The coronavirus was first found in the Chinese city of Wuhan. With the formation and spread of this virus in Wuhan, the whole city was quarantined, and extensive measures were taken internationally to fight this virus and stop its transmission to other countries. Many countries, despite having an important and high commercial and financial transaction with China, canceled flights to this country and cut all their connections with this country to prevent this virus from entering their country.
The Iranian regime, however, considered this situation as an opportunity. Thus, not only did it not cancel its connections and transactions with China, but the flights by the Mahan Air to China expanded, filling the place of other airlines. For this reason, the coronavirus was transferred to Iran in late January.
On the other hand, the regime, intentionally covered-up and kept the coronavirus transmission to Iran as a secret for one month until February 20, to hold its revolution anniversary on February 11, and the sham parliamentary elections on February 21. This resulted in the rapid spread of coronavirus across Iran. And due to Iranians traveling to other countries, the virus was transmitted to other countries across the globe. Therefore, Patient Zero in many Middle Eastern and European countries, the U.S. and Canada were Iranians who had traveled to those countries.
Although Iran was not the origin of the coronavirus, it became its epicenter, and the mullah’s regime, by not cutting their relations with China and then with their cover-up spread the virus across the world.
The “Ara-Asra Research Center” is a think-tank close to the regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei. This think-tank created a report over the coronavirus outbreak and to confront the reports that Iran is the epicenter of the coronavirus, and in this report has pointed so specific actions the regime should take to confront this.
The state-run Mizan news agency published this report on March 14, 2020.
This report has referred to actions, which have been ever since taken into action by the regime’s officials this includes:
- Diplomatic efforts by the regime’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and using unofficial diplomatic relationships to push for the immediate lift of all sanctions, including US sanctions
- Strengthening the idea of “Bioterrorism”
- Negotiating and influencing the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Red Crescent
- Using the medical society and underlining that this disease is an international crisis and shouldn’t be turned into a political argument
- Using the medical society to call Iran’s regime a “victim” and not an epicenter of the disease. And in doing so the other party should be accused of conducting bioterrorism
- Guiding the public opinion to consider the situation in Iran to be similar to Italy and South Korea
- Highlighting coronavirus as an extraterritorial disease
- Using media outlets and TVs such as Al-Jazeera and the regime’s Arabic media such as Al-Mayadin and Al-Kuthar to carry on this line.
- Using Iranians abroad to implement this strategy
Below are parts of the “Asra-Ara” report. The report was published on the Mizan news agency’s website on March 14, 2020.
Mediatic operation to call Iran as the epicenter of coronavirus
The created political dispute about the coronavirus tries to use this issue as a tool to politically confront Iran. The mediatic operation in this regard has started since days ago and the efforts to embolden Iran’s role in the coronavirus outbreak to other countries have intensified.
Some analysts foretell that due to the mass mediatic operation and the possibility of mounting efforts by China to deny calling this country as the “epicenter” of the coronavirus, Iran will be accused of being the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
Simultaneous with the domestic front led by the Ministry of Health, a diplomatic front, led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be arranged and with general diplomacy at its core. A series of work should be done with regards to the regional countries, including strengthening Iran’s Arab speaking media as well as the relationship with the Al-Jazeera TV channel to play the necessary mediatic role, sharing medical and management experiences with the regional countries via sending medical teams, sharing the science of creating testing kits with the regional countries, using the capacity of the Iranians in these countries and creating a regional institution to combat the coronavirus.
The pursuit of ideas related to public diplomacy in the international field should also be on the agenda: the use of physicians and the medical community as public diplomacy activists and their international media activities such as the publication of letters by the Iranian medical community criticizing turning the coronavirus outbreak to a political dispute, portraying Iran as a victim of the virus in the face of efforts to portray Iran as an epicenter of the disease, highlighting the idea of “medical terrorism” against the idea of disease, comparing Iran with countries with a similar situation such as Italy and South Korea, and activating unofficial diplomacy capacities, such as parliamentary diplomacy, to guide public opinion in the world and confront the shaped public diplomacy against Iran is necessary.
The coronavirus has turned into the center of political disputes against Iran and the beneficiary countries are trying to increase its negative consequence for Iran. Obviously, due to the global nature of these consequences, it is important to mobilize governments and nations’ public opinions in this regard. In this rather international political dispute, public opinion is very much valuable. Therefore, the tools to impact the public opinion, as the weapons of this dispute are recognizable. In a broader look, the meaning of the general diplomacy, which intends to affect nations’ public opinions, has gained high importance. Nowadays, general diplomacy, as a field of diplomacy and international relations, is being used as a tool to strengthen soft power against the country’s’ hard powers. Currently, it seems that the most important dispute in relation to the coronavirus around the world is highlighting the spread of the disease in Iran and identifying Iran as the epicenter, source and the beginning of the transmission chain.
