Warning about uprisings and popular rebellions
The Iranian regime’s parliamentary research center published a report on April 7, 2020, about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic inside Iran. The report summarizes 20 previous reports that the parliamentary research center has drafted and sent to the parliament in order to inform deputies about the coronavirus spread in Iran so far. A number of previous 20 reports were drafted at the request of various committees. They were confidential and meant for the parliamentary commission that had requested them. However, the majority of these reports were drafted for all of the regime’s parliamentary deputies. The Majlis research center is tasked with providing information and analysis about ongoing political matters to deputies. It is considered to be one of the regime’s official thing tanks.
The comprehensive report, which is titled “Assessments about the Path Taken and the Imperatives of the Path Forward,” highlights many of the facts about the massive coronavirus crisis inside Iran. This document outlines some of the main portions of the report and then offers a short commentary on it.
A) Excerpts of the Report
- Many trained epidemiologists believe that the wave of the pandemic in the country is still on the rise and pervasive. … We are still far from the peak of the curve.
- So far, social distancing measures have been implemented in the country, which will down the road morph into smart distancing and continue with some modifications. According to assessments and observations regarding traffic and population densities, this will probably lead to renewed expansion of the disease.
- In various other countries, the main choice for policymakers is between health and economy. It appears that preventing the spread of the virus requires a significant degree of distancing and lack of movement (e.g. quarantine). Without considering this important fact, the control of the illness will be very hard and will lead to significant casualties. At the same time, quarantining will require significant financial investment and avoiding considerable amounts of production and employment in this period, which will lead to other important consequences in the economic and social arenas. It appears that Iran has not reached a specific approach and is testing between various policies. It is trying to normalize effects in the economic sphere while implementing social distancing. There is serious doubt about the potential success of this measure.
- Among the lessons learned globally, the Chinese government chose full quarantine for a specific geographical area as its primary approach. Using this approach, it successfully prevented further spread of the virus in about 8 to 9 weeks. South Korea conducted extensive tests to identify infected persons, and pursued and treated patients, which has enabled it to flatten the curve. In Iran, neither of these two policies has been implemented fully and properly, meaning neither urban quarantines or extensive testing.
- The models conducted by the Majlis research center and associated consulting groups demonstrate that in order to confront the disease without full quarantining which can hardly be implemented in the long-term in view of existing economic and social circumstances….
- A review of various models about the spread of the coronavirus shows that “under every circumstance” in various scenarios, social distancing, tests, tracking patients and isolation will not be short-lived and the country will in all probability be dealing with this disease and its consequences in 2020 with respect to social heath, the economy and politics.
- From a crisis management perspective, the lack of predictability, and lack of a serious and firm response to this crisis at initial stages: It seems that the officials of the establishment and health authorities believed that after the advent of coronavirus in China, even if the virus enters Iran it will not lead to a major crisis. Such naivete and ignoring of warnings led to the further considerable spread of the virus in a short period of time and dealt a relatively strong shock to the country’s management structure and healthcare …
- Lack of a country-wide counter pandemic program on the basis of the country’s circumstances and experiences of other countries, including short-term measures, and constantly retreating from declared policies and lack of coordination were all patent features of the response to coronavirus after the initial state of shock. These include the following:
- Hasty and premature declaration of normal circumstances by the president February and later cancelling it;
- Declaration of reduced traffic by Maj. Gen. Baqeri and lack of compliance;
- Allowing New Year travels initially and later banning them;
- Maximum closure of businesses at the end of March and lifting restrictions currently.
- Such constantly changing and uncoordinated measures are effectively deemed among the public as part of a faltering, naive and incompetent approach. …
- Lack of a specific strategic management, economic and media campaign for the rest of the road: In view of the prolonged issue, which can continue until at least the end of the Persian calendar (March 2021), currently there is no specific strategy to continue the path with the active and effective participation of all the components of government and all economic participants, including private and public sectors in the medium-term, or none has been announced. …
- Conceptual problems regarding management of coronavirus spread: The most important objective of the enemy in the coronavirus crisis is to cause a sense and belief among people that the Islamic Republic of Iran does not have the sufficient ability to confront the crisis and is increasingly incompetent with respect to it. That is why there is an attempt in the media to highlight some of the lack of coordination in the field of management and executive institutions, shortages in the areas of health resources and equipment, and inability to deal with economic damages or provision of economic support packages to average citizens.
- Preventing the coronavirus measures from becoming security matters: The need to pay attention to the people’s livelihood, unemployment as a result of the coronavirus crisis, and management of the demand, requires one to appropriately plan for the prevention of social protests and unrest that would target the entirety of the system with respect to incompetence. It should be noted that the concurrence of the coronavirus management crisis with other political, security, social and economic crises of the country can leave serious unwanted consequences in an environment where there are sanctions. It can have detrimental structural impacts. Therefore, it is recommended that we seriously avoid the situation from becoming a security-related matter and prevent it from happening.
- Preventing a false dichotomy: Currently, the country is confronting the reaching of a balance between health and economy. This has intensified pressure on politicians.
- Management of media: It is critical to manage the country’s media atmosphere and effectively counter rumors and negative propaganda against the establishment during the crisis. Confronting the enemy’s measures in social media and foreign media and producing a lexicon and culture domestically must be on the agenda for the country’s propaganda and media institutions.
- Foreign policy and relations with the S.: It appears that the Trump administration is still insistent on intensifying sanctions and preserving the current level of tensions with Iran. The announcements on four new rounds of sanctions on individuals and companies tied to export of petrochemicals and the Iranian nuclear program in recent weeks shows the enmity of the Trump administration toward Iran. However, at the same time, it must be noted that the Foreign Ministry can still continue to leverage the current situation to increase international pressures on the Trump administration to lift or reduce sanctions, drive a wedge when it comes to unilateral U.S. sanctions and pursue other countries to refuse to comply with these sanctions. Of course, these efforts must be conducted in a way that the U.S. government does not interpret Iranian efforts as a measure of success for its maximum pressure policy.
B) Brief Conclusions
- This report has been drafted in the context of the regime itself and intends to preserve the regime’s interests.
- Despite the above fact, the internal Majlis report confesses to many truths that all of the regime’s institutions have been trying to cover up during this period. For example, it points to the fact that the regime is suffering from a systematic chaos when it comes to managing the coronavirus outbreak. It also says that the regime’s existing approaches will lead to more infections and more deaths. It adds that the regime’s short-term and oscillating measures are detrimental for the people and that the regime’s management is inefficient. It also says that the dissidents and the Iranian Resistance have been able to show the crisis that surrounds the regime in its entirety.
- Despite repeated requests by the Majlis Research Center from the coronavirus task force regarding comprehensive statistics for the number of infected and casualties, the task force has not yet responded to inquiries. As such, coronavirus statistics are deemed as highly confidential in the eyes of senior regime officials and the intelligence unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). That is why not even the regime’s own parliamentary research center and its deputies in Majlis do not have access to these numbers.
- The most important point is the warning that the crisis should not be turned into a security-related matter. The essence of this warning is that the regime must prevent, at all cost and in all manners, the formation of widespread protests and social uprisings due to widespread killings, the regime’s incompetence, cover-ups, structural corruption and avoidance of placing resources in the hands of the people, as well as the regime’s role in the spread of the virus in the country. This is because if such an uprising were to form, it would threaten the regime in its entirety. The reason is the pent-up social anger toward the regime’s behavior against the people in a wide array of fields, including the mismanagement of the current global pandemic. This is the prospect that today regime officials constantly warn about. However, this is a realistic prospect for the regime, and there is a high probability that the regime’s fate will be sealed soon.