February 2020 was a busy month in Iran. There were large celebrations marking the 41st anniversary of the Islamic revolution; parliamentary elections in which Iranians were heavily pressured to vote; and a lethal virus quickly and stealthily infecting the Iranian people. The Iranian government leaders sought to downplay and dismiss the effects of the contagion and source.
COVID-19 is a highly communicable disease that in some people produces few or mild symptoms, but it is particularly dangerous to the elderly or those with underlying health conditions. Minimizing its dangers was the Iranian regime’s early response, as was its issuance of unreliable data and contradictory directives.
The regime, with its control of the media, has a history of under reporting scientific data that might reflect unfavorably on its leaders. Numbers on Iran’s opiate addiction are suppressed; data collection on air quality is outlawed; rising cancer rates are concealed.
Iran has now taken steps to try to stop the spread of the virus -- among them, setting up check points to screen travelers leaving major cities; closing down Shiite shrines; and urging Iranians to stay at home and refrain from taking trips. But more measures are needed and major damage has been done.
The health care system is under tremendous strain, reportedly with more than 70,000 infected people in the country, though the number is certainly higher. Iranian doctors and nurses are valiantly dealing with those sick with the virus -- more than 4,000 Iranians have died. Currently, Iran ranks first in the Middle East with the highest number of people infected with COVID-19.
And like China, where the virus originated, the Iranian regime is spreading a false and outrageous rumor about its origin.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explains the purpose of such disinformation:
“The Iranian leadership is trying to avoid responsibility for their grossly incompetent and deadly governance. Sadly, the Iranian people have been suffering these kinds of lies for 41 years. They know the truth: the Wuhan virus is a killer and the Iranian regime is an accomplice.”
The United States has offered humanitarian assistance to help Iran fight COVID-19. “I hope they accept that offer,” said Secretary Pompeo. “That alone will contribute to Iran being able to manage this problem set for the Iranian people.”