavirus pressure on Iran, a claim the Iran’s Foreign Ministry has called deception. Even though the U.S. claims that its sanctions don’t prevent the sale of medicine and medical devices, the secondary sanctions on financial institutions and businesses have prevented Iran from buying necessary items like ventilators that could save the lives of coronavirus patients. The problems do not stop here, for example the Iranian government released an official coronavirus app for Iranians, but Google pulled it from its app store due to U.S. sanctions. Basically, the U.S. government has taken the same approach as during the last year’s floods in Iran, when they prevented international aid.
In addition to preventing international aid to Iran, we have also seen crocodile tears and false mercy from Trump and his administration, allegedly offering their own coronavirus aid “if Iranians ask for it.” Only someone extremely naive can believe in the sincerity of this offer, considering that they have prevented the aid of other countries, and even stolen medical equipment from Italy, France, Germany and Canada. There is no trace of U.S. aid collection for Iran, which, after all, could have been sent quietly. For example, even though they were in more difficult situation at the end of March, the Iranians collected medical aid collected medical aid for the American people and sent it through the Swiss Embassy, without media noise. The truth is that Trump had no intention of sending any aid, in fact he just wanted to hear the Iranian begging and then use it for propaganda purposes. Of course, Iranians did not bite it and rejected the offer. Still, the fake aid offer and Iran’s refusal were later reported in many Western media as the key evidence of U.S. benevolence and Iranian cruelty.
After putting Iran in an unpleasant situation, U.S. politicians began pouring bizarre accusations against the Iranian authorities. Mike Pompeo, Brian Hook and Morgan Ortagus accused Iran of “lying” about the coronavirus outbreak and “stealing” funds intended for the fight against pandemic. “It’s not the sanctions, it’s the regime,” Ortagus claimed. Aggressive elements within the U.S. government have even begun calling for war on Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, thinking that Iran is in a difficult crisis to respond adequately.
The alleged Iranian incompetence required some kind of evidence, so the new U.S. disinformation campaign was launched. Anti-Iranian propaganda has mostly focused on exaggerating the numbers of infected and dead, despite the fact that the World Health Organization confirms Iranian reports as credible. The Washington Post has turned to publishing fake news, claiming that Iran has dug mass “burial pits” in Qom for victims of the disease. Netanyahu went even further, sharing a video clip from a 2007 TV mini-series, as the evidence of Iranian trying to hide the true number of fatalities.
Numerous Western media have kept up with similar nonsense and hateful claims. One of the finest examples is the op-ed piece by Graeme Wood for The Atlantic. “Iran cannot handle the coronavirus,” he claims in the title, further representing Iran as the Orientalist dystopia. The city of Qom, with over 1.2 million inhabitants, for Wood is “a small city” with “cramped hotels, communal toilets, junk food and unhygienic scenes,” a sort of “Shiite Disneyland,” assuring his audience “that comparison might be the best way for Americans to understand the gravity of this outbreak.” Then he jumps to the ideological patriotism, claiming China’s authoritarianism has the advantages in dealing with a disaster like this, while Iran’s authoritarianism has none. He claims that Iran has no intention of closing the holy shrines, despite the fact that they were closed shortly after.
Wood also shows video of Iraj Harirchi, a top Iranian health official who has contracted the coronavirus, describing it as “incredible” and “comic,” calls Iranian officials as “notoriously cruel,” and the country as the place where “incompetence and evil become indistinguishable.” This op-ed perfectly summarizes the distorted vision given by everyone from the American leadership to the authors of racist cartoons on social networks: Iran is bad, dirty, everything opposite to the U.S., and it will fall. After all, deadly disasters occur only in far Oriental despotates, never in famed liberal democracies. Except Italy. And except for the post-March 2020 period.
