The Islamic Republic of Iran is suffering the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East with more than 41,000 people infected and over 2,700 dead—the International experts also fear the regime may be under-reporting its cases, as officials for days played down the virus ahead of a parliamentary election. President Donald Trump had offered humanitarian aid to assist the country’s pandemic of the COVID-19. While any rational human being would put aside animosity in order to save lives, Tehran has refused America’s helping hand, thereby making matters worse for its people.
Ali Reza Zali, who is leading the campaign against the outbreak, was quoted by the state-run IRNA news agency that “many” of those who have died from the coronavirus were otherwise healthy; this a rare admission by local authorities that the virus does not only prey on the sick and elderly—hundreds more have died because Iranians resorted to fake remedies, which include alcohol and toxic methanol to fight the virus. Yet Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei refused Trump’s overture accusing the U.S. government of “[bringing] the epidemic to Wuhan.” He added: “Possibly your medicine is a way to spread the virus more.”
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi stated: “Since the outbreak…we have been observing the U.S.-led anti-Iranian propaganda campaign and know about the measures the Americans have taken to reduce Iranian nation’s morale.” He went on to say that Tehran is “doubtful” about the U.S. offer of help and accused the Trump administration of hiding its political motives behind behind the proposed cooperation: “We do not need them.” Iran also rejected an offer from a France-based medical charity.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Sunday it planned to send a nine-member team and equipment to set up a 50-bed hospital, stirring opposition from ultra-conservative circles in the Islamic Republic who alleged MSF staff would serve as “spies.” Alireza Vahabzadeh, adviser to Iran’s health minister, said: “Due to Iran’s national mobilization against the virus and the full use of the medical capacity of the armed forces, it is not necessary for now for hospital beds to be set up by foreign forces, and their presence is ruled out.”
What Iran wants is a lifting of sanctions imposed on them by the U.S. after it had pulled out of the JCPOA (the Iran nuclear deal) in 2018—Trump drew international criticism for this as critics said that Iran had changed its draconian ways and was keeping faith to the deal. Ayatollah Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad, who is a senior member of the Academy of Sciences of Iran, went so far to ask Pope Francis to intervene with the U.S. to lift the embargoes arguing that they are impeding the government from properly handling the coronavirus; Tehran has even asked the International Monetary Fund for a $5 billion loan.
The truth of the matter is, the Iranian regime is crying wolf since it ultimately and solely seeks to stay in power and maintain its regional influence. The regime has continually lied in complying with the JCPOA anchored by then-President Barak Obama, while simultaneously it and the other countries that co-signed the deal financially profited at the cost of the Iranian people. And it is exactly that amount of money Tehran needs to sponsor its international terrorism. In fact, President Hassan Rouhani was able to increase its military budget by at least 145 percent.
According to Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy and president of the International American Council, the billions of dollars in frozen assets released to the regime only empowered its hegemony in the region: “In Iraq, the Iranian regime currently supports at least 40 militia groups under the banner of the Popular Mobilization Forces. Some of these militias are known for committing war crimes, serious violations of international laws, and egregious crimes against humanity. After the nuclear deal, the Iranian leaders have even pushed and succeeded at making the Iraqi government officially recognize these militias and incorporate them into its political and security establishment.”
After the deal, France’s trade with Iran grew 118 percent from January to October 2017, for example, (as compared to the same timeframe from the previous year). The French oil company Total concluded a $4.8 billion deal to develop the world’s largest gas field in Pars (southwest Iran) over the next 20 years. Germany gained $3.5 billion in exports to Iran in 2017. China’s trade with Iran was more than $37 billion in 2017; it exported $18.59 billion worth of goods, a growth of 13% from the previous year.
Last year Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi disclosed how Iran made a mockery out of the agreement, even to the point of admitting pictures of cement being poured down the Arak plutonium reactor’s core (as required by the agreement) were photoshopped. Early this month the International Atomic Energy Agency stated in a confidential report that Iran has nearly tripled its stockpile of enriched uranium since November in violation of its deal with world powers.
In February the U.S. had granted a license to allow for certain humanitarian trade transactions with Iran’s sanctioned central bank, a move it said was in step with the formalization of a Swiss humanitarian trade channel allowing companies to send food, medicine and other necessary supplies that would “reach the Iranian people without diversion by the regime,” according to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called for sanctions against countries such as Iran to be rolled back to allow their medical systems to fight COVID-19 and limit its spread. What UN officials refuse to accept is that, just as Steve Mnuchin said last week, as it imposed new sanctions for the apparent killing of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson: “Iran employs a web of front companies to fund terrorist groups across the region, siphoning resources away from the Iranian people and prioritizing terrorist proxies over the basic needs of its people.” This does not, however, mean that the U.S. will stop offering humanitarian assistance, which would include “agriculture commodities, food, medicine, and medical devices to help the people of Iran combat the coronavirus.”
Nobody wants to see innocent people die. However, it is the regime’s insolence that will cause more death among its people.
Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University in New York, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University. He is author of Islam: Religion of Peace? – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.