Iran: A nation overwhelmed, a regime in denial
Iran has been covering up its coronavirus catastrophe, said Kayvan Hosseini in BBC.com. By midweek, the regime had officially registered 25,000 cases of the respiratory disease and nearly 2,000 deaths. But doctors and opposition leaders say that the true toll is far higher, because testing kits are in short supply and those who die at home are not counted. “Our medical staff are dying on a daily basis,” one doctor told me. “We don’t have enough masks.” Clues to the scale of the disaster can be seen in satellite photos published by The Washington Post, which show mass graves being dug outside the Shiite Muslim holy city of Qom. And Iran’s outbreak, one of the worst in the world, isn’t staying put: At least 16 countries say their own outbreaks can be traced to Iran. Yet Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, this week rejected a U.S. offer of aid, citing a rumor that the virus may have been created in an American bioweapons lab. In any case, he said, the U.S. “may send us medicine that will make the virus last.” So for now, Iran is going it alone. It has yet to close Qom, the epicenter of the crisis. Instead, imams urge pilgrims to keep on visiting.
The Trump administration is exacerbating the suffering of ordinary Iranians, said Simon Tisdall in The Guardian (U.K.). Since the U.S. unilaterally pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran in 2018, the Iranian economy has gone into free fall, and living standards have plummeted. Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shrugged at the coronavirus crisis inside Iran and imposed yet more unilateral sanctions. “This was akin to pouring petrol on a burning building, then waiting to see how big an explosion ensues.” While the U.S. has claimed that it is allowing the delivery of essential hospital supplies to Iran, “it is effectively blocking bilateral medical aid and a request for a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.” Anti-Iranian U.S. officials “and their affiliated lobbyists are capitalizing on the misery of the people of Iran,” said Gholam-Hossein Dehqani, Iran’s ambassador to the European Union, in EuroNews.com. These thugs can’t understand that even if we were at war, “the most acute hostilities should cease in a collective effort to put an end to a threat that knows no bounds.”
Then why is Iran continuing to spread mayhem across the Middle East? asked The Daily Tribune (Bahrain). The Bahraini ambassador to the U.S., Sheikh Abdulla bin Rashid Al Khalifa, rightly notes that the month of March has been “packed with deadly, Iran-influenced incidents.” In Iraq, two American soldiers and a British service member were killed in a rocket attack by Iranian-backed militants, and Tehran-sponsored extremists have tried to blow up ships in the waters off Yemen. These attacks would have made international headlines in ordinary times, but Tehran knew they’d be lost among the flood of coronavirus news. For most of the world, the pandemic is a critical threat; for the Iranian regime, it’s an opportunity. ■