In Iran, mullahs generate crises to survive

The death toll from the coronavirus in Iran has officially been announced as around 4,700, with fewer than 100 people adding to that number for the third day in a row.  However, these statistics have been highly questioned by nurses and physicians in hospitals and observation of burial sites.  In addition, a research center in the Iranian parliament estimates that the actual statistics could be up to 80% higher than the official figures.  The report says the number of infected patients is likely to be eight to ten times more than announced.  Meanwhile, the Iranian opposition, the NCRI, has announced the death toll to be over 32,500.

On April 17, 2020, the Rouhani government, afraid of revealing the actual death toll, in contravention of a decree made by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 24 articles effective immediately, issued a classified directive from the Communications and Law Enforcement Command restricting internet communications for all its units in order to prevent the leak of information.

This decree clearly shows that the flow of information from medical staff, oppressed people and the Iranian resistance about the magnitude of the coronavirus tragedy has angered and confounded Khamenei.

In parallel with this decree, the arrest of innocent people under the pretext of spreading rumors about the coronavirus continues.  On April 16, Brigadier General Bakhshali Kamrani, Hamadan city's police chief, said: "48 people who spread rumors about the Coronavirus were identified and arrested by FATA cyber police agents in this province."

Alongside this cover-up, Tehran, as in the past 41 years, continues its policy of repression inside Iran (inward policy) and export of crises (outward policy) in order to survive.  In line with its outward policy, the regime has initiated a new venture in the Persian Gulf, trying to break its deadly deadlock and international isolation.  The U.S. Navy announced that on Wednesday, April 15, 11 IRGC boats had provoked U.S. ships in the northern Persian Gulf by dangerous maneuvers.

According to a statement on the incident from the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, the USS Lewis B. Puller was among six U.S. ships sailing in the international waters of the Persian Gulf when the armed IRGC  speedboats approached them.

The IRGC boats repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at close range and at high speed and carried out "unprofessional" and "unsafe" actions against them, as reported by Reuters.

Hot on the heels of generating this crisis in the Persian Gulf, IRGC forces took to the streets of cities in Iran on April 17, under the pretext of fighting the coronavirus, and launched a ridiculous maneuver called "biological war games to support the needy."  This vulgar spectacle followed Ali Khamenei's letter to Ali Bagheri, the commander-in-chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, commissioning him to set up a health camp to fight the coronavirus.

In fact, the Iranian official's primary objective in running these shows in the streets of cities, especially Tehran, is not to lose control of the situation due to the explosive hatred of the people.

Earlier, interior minister Rahmani Fazli said, "The psychological and deterrent value of this issue is high."  He continued, "We have divided Tehran into 300 neighborhoods and, in each neighborhood, a combination of Basij forces, municipal and provincial police forces will be deployed."

What is clear from the interior minister's remarks are that Iranian officials, in fear of popular uprisings and protests, are conducting maneuvers like this to control the angry people by sending troops to the streets and neighborhoods of Tehran and other cities.

Iranian officials clearly feel the danger of protests and social uprisings in the future.                                              

The fact is that Tehran is suffering from a crisis of legitimacy.  The November 2019 uprising, the missile strike on a Ukrainian plane, the complete boycott of the parliamentary elections by the people, and the riots of prisoners in twelve prisons have sounded alarm bells for the officials.

It seems that Tehran is trying to prevent another uprising by hiding behind actions like the intrusion on U.S. ships by high-speed IRGC boats in the Persian Gulf and IRGC maneuvers inside Iran under the pretext of biological war games.  Tehran is simultaneously increasing pressure on international organizations to lift the sanctions that have dried its sources of funds to provide for its proxy forces and armed militias.

But, as all the experts say, returning to normal does not mean returning to the pre-pandemic conditions.  In the case of Iran, these ridiculous maneuvers and international crises no longer work.  The governing apparatus is on the verge of collapse.

Hassan Mahmoudi, social analyst, researcher, is an independent observer and commentator of Middle Eastern and Iranian affairs.

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