Iran facing triple hit
The spread of coronavirus in Iran has reached terrifying levels: more than 29 thousand infected, more than 2200 dead. The virus exacerbated Iran’s already difficult geopolitical position, weakening its economy, which has resisted sanction pressure for many years. Measures taken by the highly infected countries have a negative economic impact, including the impact on international flights and the presence of citizens abroad.
Coverage of the epidemiological situation in international media also adversely affects Iran’s image, forcing emergency measures to be taken in three strategic directions at once.
The first is finance
The decline in oil prices will hurt the Iranian economy, which is under sanctions. However, Iranian oil exports will continue, as its main importer, China, does not intend to suspend cooperation, despite the epidemiological situation. Much will depend on whether the Iranian leadership is capable of non-standard actions. Traditionally, the Iranian economy supports state or semi-state companies, since the republic’s leadership is involved in pricing and is a major economic player in the domestic market. If the authorities support the traditional vector, they risk leaving small and medium-sized businesses out, which have been reviving with great difficulty over the past few years. It will affect the most vulnerable and poor segments of the population, among which the spread of the virus is mostly observed. People will not even be able to purchase protective equipment. Therefore, it is important for the Iranian authorities to choose the sector of the national economy to apply rescue measures in the first place.
The second direction is coronavirus
The leadership of the republic is criticized for the fact that in the first weeks of the outbreak it controlled information, not the virus. Obviously, it is not up to politics during a pandemic, because it is important how the information about the epidemic is provided. Now, the Iranian leadership needs to decide what is more important: not to be inferior to its foreign opponents in the information war or choose the most correct format for presenting information within the country. This decision is needed due to the fact that it has much more serious consequences than separate statements by politicians and health officials who are trying to influence public opinion.
The third area is tightening of the sanctions pressure
The threat of coronavirus is unlikely to be the reason for smoothing U.S.-Iranian contradictions. The U.S. State Department has already hastened to accuse the Iranian leadership of a disinformation coronavirus campaign. In turn, the Iranian authorities accused the U.S. authorities of creating obstacles to the delivery of necessary medical equipment to those infected. Indeed, many foreign pharmaceutical companies are afraid to cooperate with the leadership of Iran, because they do not want to fall under the U.S. sanctions, despite the fact that medical equipment, as well as necessary drugs cannot be sanctioned, as this is contrary to WHO standards.
The Iranian authorities will not completely refuse international assistance, as their own forces may not be enough. However, it should be borne in mind that in late February, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wanted to petition the UN for a snap-back of sanctions on Iran. By toughening anti-Iranian sanctions, the U.S. intends to push Tehran to uncontested "cooperation" with Washington. For this reason, the Iranian leadership fears that U.S. assistance may turn out to be testing coronavirus vaccines on Iranians.
One way or another, the fight against the pandemic can mobilize the Iranians, who are accustomed to survive under the conditions of sanctions and adapt to them. Today, civilian organizations provide free assistance to the population, but in the current conditions it is difficult to predict with what losses Iran will suffer during a series of crises and how this will affect the political atmosphere in the republic.