Joseph Puder, Will the devastating health disaster bring an end to the Islamic Republic?
It is perhaps ironic that the coronavirus epidemic in Iran started in the holy city of Qom, the seat from which the ayatollah Khomeini rose to power. Qom is where the epidemic began and spread throughout Iran. Apparently, Iran’s Mahan Air, owned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in a flight back from China to Iran, carried passenger(s) harboring the coronavirus. They were probably the vectors who spread the virus that has made Iran second only to China in the number of dead from the virus. Perhaps it is not only ironic, but rather prophetic that the city that spawned the Islamic dictatorship may be the city that will cause the regime’s demise. What is unfortunate is that innocent Iranian people are paying with their lives for the duplicity and callousness of the regime. The regime failed to inform the Iranian people of the outbreak of the Coronavirus and did not provide instruction to the people on how to protect themselves.
According to the Washington Post (March 19, 2020), there were more than 17,000 confirmed cases in Iran, a number thought to be a serious underestimate. As far as many Iranians are concerned, the Ayatollahs leadership initial refusal to impose a lockdown, and its hesitation to release an accurate death toll is now adding to its lack of credibility. Time Magazine reported that as of March 17, 2020, almost 1,000 deaths have occurred from Covid-19 in Iran. It also revealed that the Iranian Health Ministry announced that around 15% of those who died were under the age of 40.
Mahan Air continued its flights to and from China, even after the Iranian authorities announced in February, 2020, the end of the flights to China. The mullah regime failed to take preventive measures that could have slowed the spread of the deadly virus, such as closing schools, postponing sports and cultural events, and forbidding massive gatherings, especially in the case of the city of Qom, the center of the disease.
When the regime finally admitted to the severity of the situation, and began reporting the number of infections and deaths, it created public skepticism among Iranians. Only when foreign media outlets and social media reported on the scope of infections, and deaths in Iran, did the public got alarmed. It created widespread panic, especially when an Iranian member of parliament from Qom, revealed that the number of infected, and dead in Iran, is far greater than the government reported.
In recent months, a series of regime lies have eroded the public trust. The concealing of the true facts about the Iranian military downing of the Ukrainian jetliner on January 8, 2020, preceded by the regime hiding from the public the number of Iranians killed in the December, 2019, gasoline demonstrations, created public mistrust in the current official proclamations regarding Covid-19. This was reflected in the low turnout for the parliamentary elections held on February 21, 2020. Although Iranians were urged by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to go to the polling stations, and cast their votes, only 42% of Iranians complied. It was the lowest rate of voter participation since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Newsweek reported (March 23, 2020) that, “China has claimed to have passed the peak of its (coronavirus) outbreak, and that there have been now more reported cases of death outside the country than inside (China). The number of new daily cases in Iran however, is still increasing.” Yet, China has silenced whistleblowers who first warned of the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic. At the same time, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, suggested that the U.S. military was behind the outbreak. Another conspiracy theory was echoed by Ayatollah Khamenei, who is quoted as saying that, “the U.S. is accused of producing the virus. I do not know how true this claim is if it is true, why we should trust them and get help from them.” This came about following the Trump administrations offer to help Iran fight the coronavirus.
The coronavirus crisis exposed the incompetence of Iran’s ruling clerical elite. It has placed Iran in the throes of a profound political and ideological crisis. The religious elite, which rules the country, has rejected modern medicine in favor of “Islamic medicine,” considering the latter as being inspired by divine knowledge. This has clearly been shown to have disastrous consequences for Iranians. It is rather ironic that in the holy city of Qom, the site of the original outbreak of the coronavirus in Iran, mosques and shrines have not entirely stopped holding worship services for visiting pilgrims.
According to Amir A. Afkhani, a medical doctor at George Washington University and an Iranian native who studied the Iranian responses to previous epidemics, “The government of Iran is putting religious prestige and public image ahead of public safety.” He added, “It is unprecedented even in the annals of the Islamic republic.”
Back in November, 2019, the protesters against the fuel subsidy cuts grew into a full-blown uprising throughout Iran. Cries of “Death to the dictator,” were scrolled all over Iran, and given the oppressive dictatorship of the Ayatollah Khamenei regime, the fear factor gave way to a “there is nothing to lose” attitude. And it was not only the gasoline increases that jarred the Iranian people, they expressed their outrage at the regime’s foreign interventions. Some cried, “not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life only for Iran.” Since its inception 41-years ago, the Islamic Revolution in Iran has brought nothing but crushing poverty, graft, and depletion of the treasury to fund foreign interventions and terror.
Now, along with the common chanting encouraged by the regime of ‘Death to America! Death to Israel! One may hear not Gaza! Not Lebanon! My life for Iran!’, perhaps an even scarier chant against the regime is, “Reza Shah! Reza Shah!” as a reference to the late shah’s son residing in the U.S.
In an I News UK interview with Reza Pahlavi, the exiled Iranian crown prince (January 30, 2018), Pahlavi stated that, “poverty, political corruption, bribery, substance use disorders, economic injustice, youth crimes, suppression of women, irreverence of military veterans and heroes, imprisonment, humiliation, torture and execution of Iranian citizens of various political ideologies, or gender movement, and harassment of political prisoners’ families by the government, have become the norm.” He added, “The regime is weakening so it is just a matter of time before the implosion occurs. My concern is not whether this regime will collapse – that’s an historical certainty. The question is when, and at what cost.”
The full consequences of the coronavirus on Iran is hard to predict. What is clear however, is that deepening domestic discontent, a failing economy hit hard by U.S. sanctions, gross corruption and mismanagement, as well as a soaring inflation, will impact on the regime adversely. What began in Qom as a devastating health disaster called coronavirus may bring an end to the regime whose ideological antecedents also came out of Qom.