Iran: US continues maximum pressure policy despite corona epidemic

BERLLIN, (BM) – Will Corona pause for war? So far, this can be heard as the only speculation about the spread of the pandemic in Middle East countries that has a positive connotation. When it comes to human life, however, the price of a ceasefire forced by the virus is high. There is no shortage of horror scenarios in the region from Iran to North Africa.

An overview of the spread of the virus in the region is difficult. As in Northeast Syria, for example, this is because there are no tests. The area of ​​Kurdish self-government is probably no exception. Then there is the information policy. It is no coincidence that the term “political corona” circulated to the first reports of infection with Sars-CoV-2 from Iran.

Release of prisoners

The Iran case shows how several areas of conflict overlap. A message that would cause a sensation in normal times is just one of many: more than 85,000 prisoners have been released, the spokesman for the Iranian judiciary, Gholamhossein Esmaili, announced. Half of them are said to be political prisoners. According to information from al-Jazeera, the measure is intended to be temporary – due to the virus and the upcoming New Year – on April 3, they are due to return to prison. But who knows if that will allow the situation.

One of the main reasons for the amnesty is that the fear of corona infection can lead to prison revolts that can only be controlled with great effort or maybe not at all.

Since there are also said to be many freed people who were detained during the protests, public opinion will also be a reason. The leadership has come under intense pressure in recent weeks and months, both from the inside and outside. Information policy played a major role in this (Corona virus: Iran with special observation and shooting down of the Ukrainian passenger plane: arrests and Iranian media representatives against propaganda).

Loan request from the IMF, sanctions from the USA

It is currently being tightened by the United States. New sanctions were announced while the government in Tehran asked the International Monetary Fund for help – for the first time in 60 years – to meet the needs of those infected. The granting of the $ 5 billion loan that the government needs to prevent hospital operations from collapsing – and to slow down the spread of covid-19 – is also said to require US approval.

Over 17,361 cases of corona infection were reported in Iran yesterday. 1,192 newly infected people arrived within 24 hours. There were reportedly 147 deaths as a result of covid 19. Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported a total of 1,135 deaths. 5,710 have therefore recovered. The curve of the case numbers rises steeply. Known scenarios from researchers expect 100,000 deaths if hospital care does not collapse.

US Secretary of State Pompeo again stated that the policy of maximum pressure on Iran is to be maintained, which will be supported by the new sanctions. In some reports, these are referred to as “symbolic” because they target companies and individuals. But they are part of a US sanction regime against Iran that is bad for the population. On the other hand, they also affect the oil business, which is an important source of income for Iran.

And then there is the low oil price, which has hit the economy in Iran hard. And as far as further sources of conflict are concerned, a glance into Iraq is enough, where the USA and Iran are fighting their conflict in a powder keg. Missile attacks on bases where US military personnel are stationed and US air strikes on positions of the Khatib Hezbollah militia, which the US command suspected of being responsible for the attacks on US-based military bases already reported here.

The war of attrition between Iran and the United States in Iraq

The war has been going on for a long time. He escalated ahead of the assassination of Iranian general Soleimani by a US drone in early January. This, as well as the counterattack by Iranian missiles, received international attention, but has now turned to other gruesome developments. Meanwhile, the conflict between Iran and the United States is rocketing in Iraq, and recent news has made observers fear that the site will be prepared for instability and chaos.

With the selection of Adnan al-Zurfi as the new prime minister for Iraq, who is closely associated with the United States (he was governor of Najaf under the US-Iraq “administrator” Paul Bremer in 2004), the political camps in Iraq would be heated . The situation in Iraq is already “irritated” by the protests because of supply shortages, and there is also the extremely harsh reaction to the protests, which have cost the lives of several hundred demonstrators.

This went hand in hand with the agitation of the camps, the conflict of which is exacerbated by the division into “pro or against Iran”, “pro or against the USA”. In addition, the US attack at Baghdad airport in early January killed not only Iranian General Soleimani, but also the Iraqi commander of al-Hashdash-Shabi (people mobilizing forces), which belong to the Iraqi army.

The United States has refused to comply with the Iraqi parliamentary decision to withdraw American troops and has been waging a war against the above-mentioned Khatib Hizbollah militia, which has also resulted in members of the Iraqi army being killed. The US leadership has evidence that it is responsible for the attacks on the US military bases. Iran would be behind it.

Meanwhile, a newly formed militia has committed itself to the attacks. Officially, it has nothing to do with Iran. However, it is unlikely that she has no connections to Iran.

Virus countermeasures in Iraq and Syria

Would a military escalation be slowed down by the spread of the new corona virus? This hope, which was expressed at the beginning of the article, cannot be assessed concretely. 164 cases of infection were reported from Iraq yesterday. It will not stop there. Emergency measures have already been initiated in the Kurdish north (38 known cases).

The Kurdish self-government in northern Syria has also taken countermeasures. Yesterday, the Syrian government and the WHO reported that “no cases” of Sars-CoV-2 infected are known in Syria.

Meanwhile, there are unconfirmed reports that there are infected Turkish soldiers in Idlib. There are also rumors that Iranian militias could carry the virus into Syria or have already done so.

The big fear is that it could hit the refugee camps with their poor medical care. In areas of Kurdish self-government, it is hoped that the rapidly spreading virus will not catch large camps like al-Hol.


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/ Thomas Pany