The Islamic Republic of Iran has solidified its position as the greatest threat to the world with a confluence of belligerent policies and awesomely bad judgment. It is a financial mess, a social mess, a diplomatic mess, a governance mess, and now, a health mess.
But the confluence of a global epidemic and the current Iranian reality also presents a special opportunity for Israel and America to rein in Iran’s nefarious and lethal activities in the Middle East.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was originally a nasty and probably mishandled factor in China. But, while all the world was busy isolating China to prevent the spread of the virus, Iran’s government of mullahs decided—in order to cultivate desperately needed China trade—that it would accelerate its commerce and tourism with that Asian behemoth.
The result—surprise!—is that Iran is now the secondary epicenter for COVID-19 transmission. Its mortality rate for COVID-19 far surpasses China’s. The only real questions are whether Iran’s government is under-reporting the true number of cases or whether Iranians are incubating and transmitting a more lethal version of the virus.
The smart money is on the Iranian theocrats’ continued suppression of information, which could be crucial to the world’s strategies in battling the epidemic.
After some lame attempts from Teheran to pin the COVID-19 crisis on the Great Satan (America) and the Little Satan (Israel), the mullahs returned to a crisis posture—especially with the spreading disease afflicting many of their own at the top of Iranian society and power structure.
The closed nature of Iranian society makes it nearly impossible for outsiders to get a clear view of the COVID-19 situation there. Key social media—Facebook, Twitter—have been shut down for more than a week in Iran. This suppression of information is akin to the media blackouts during the popular uprisings after the past two Iranian elections.
Iran entered the COVID-19 era already suffering a set of self-inflicted economic problems. The sanctions-easing rewards bestowed on Tehran by the 2015 nuclear agreement with America and Europe were revoked by U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018. Those renewed sanctions cut deeply into Iran’s chances for prosperity.
Thanks to its reckless pursuit of regional hegemony, Iran has ruined its own society and economy in countless ways. Last year, Iran’s GDP was down 9.5 percent. Iran’s currency has experienced 40 percent or higher inflation in the past couple of years. With its status now certified as a principal disseminating center of COVID-19—and the desperate isolation/quarantine maneuvers its rulers have now been forced to undertake—the Iranian economy is likely to sink even faster in 2020 and beyond.
It is now stretched thin on massive imperialistic expenditures and obsessive focus on assaulting Israel throughout the Middle East and abroad. As a result, Israel has a sad-but-real window of opportunity to act against Iran and the Iranian proxies that encircle it.
The lethal aid and military units Iran has sent into Syria, Lebanon and Gaza will be stretched thin as the mullahs back home struggle to cope with the health crisis—and the economic/civil discontent it rekindles—at the expense of foreign adventures.
As if to ensure that Iranians remember the regime’s brutality in squelching dissent, the “Butcher of Tehran,” Mohammad Haj Abolghasemi, who was in charge of the sadistic repression of Iranian dissidents during those anti-government riots, became one of the early fatalities associated with COVID-19. The Iranian public rejoiced when news of his demise leaked.
Nonetheless, Iran seems to be pursuing its nuclear-weapons program full blast, and appears not to be relenting in its efforts to export jihad. This week, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Rafael Grossi issued a report admonishing Iran about its covert nuclear activities.
According to the IAEA, Iran’s denial of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency’s right to inspect three purported Iranian nuclear sites is “curtailing the ability of the Agency to do its work.” The hidden sites were first exposed in the trove of secret Iranian documents spirited out of Iran two years ago by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency.
With the distraction of the mullahs afforded by the health crisis in Iran, Israel may have unexpected opportunities to derail Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons.
Throughout the Middle East, virtually every significant insurgency and terrorist activity seems to be a product and beneficiary of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The budgets of Iranian proxies Hezbollah and Hamas, however, are no doubt under review in cash-strapped Tehran.
With decreased Iranian support for foreign adventures, Israel may find new opportunities to attack and minimize these threats on its borders.
Iran has acted as an enabler of the spread of COVID-19, but this pandemic may contain opportunities to confront the main source of so many other miseries in the Middle East.
Ken Cohen is co-editor of the Hotline published by Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which offers educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.