By Reza Behrouz, Al Arabiya—
In a televised address, the Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei claimed last week that the coronavirus pandemic has caused more than one million fatalities worldwide. This statement was given in spite of international organizations estimating the global number of virus-related deaths at just under 90,000. Khamenei also claimed that the ultimate remedy for the pandemic cannot be attained via science and technology, but through the manifestation of the 12th Imam and Shia Messiah, al-Mahdi. A descendent of Prophet Mohammed, al-Mahdi has been in absentia or “strategic hiding” for more than 1,000 years, since he was five years old.
This is not the first time Khamenei has made an outlandish statement with respect to the coronavirus situation in Iran and the global pandemic. In late March 2020, Khamenei claimed that the virus was a biological weapon manufactured by the US to target and destroy Iran. He also described a legion composed of human and Djinn – an imaginary, often malevolent being in Islamic mythology – that has been formed to fulfill the US’s mission.
These bizarre claims may very well be for domestic consumption, aiming to deceive pious and superstitious Iranians. Yet, Khamenei’s contrived campaign has reached beyond Iran’s borders and the mendacities of this sort are being disseminated around the world in some other form or fashion. The US is the specific target for this campaign. Crafted by the Iranian regime’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, this campaign is being promulgated by pro-regime mouthpieces in the US, particularly members and affiliates of the National Iranian American Council. NIAC is a Washington-based organization notorious for spreading propaganda that favors the Iranian regime.
US sanctions against the regime are at the center of this propaganda and lobby operation. Pro-regime journalists, analysts, and policy experts in the US have been parroting Zarif’s talking points verbatim, suggesting that US sanctions not only contributed to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Iran, but are now impeding the appropriate management of this epidemic. This rhetoric has been pervasive and characterized by relentless, obstinate efforts to persuade the Trump Administration to ease sanctions on the mullah regime. The regime itself has admitted that this campaign was a scam that had nothing to do with managing the COVID-19 crisis in Iran. In a cabinet meeting in late March, the regime’s President Hassan Rouhani explicitly stated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (aka Javad Zarif) initiated a “concerted effort” to influence public opinion with the intention of “bringing back our money seized in other countries.”
Read more in opinions: Iranians suffer from regime’s malpractice on coronavirus
While Zarif himself has been primarily active on social media directing the campaign, pro-regime talking heads have been sending emails and doggedly lobbying the US Congress. As an American legislator who is pathologically supportive of the mullahs in Iran, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has taken the lead on this campaign on the Capitol Hill and has effectively become the regime’s representative in Congress. Ignoring the fact the American people and her constituents in Minneapolis are equally grappling with the pandemic, she has been incessantly raising the issue on social media and to anyone who would listen. The climax of Omar’s efforts was a letter she put together with members of “The Squad” and signed by over two dozen other predominantly progressive congresspersons including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA). Continue Reading….