Coronavirus knocks at the U.S. door
In mid-March, the coronavirus knocked heavily on the U.S. door and from the wealthiest country in the world, whose president boasts with the best institutions and whose government enjoys giving lessons to other countries, it was expected that pandemic would be a piece of cake. But what do we see, and what’s the difference between the U.S. and Iran? Inside Iran, we don’t see massive dissatisfaction or protests over the Khamenei’s and Rouhani’s crisis management, but according to a Gallup Poll conducted on 14 April, Trump’s approval rating is down significantly, now standing at 43%. We also see thousands of protesters in many U.S. states, with truly inspiring slogans demanding freedom and liberation. We don’t see chaos in Iranian hospitals either, but we do see large-scale theft of equipment in U.S. hospitals, as well as U.S. nurses refusing to work due to lack of protective equipment. While the story of the Qom’s mass burial pits is refuted to the last detail, it remains for Americans to explain burials of unclaimed bodies on Hart Island and in New York city parks.
The New York City itself today looks like Chernobyl or “never-in-liberal-democracy” thing, a sort of Orientalist dystopia from Hollywood movies or unhygienic Disneyland from The Atlantic’s agitprop-eds. With junk food, or no food on the shelves at all. We don’t see hungry Iranians begging the Trump administration for help, but we see such moans on the multi-billion-dollar U.S. aircraft carriers. We don’t see any regime change in Tehran, but we do see dismissal of the U.S. aircraft carrier’s captain, only because he dared publicly seek help for his infected sailors. There’s no trace of the alleged Iranian government’s “lying” or “theft,” but there is overwhelming evidence of U.S. piracy of protective masks around the world. This evidence comes from the governments of Italy, Germany, France and Canada. If U.S. authorities cooperated with Iranian experts at the outbreak of the pandemic, they would surely have had fewer casualties at home. But they did not want to cooperate, as with Chinese experts, they just looked like scavengers. Now, Trump is blaming the WHO, which has replaced Iran as a bogeyman.
We also don’t see the collapse of the Iranian economy, although by 18 April around 600,000 people had registered as unemployed. By comparison, over 22 million Americans had lost their jobs by the same date, proportionally ten times more. Moreover, we don’t see the collapse of the Iranian oil industry, nor their tankers floating hopelessly alone on the sea. During the pandemic, Iran has launched 25 new electricity projects in five provinces worth nearly half a billion dollars, successfully installed a giant oil drilling platform at Salman oilfield, as well as a gas drilling rig in the Persian Gulf. All domestically produced, and all for the domestic market. In contrast, we are witnessing a historic oil crisis in the West, the collapse of the North American shale industry, and a crowd of full oil tankers parked off the U.S. coast with nowhere to unload. In other words, in their backyard they are looking at a scenario they intended for Iran two years ago, or one that they had hoped for when a pandemic broke out in that country. Yet Iran has proven to be much more resilient and effective.
Everything seen before
Despite all the obstacles and wet dreams of its enemies, Iran has not fallen, and it will not fall. Its initial perceived weakness subsequently proved to be false. Iran did not ask for aid and the IMF loan because it could not cope alone with the crisis, but to accelerate the fight against the pandemic. Negative responses to Iran’s demands and attempts to block other countries from sending aid are a wake-up call for the last naives who think the U.S. government has compassion for anyone’s civilian population. Or even their own. The mask thefts from their own allies also prove that the U.S. government will treat everyone the same way as Iran. As a nation with a strong sense of identity and group responsibility, Iran has proven to be extremely enduring in the similar historical situations. In the 1980s, Iran withstood the aggression of the fourth largest army, backed by America and all the world powers, and a decade later it rebuilt the country despite being more isolated and weaker than today.
Even deadly disasters, accompanied by aid refusals and military aggressions, are not unseen in Iranian history. Going back a century, Iran has been hit by an epidemic and mass famine that has claimed two million lives, or 20% of the total population. In 1918 the Iranian government asked the U.S. for a multi-million-dollar loan to be used solely for famine relief, but Washington refused. Furthermore, the British recognized the perfect circumstance to temporarily occupy the western parts of Iran and impose a humiliating agreement that was terminated by the Iranian parliament in June 1921. This is also a lesson for those who think that Anglo-American vulturous policy towards Iran began in 1979 or 1953. Going back a century or two more, in 1820 and 1721 northwestern Iran was hit by catastrophic earthquakes, and the city of Tabriz recorded tens of thousands dead. Just a few months after both events, the Ottomans invaded Iran, but were repulsed soon after both times. Today we are witnessing the centennial repetition of history, with new fools repeating old mistakes and expecting different results.