Battling sanctions, the threat of regional powers and the coronavirus, Iran is currently at the center of a crisis that’s unfolding across the world but affecting it the most. The coronavirus which made its way through China has resulted in the deaths of at least 2,517 people in Iran as of March 28.
Iran’s Coronavirus Crisis
The first Iranian case of the coronavirus was reported in February in the city of Qom. Since then, the city has become the epicenter of the virus in the Middle East. The devastating impact that the virus has brought to the country can be seen as the country is now in a lockdown with schools, universities, markets and all public spaces closed to prevent the further spread of the virus. However, one stark issue that is visible is the fact that the government has refused to quarantine entire cities and intercity traffic continues to flow. Flights to China, where the outbreak first began are also not canceled — putting the lives of millions of Iranians at risk.
The Coronavirus Has Hit Iran Especially Hard
With many prominent political figures having contracted the coronavirus in Iran it gives on pause and the urge to determine what went wrong. The virus claimed the life of Mohammad Mirmohammadi, a close aide of Supreme leader Ali Khamenei and a member of the expediency council. Furthermore, it has also put in jeopardy the stability of the Revolutionary Guard Corps as the virus claimed the life of General Nasser Shabani, a senior commander with over 35 years of experience.
What remains behind are people languishing in quarantine, missing out on Norouz celebrations and longing for the desire to meet loved ones. One virus managed to do what no sanctions or pressure campaigns could. On March 22, the Iranian government announced that over 33 million have taken the test for the coronavirus. Despite these staggering figures, there remain cases which haven’t been detected yet and there are still numerous people who have gone on feeling unwell for days without getting tested.
Iran’s Anti-Coronavirus Measures
A brief description of the outlook in Iran paints a clearer picture. All religious sites of worship have been closed indefinitely. The Revolutionary Guard Corps have been asked to take to the streets to monitor the situation and to tackle any shortcomings. Furthermore, the Special Forces have also been given the task to disinfect all spaces to contain the drastic effects of the virus.
However, there’s one thing which comes to everyone’s minds. Why is Iran in this position in the first place? The simple answer is that it is mainly due to the American sanctions imposed on the country. Iran’s Foreign Minister says the healthcare sector has been depleted of resources due to American actions. He says the sanctions have depleted the country of its economic resources. Was the virus’ rapid growth also due the late response on behalf of the government or were people carelessly moving around? This debate is another story because for now the damage has been done.
Khamenei: Coronavirus is a Targeted Genetic Bioweapon Designed to Kill Iranians
The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei earlier refused American assistance, saying that the virus was designed by the United States in the first place after years of researching Iranian genetics. He went on to say, “I do not know how real this accusation is but when it exists, who in their right mind would trust you to bring them medication?” The response by Iran’s Supreme Leader came after President Donald Trump said that the United States was willing to offer any assistance to Iran and a great team would be at their service if they asked for help.
Tensions between the US and Iran have continued to rise since Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018. This led to Iran enriching its nuclear capabilities and tighter US sanctions. It reached boiling point earlier this year in January when Iranian-backed militias responded by attacking American bases in Iraq following the killing of top commander Qasem Soleimani in an American drone strike.
Coronavirus is Now Affecting All 31 Provinces of Iran
Iran’s Supreme Leader who runs the show in the country says his nation has the capability to defeat and overcome any sort of crisis but President Hassan Rouhani appealed this week to the United States and other international leaders to assist. It can clearly be witnessed that Iran will not be able to cope on its own to overcome the disease which has now spread to all 31 provinces. So far, assistance has poured in for the country with the UAE, Turkey, Azerbaijan, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Qatar and Russia coming to help with donations.
Doctors Without Borders has also pledged support in terms of an inflatable hospital and masks while the World Health Organization is currently in constant contact with those in Iran says the country’s ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht-Ravanchi. An unlikely situation also developed just recently, where reports emerged that the United States has waived off sanctions for certain countries while dealing with Iran so that it will be possible for them to distribute the basic medical supplies to Iran. However, that report was denied by the Trump Administration which said there was no deal on the table regarding the matter.
Desperate Iranians are also Dying From Trying to Self-Medicate with Dangerous Products
As Iran struggles to cope with the daily deaths and numerous problems that it faces on a daily scale, this week around 400 people also lost their lives after ingesting methanol or cheap alcohol which they believed would cure them from the coronavirus. At this point in time there are many vulnerable people in the country who are in dire need of basic supplies. The European Union, if it does not take measures and if the Americans don’t remove sanctions then it can easily be said that they will be held responsible for those who were killed.
While Iran’s battle against the virus continues on a large scale, it has also asked the IMF for a funding of $5 billion. Iran currently needs respirators, nebulizers, masks and other protective equipment to face the battle that it is in. While the Trump Administration is adamant on not waiving off sanctions, some Democrats including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders have called on Trump to waive the sanctions to save the lives of millions of people across the country.
Iran will have to struggle deeply in the coming days and weeks, but hope must not be lost. Rouhani has allocated around $3 billion, which will be paid to businesses which have collapsed, to unemployment funds and to low-income families. The damage being suffered in this battle is real and the countermeasures also need to be comprehensive in order for Iran to reclaim some of what it has already lost in this war and minimize the lives that will be lost in the coming days and weeks.