Iran Regime’s Herd Immunity Policy During the Coronavirus Crisis and Its Outcome
Mohammad Sadat Khansari
Dr. Hossein Rafiei in an interview with state-run daily Mostaghel, confesses that many facts clarifying the regime’s criminal policies regarding the pandemic which has caused the high fatality numbers in Iran
Iran has become a significant epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, with massive fatalities occurring across the country. As of June 5, according to the network of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the death toll due to the Coronavirus reached to 49,500 in 325 cities in Iran.
The Iranian regime has resorted to a systematic campaign to blame US sanctions as the leading cause of Iran’s national calamity. Tehran’s lobbies and apologists have echoed this notion. A quick look at Iran’s state-run media shows that the regime’s propaganda is totally at odds with reality.
On June 1, 2020, the state-run daily Mostaghel on its website posted an interview with “Dr. Hossein Rafiei, a member of the National Council of Peace” which confesses to many facts clarifying the regime’s criminal policies regarding the pandemic which has caused the high fatality numbers in Iran.
This interview underlines important facts of the regime’s criminal policies which have resulted in thousands of deaths and spread of the coronavirus across Iran, as well the economic facilities the regime has at its disposal yet refuses to use to help people. Some of these points include:
The Iranian regime’s policy of herd immunity has created the second wave of the virus.
The government has vast economic resources but has not used them to combat COVID-19
According to the statistics, published by the regime’s Central Bank in November 2019, the liquidity was around 2282 trillion tomans, and 1376 billion tomans was added to it. If half of the interest was taken as tax, every month its 15 trillion tomans could be divided to 2 million tomans and given it to 7.5 million families, around 30 million people, for their living expenses.
This amount of liquidity is in the hands of 500 of the regime’s officials who have obtained it through corruption, and only with half of this amount, the regime can pay two million tomans a month for 4 years to ten million households (40 million people).
The regime’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, controls nine huge financial institutions, including: Military Cooperatives, Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs, Housing Foundation of Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation, Mostazafan Foundation, Razavi Economic Organization, Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order Headquarters, Futurists Economic Development and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Khatam‑al Anbiya Construction Headquarters. Within the last 30 years, these institutions have gradually expanded their wealth and liquidity. There is no precise and clear information about the balance of activity and wealth of these institutions, but according to Reuters, there are $95 billion in wealth at the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order Headquarters.
Behzad Nabavi, a government minister in several administrations, said in an interview with the state-run Alef news agency on September 21, 2019: “In our country, there are four institutions which control 60 percent of the national wealth. This includes Executive Headquarters of Imam’s Directive (Setad Ejraie Farman Imam), Khatam-ol–Anbiay Base, Astan-e Quds, and Foundation of the Oppressed and Disabled.” The wealth of all the economic institutions under the supreme leader’s supervision is equivalent to a thousand billion dollars. The ten percent profit of this fortune is one hundred billion dollars, with which it is possible to cover the living expenses of ten million low-income households (forty million people).
Some parts of this interview are translated below:
Herd Immunity, Iran [regime]’s method during the coronavirus pandemic
Q: What approach do the Iranian government’s structure in general and Hassan Rouhani [regime’s current president] government follow [for combatting the coronavirus]?
A: In Iran, they chose herd immunity. They didn’t take the quarantining seriously and then just gave some advice to people, let people travel during Nowruz [Persian New Year] holiday, and fearing an “economic collapse” resumed economic activities. Since the government lacks necessary financial recourse [Hassan Rouhani’s government officials] saw allowing economic-service activities as the solution. For this reason, the second wave of the coronavirus started in many provinces again and now no one could foretell the outcome.
Q: We have witnessed that the whole world mobilized all of its forces to combat this invisible enemy. Since combating and resolving the coronavirus crisis requires huge financial resources. In your opinion and with respect to the country’s current situation, how can the government provide these resources?
A: This is true that the government [the executive branch] due to the sanctions, not exporting oil, vast corruption of governmental organizations, weakness of the economic foundations, annual budget deficit, etc. has no resources at hand to resolve this crisis, yet there are huge resources in the country which could be used.
