According to the Iranian regime’s Health Ministry, the death toll from Iran’s coronavirus outbreak stands at around 56,000. But this figure reflects a full year of the regime’s Health Ministry downplaying the severity of the crisis. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) have been tracking the progress of the outbreak that entire time and have watched as the regime’s narrative lagged further and further behind reality. Today, according to evidence obtained by the Iranian Resistance from hospitals, morgues, and eyewitness testimony suggests that the actual death toll is over 200,000 – nearly four times the figure that is still being cited to demonstrate that Iran’s coronavirus outbreak is far worse than any other in the Middle East.
It was against that backdrop on Friday that the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei announced his regime would neither seek out nor accept any coronavirus vaccines that were manufactured in the United States or Britain. The announcement followed various rumblings on the topic from the regime’s authorities, which stopped the country’s Red Crescent from arranging the distribution of 150,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine which were to be donated by unnamed philanthropists from the US.
The loss of those 150,000 doses is barely the beginning of the impact Khamenei’s announcement will ultimately have on Iranians. And yet the significance of that initial development can hardly be overstated. It represents 150,000 people who will now remain needlessly at risk of infection by a virus that has been allowed to spread widely by the regime. And it represents 150,000 people who will most likely be forced to continue navigating that risk while trying to earn a living by ordinary means, having received no support from the regime’s authorities such as Khamenei who are sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars of untapped financial resources.
Thus, the regime’s decision to turn away from this opportunity makes mullahs’ responsible for literally millions of new infections, and tens of thousands of additional deaths. Khamenei’s criminal decision means that Iran’s coronavirus outbreak will surely drag on for the foreseeable future, giving even the regime’s statistics time to catch up to today’s reality, while that reality marches on toward a death toll of 300,000, or half a million, or more.
It is of course shocking to think of, but that prolonged crisis may be exactly the point. The regime’s decisions and systematic inaction are in terms of a desperate and ruthless pre-occupation with preserving its hold on power. That preoccupation only intensified in the run-up to the pandemic, as the regime greeted that situation while still reeling from a series of mass uprisings that called for the overthrow of the theocratic system.
The first of these began in the final days of 2017 and continued through much of January 2018, encompassing more than 100 cities and towns along the way. This in turn sparked countless smaller scale, loosely-connected protests which NCRI President-elect Mrs. Maryam Rajavi described as comprising a “year full of uprisings.” The persistent unrest ultimately set the stage for an even larger anti-regime uprising in November 2019, this one erupting spontaneously across nearly 200 localities.
The 2019 uprising helped to demonstrate that the Iranian people were prepared to throw off the mullahs’ dictatorship before the coronavirus pandemic and showed the organization role of Iran’s main opposition group the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI-MEK). The uprising also showcased the extent to which the Iranian regime was willing to kill people in order to counter the efforts of those groups. Approximately 1,500 participants were killed, by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), during just a few days of unrest.
Remarkably, though, the killing did not stop the unrest from returning. After the IRGC shot down a commercial airliner near Tehran, hundreds of thousands of Iranians poured into the streets again, across multiple provinces, to condemn the IRGC and the regime it represents. It was only about a month later when coronavirus cases were confirmed in Iran, but there is evidence to suggest the outbreak was already active at the time of the last uprising.
In any event, it was ultimately that outbreak, not the regime’s crackdowns, which diminished the potential for unrest that further expanded upon the scale of the November 2019 uprising. Khamenei and his allies are aware of this fact, and it would not be surprising to learn that they determined their interests would be better served by allowing Iranians to continue dying in droves than by addressing the crisis in any serious way, thereby blessing the activist community with new opportunities to organize public demonstrations and challenge the regime’s hold on power.
If this is Tehran’s thought process, then there is no telling what other measures might be employed to slow the distribution of vaccines. There is no telling how many more Iranians might be allowed to sicken and die in order to leave society in too weak a state for revolt. For these reasons, the responsibility of managing the crisis cannot be left with Khamenei’s regime. The international community must step in to put extreme pressure on that regime and convince it to accept available vaccine doses and other treatments, as well as independent monitoring of the regime’s broader response to the crisis.
On the other hand, and despite the regime’s calculations, mullahs’ mismanagement of this crisis and their inhumane coronavirus policy will certainly add to the society’s restiveness, which the state-run media describe as a “volcano,” read to erupt and burn the regime to the ground.