Dangers of being labeled as the source and center of a crisis will have heavy international consequences for a country. Therefore, China is also trying to portray itself as the discoverer of this virus, not its epicenter. In the upcoming days, the Chinese diplomatic efforts in this regard will probably increase. On the other hand, international media, by publishing news about Iran spreading the coronavirus to other countries, are preparing the public opinion to accept Iran as the source and epicenter of this disease. The basis that will facilitate acceptance of this claim by the public opinion is portraying a security image of Iran within the last few years. Heavy and concentrated media attack, having a part of the domestic public opinion and Farsi speaking medias accompanying this process and the psychological atmosphere of the world’s public opinion is ready due to the general astonishment of Corona’s rapid spread. These explained circumstances highlight the importance of general diplomacy as an effective tool in the current situation. Therefore, general and unofficial diplomacy should be at the core of Iran’s international operation and should be considered as the axis planning and action of the country’s foreign relations in the future. Thus, the role of general diplomacy in managing the current threat is highly important. In this regard, a package of action to block the regional spread of the coronavirus and defending country’s prestige at the International level, seem important and vital. A series of chained actions about the coronavirus in relation to the regional countries should be put into the agenda.
As was mentioned before, it is predicted that in the near future, given the diplomatic efforts by China to deny the idea of considering China as the “source and epicenter,” as well as the vast mediatic operation against our country, Iran will be the first candidate to be accused in the world. The vast circulation and publication of news about the spread of this virus from Iran to other countries and other existing bases to underline this accusation against Iran confirm this scenario. The solution to this mediatic project is portraying the image of Iran on social media and unofficial press as the “victim.” “Demonstrating” Iran’s elements of being “oppressed” regarding the coronavirus and Iran’s incessant efforts to control, breaking the chain of transmission in the world are very much effective.
In this regard, the first news of the spread of the virus in China, the interval of recognizing the virus in Iran, and the news calling China as the epicenter of this disease, inside Iran for the country’s public opinion and abroad for the world’s public opinion, should be considered. In this regard, one should pay attention that the spread of this news is not in the form of attacking China.
Strengthening the idea of “bioterrorism” against the idea of considering China as the “epicenter”
Analyzing the roots of the creation of the coronavirus should be in line with creating the grounds for accusing Iran. Currently, there are two ideas about this. The first points to China’s role in this regard and the second one consider the coronavirus as “bioterrorism” against Iran and China. The indication and analysis confirming the second theory should be injected into the world’s public opinion. Since this work could not be done through the official international media, therefore campaigns and hashtags in this regard on cyberspace should be designed and be raised globally. As we know, symbolizing or highlighting symbols and symbolic acts are important in affecting public opinion and having media coverage.
For instance, licking the holy shrines in Iran by a group of people was broadcasted by the international media to portray Iranians as a superstitious and anti-hygienic nation. In return, contracting symbols should be designed and published. For instance, idolizing and symbolizing those nurses and physicians who lost their lives in fighting the coronavirus or highlighting Iran’s advances in medical science could be effective.
Using unofficial diplomacy capacities
Using the unofficial potentials and capacities in foreign relations is sometimes more effective than the official channels. For example, parliamentary diplomacy, one of the less official diplomacies, should be considered. The letter by Iran’s parliament speaker to the Inter-Parliamentary Union and heads of parliaments in other countries, demanding the international community’s consensus and adopting principled positions to immediately lift all sanctions, including US medical sanctions against Iran is in this regard. Or the visit of the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council to Iraq and the offer of assistance to this country in the fight against the coronavirus will play a significant role in portraying a positive image of Iran.
Highlighting the widespread spread of the disease in Italy and South Korea
Highlighting the spread of the disease in other parts of the world, especially in countries with similar or worse conditions than in Iran, such as South Korea and Italy, diminishes the rumors of negligence and mismanagement in combating the coronavirus in public opinion inside Iran. Also, in the global public opinion, Iran should not be considered as the only country with a high prevalence of this disease, and therefore the legitimacy of extensive political propaganda against Iran should be reduced to some extent.
Highlighting the extraterritorial nature of the coronavirus
One of the most important issues that will create a sense of solidarity with Iran in the world’s public opinion is underlining the extraterritorial nature of the coronavirus and its spread. Highlighting this statement will call into question the fictitious statements made by the enemy against Iran regarding the transmission of this virus from Iran to different countries. Also, domestic public opinion will have a less negative mentality about the current situation by observing the current global situation, and this will lead to an increase in the scope of “social resilience” in Iran.
Negotiation and impact on the World Health Organization and the Red Crescent
Global organizations and institutions that are active in dealing with medical issues and crises can be addressed and included in the general diplomacy. In this regard, social campaigns inside Iran should help these two organizations to provide a positive image of Iran. The publication of letters from the Iranian medical community to these organizations or physicians around the world and criticizing the transformation of medicine into a political dispute by physicians will be much more effective in public opinion because the position of physicians has a professional reputation and an independent voice of governments. This could lead to the failure of political projects, at least at the level of nations’ public opinion.
According to the report of the “Asra-Ara Research Center,” simultaneous with the coronavirus outbreak in-country, managing the international atmosphere and dealing with its vast political, economic and security consequences at the international level is of high importance. The coronavirus issue has turned into an international political dispute. Therefore, considering this issue as a mere medical or domestic issue will have damages. Since this political dispute is focused on public opinions, both inside and outside of Iran, therefore the role of general diplomacy as an effective tool to impact people and public opinion becomes important. Therefore, arranging a chain of actions, in the light of considering the diplomatic rules, are highlighted in this report.