According to the latest statistics by the Central Bank in November 2019 (published by Iran daily on February 15), the volume of liquidity is 2282 trillion tomans, to which 1376 billion tomans are added daily. Some 75% of this liquidity was deposited at banks and they received a daily profit of one trillion tomans – before the reduction of the banks’ interest – and it is said that 500 people control the major part of this amount of liquidity. If half of the daily profit is taken as tax, 15 thousand billion tomans of it can be divided into two million tomans and given to seven and a half million households (about 30 million people) every month for their living expenses substances. Then, we could expect these households to comply with quarantine, have a living chance, and follow health advises.
Most of this huge liquidity is being controlled by some “insiders” who are deeply involved in embezzlement and who did not gather this much wealth through legitimate, clean, and dynamic economic activities. Half of this amount will be one million billion tomans (one thousand trillion tomans). Now, if only half of this amount is allocated to the people according to Article 49 of the Constitution, it can be used to pay two million tomans a month to ten million households (forty million people) for two years.
Q: Simultaneous with the coronavirus outbreak and the lack of necessary resources and credits, there have been some demands by our society to hold some institutions, which are not being monitored, to account. How close are these demands to reality? Could the potential costs of tracking them make sense?
A: Among the economic collections under the Supreme Leader’s supervision, there are nine economic institutions including: Military Cooperatives, Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs, Housing Foundation of Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation, Mostazafan Foundation, Razavi Economic Organization, Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order Headquarters, Futurists Economic Development and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Khatam‑al Anbiya Construction Headquarters. Within the last 30 years, these institutions have gradually expanded their wealth and liquidity. There is no precise and clear information about the balance of activity and wealth of these institutions, but according to Reuters, there are $95 billion in wealth at the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order Headquarters. If we consider the value of this wealth as the value of the day, and if we accept one of our former government officials (Mr. Behzad Nabavi, in an interview with the Alef news agency on September 21) who said: “In our country, there are four institutions which control 60 percent of the national wealth. This includes Executive Headquarters of Imam’s Directive (Setad Ejraie Farman Imam), Khatam-ol–Anbia Base, Astan-e Quds and Foundation of the Oppressed and Disabled,” and if this information is accurate, which should be, the wealth of all the economic institutions under supreme leader’s supervision is equivalent to a thousand billion dollars. Ten percent profit of this fortune is equal to one hundred billion dollars, with which it is possible to cover the living expenses of ten million low-income households (forty million people), including poorly supported business owners. We will also be able to strengthen the infrastructure of the health sector, coordinate nurses’ salaries with the expenses, and resolve other problems of the government. Naturally, the difference in the quality of life of Iranians after the fair distribution of this enormous wealth justifies and rationalizes the value of taking any risk.
All of these resources are available domestically, and they can be used to combat the coronavirus, reduce inflation, and even promote development to some extent. Yet, the most basic condition for achieving these goals is proper and principled management, free from rhetoric. Ignoring this will greatly deepen the emerging crises.
Q: Iran’s efforts to adapt itself with what will inevitably happen results in what?
A: Iran [regime] does not have the right conditions to fight post-coronavirus complications and has serious problems with its most basic infrastructure. Democracy is the first cornerstone of cohesion, unity, empathy, and national development that does not exist in Iran.
We must first address the issue of democracy so that we can resolve the coronavirus crisis and other crises like this. On the one hand, about four million of our elite, entrepreneurial and technocratic elites have emigrated. In this regard and during the pandemic we saw that dozens of Iranian experts were questioned every night by Persian-language and non-Persian-language TV stations, and their knowledge and experience were used.
Few consider themselves the owners of Iran and officially or unofficially encourage others to flee the country, providing the conditions for the individuals to abandon their national Iranian identity and their country. In such a situation, rulers basically are not relying on their people, but they are relying on their consolidated power. A consolidated power will gradually become fragile and will not last. The fragility of power is evident in the incidents [major nationwide Iran protests] in 2018 and 2019.
In a country were labor and teachers’ unions, which are not even political, are considered as threats, it shows that our officials have not progressed with the times. Although the novel coronavirus might have shocked our officials, it is no longer possible to develop and even manage society in the old manner.
We should accept that managing the society with force, although with a legal facade, has ended.
If our officials try to understand the coronavirus’s subsequent developments and change their ways, there is some hope. If national unity is achieved and the mistakes of the past are accepted first and officials then apologize for them to the people, we can hope that Iran will remain, and otherwise, the flood that will later lead to the mismanagement of events will take everything with it.