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Coronavirus may spread from Iran to Iraq

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The tragicomic story recently happened with the Deputy Minister of Health of Iran, Iraj Harirchi, who appeared at a press conference to assure the Iranian public that the Iranian government is keeping the outbreak of coronavirus under control. He was sweaty and clearly unwell.

Later, Iranian authorities admitted that Harirchi himself caught the coronavirus and is now under quarantine.

Iran already has the largest number of coronavirus deaths outside of China, and this is only according to the figures that the Iranian government has recognized. Among the main causes of the widespread outbreak of a deadly disease, according to the West, is the incompetence and corruption of the regime.

As in China, Tehran’s initial approach was to completely deny and conceal the facts, which is typical of the Iranian authorities. Similarly, officials of the Islamic Republic behaved after the appearance of information about a Ukrainian passenger plane crashing near a Tehran airport in January 2020, Michael Rubin, Middle East American Enterprise Institute (AEI) expert writes in The National Interest.

But corruption and opacity are characteristic not only for the Iranian government, but also for the cabinet of ministers of neighboring Iraq. Despite the emergence of coronavirus in the Islamic Republic, Baghdad does virtually nothing to prevent COVID-19 from entering Iraq.

Airports and bus stations in Baghdad, Basra and Najaf, the country’s largest cities, are filled with guests from Iran. It should be noted that Iraq is visited annually by millions of pilgrims from the Islamic Republic.

Although oil brings the most money to the treasury of Iraq, it remains invisible to many Iraqis. The fact is that the oil industry is one of the less labor-intensive sectors of Iraq (or any other country). The direct and indirect influence of religious pilgrims from Iran on the Iraqi economy is great.

The existence of many restaurants, hotels and shopping centers depends on their visits. Iran is also Iraq’s largest trading partner, and Iranian businessmen are often found in Iraqi four and five star hotels, many of which are built with Iranian money.

Meanwhile, the ongoing internal political struggle and the unwillingness of the Iraqi parliament to approve Adel Mahdi as prime minister is not the best background for the emergence of the Chinese coronavirus.

Until recently, Tehran financially supported Shiite parties and paramilitary groups in Iraq. But in the last year or two, different dynamics have been observed: as the Iranian economy plunged into recession, and the enterprises belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) suffer losses, Iran-supported groups and businesses in Iraq are increasingly subsidizing their recent Iranian sponsors.

This means that pro-Iranian forces in Iraq are doing everything to keep the Iran-Iraq border open. The IRGC and its clients ignore or defiantly disobey the orders of the Iraqi government. Thus, the IRGC-owned Mahan Air continues to fly to Iraq, despite the recent ban from Baghdad.

Corruption in Iran at one time did not allow canceling flights with China, although experts pointed to the threat of bringing a deadly virus to the country. The Iraqi “vasta” (blat) exacerbates the problem, because the Iraqis use personal contacts in order not to comply with the rules and requirements that are unfavorable for them.

Spanish flu in 1917-1918 caused the death of every tenth inhabitant of Iraq and Iran. Today, due to widespread corruption and opacity, thousands of Iranians and Iraqis can repeat the fate of their compatriots a century ago.

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