By: Amir A. Afkhami – Politico; politico.com
For years, Tehran was remarkably good at fighting epidemics. This time, a bungling and an isolated regime is worsening global risk. The U.S. could actually help.
Since Iran announced its first cases of the novel coronavirus more than two weeks ago, a growing number of analysts and physicians have questioned Tehran’s death toll tallies. Others, including one of Iran’s own members of parliament, have accused the government of deliberately covering up the extent of the outbreak in the country. Despite a rising domestic and international clamor, Iran has been unwilling to quarantine high-risk areas and has yielded to its clerical establishment by not barring the public from visiting major religious sites at the epicenter of the virus.
The Iranian government’s policy blunders are now responsible for Iran’s status as the main center of contamination and exporter of the coronavirus outside China. But ongoing U.S. sanctions have made matters worse by making the Iranian regime more skittish about taking any public health measures—such as reducing contacts with its main trading partners or declaring a public health emergency—that could further damage its already ailing economy. History shows that continuing Iran’s isolation as it grapples with coronavirus risks backfiring on the United States and the rest of the world.