On Monday, an Iranian lawmaker in the Iranian city of Qom reported that at least 50 people who reside in the city have died from the coronavirus, alternatively referred to as COVID-19. Ahmad Amiriabadi Farahani (pictured above) made the shocking revelation to media outlets and his claim was carried by Iran’s semiofficial ILNA news agency.
The city of Qom is considered to be a holy city by some Iranians and others who practice Shia Islam. That is significant because the city attracts devout Shia pilgrims and tourists, making it a transit point for spreading the virus to other regions. Indeed, despite quarantining efforts, the virus has already spread to other Iranian cities, and infected travelers coming from Iran have already been reported in Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Oman and Bahrain.
Farahani’s claim was immediately contradicted by Iran’s Deputy Health Minister, Iraj Harirchi, who at a press conference claimed that only 12 people died and 47 were infected. He further stated that he would resign if Amiriabadi’s claim was substantiated.
In an ironic twist, the following day, Iran’s health ministry announced that Harirchi was infected and under quarantine. This after he was seen coughing on those adjacent to him during the previous day’s press conference. The person entrusted with thwarting the spread of the COVID-19 virus was now its victim, an ominous development that does not inspire confidence. The ministry has since revised its statistics, noting that deaths from infections had climbed to 19 while 139 people were infected across Iran.
Iran has a long record of propagating fiction and its government officials are notorious dissemblers. However, even if we are to believe the health ministry’s statistics, and disregard Farahani’s assertions, it is still alarming for three reasons. First, it would still mean that the coronavirus death toll in Iran is the largest outside China. Second, it’s reasonable to assume that Iran is now ground zero for the coronavirus in the Mideast. Third, the mortality rate in Iran, as reported by Iranian health officials, is significantly higher than anywhere else in the world.
Thus far, the virus, which may have originated from a Chinese Level 4 microbiology lab near the Wuhan food market, has claimed the lives of 2,768 out of 81,191 people infected globally. Those infected with the COVID-19 virus have a mortality rate of about 3 percent. But according to Iranian health ministry figures, the mortality rate in Iran is a staggering 13.6 percent or 4.5 times higher than the global average.
There are two possible explanations for the confounding discrepancy in global versus Iranian mortality statistics. The first and most likely explanation is that the Iranians are lying, as is their wont, and that the rate of those infected with the virus is much higher than the government is willing to acknowledge. The second possibility is that Iran’s healthcare facilities are subpar leading to a higher than normal mortality rate.
Either way, it’s not a good situation for Iran. The nation is already reeling from a series of crushing sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. It cannot export its oil and its banking system has been cut off from Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) making international banking transactions impossible for the mullahs.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic in Iran, bordering nations have closed their borders with the Islamic Republic and suspended air service. Iran is now more isolated than ever.
Iran, which maintains close relations with China, has only itself to blame for its miserable predicament. The opaque nature of the regime lends itself to corruption, mismanagement and obfuscation. Iran’s downing of Ukrainian airline Flight 752 in January and its attempted deceitful cover-up after the fact, is typical of the regime’s behavior when confronted with adversity and embarrassment. Amazingly, Iran is still stonewalling on the investigation, refusing to hand over the plane’s black boxes, which may contain critical cockpit voice recordings and other digital information.
The Iranians played the same game with the coronavirus. There is good reason to believe that Iranian officials were aware of an outbreak in the city of Qom and took little if any preventive measures. By the time the government took meaningful action, it was a case of too little, too late. The virus had already spread beyond the confines of Qom.
Moreover, Iran’s healthcare system has long been neglected by the regime, which has instead chosen to spend its limited resources on fighting proxy wars in far-flung places, constructing ballistic missiles and developing a rogue nuclear program. Consequently, healthcare workers have neither the means nor the ability to contain and treat those infected. There are critical shortages on everything from facemasks to basic medicines and testing facilities.
What is astounding is that in light of all that we know about Iran’s duplicity and double-dealing, often at the expense of its own citizens, there are those who are still willing to sign nuclear agreements with this rogue regime. Former Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn) have met with Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, in an effort to undermine the Trump administration and its efforts to force Iran to behave like a normal country. Such contacts may be in violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits any U.S. citizen from engaging, “without authority of the United States,” with hostile foreign governments in dispute with the United States.
We do not know the content of their conversations with Zarif but we do know that they did not discuss grandchildren and golf. Last July, the United States Treasury Department sanctioned Zarif due to his ministry’s close connection with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The IRGC is the entity responsible for supplying explosively formed penetrators to insurgents battling U.S. forces and their allies. These deadly EFPs were responsible for the deaths of at least 500 American servicemembers and the maiming of thousands. This fact seems to have had little effect on Kerry and Murphy and their decision to engage with a miscreant like Zarif and the outlaw regime he represents.
Iran’s citizens have had to endure much suffering under the oppressive, iron fist rule of the theocratic dictatorship. They’ve also endured endless lies and propaganda the result of which has led to further misery, sickness and isolation. The rapid spread of the coronavirus in Iran is symptomatic of a diseased regime, one that has held on to power for far too long. It is too soon to tell, but the coronavirus may spell the beginning of the end for the regime. The people of Iran have had their fill of lies and they may have reached their breaking point.