On March 12, in an order to General Mohammad Bagheri, Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces, Ayatollah Khamenei brought up the theory that the coronavirus epidemic in Iran may be the result of biological warfare. From this speculation it is not a stretch to add “biological warfare” to other fiendish plots by the “enemy”, better known as the United States of America, against the Islamic Republic of Iran. But where did this theory come from?
The Supreme Leader ordered General Bagheri to establish a new Health and Treatment Base for preventing the spread of the disease. “This measure may also be regarded as a biological defense exercise. It adds to our national sovereignty and power given the evidence that suggests the likelihood of this being a biological attack,” Khamenei said in his orders to General Bagheri.
Khamenei’s decree was in response to a report by the General Staff of the Armed Forces about the likelihood of a biological attack against Iran. In other words: the report promoted a false theory and received a favorable response from the Supreme Leader.
On March 9, General Hassan Araghizadeh, head of the General Staff’s health department, claimed that there is a likelihood of a biological attack by the US. “There is evidence [Persian link] supporting this likelihood and we must judge based on this evidence,” he said. “We all know the US has labs in some countries that conduct biological tests and genetic engineering on viruses.”
Now, with Khamenei’s decree supporting the General Staff’s conspiracy theory, it is possible for the Islamic Republic to separate the coronavirus outbreak in Iran from the same epidemic in other countries. By separating the two, Ayatollah Khamenei and his people can tell the public that it was not mismanagement by the government, or mistakes such as refusing to quarantine Qom, that was responsible for spread of coronavirus; rather, it is because Iran has been infected with a different strain, one unleashed on it by foreign enemies, and that is why the rate of fatalities in the country is much higher than elsewhere in the world.
Greasing the Propaganda Machine
At the very least, promoting this theory can help Khamenei and his supporters to feed their propaganda machine aimed at the religious establishment and religious Iranians. By talking about a biological attack, they can also turn the epidemic into a national security issue which would lead to serious intervention by the Revolutionary Guards.
This is not the first time that Iranian officials have mentioned biological attacks or biological terrorism. Spreading such notions has two purposes. One is the propaganda aspect, used to explain the assassination of prominent figures of the Iranian establishment. The other is to prompt actions taken by institutions such as the Revolutionary Guards and the Supreme National Security Council.
For instance, it was previously claimed that Bijan Nobaveh, a member of parliament, Nader Talebzadeh and Farajollah Salahshour, two pro-regime filmmakers, Dr. Saeed Kazemi Ashtiani, President of Royan (The Embryo) Institute, and Ali Dadman, son of the Minister of Roads and Urban Development under former president Mohammad Khatami, were targeted by biological terrorism. (In fact, Dadman had died of cancer.)
Also, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, had announced that the council had formed a committee to investigate biological terrorism and the possible biological assassinations of Ali Dadman and others.
But Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, spokesman for parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, quoting the head of the Civil Defense Organization, said that none of the reports [Persian link] about the biological assassination of Ali Daman, Bijan Nobaveh and Nader Talebzadeh were never proven.
And last year there were rumors that Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, had been the target of a biological assassination attempt. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denied the rumor.
In an interview on September 28, 2019, General Gholamreza Jalali, head of the Civil Defense Organization, said that a Biological Defense Base had been set up to confront man-made biological warfare threats. He added that natural changes in the biological structure of microbes and viruses are in Health Ministry’s domain but that his organization would also keep an eye on such situations.
Besides studies conducted by the Civil Defense Organization and other government agencies on biological warfare, and on Iran’s readiness to defend itself against biological attacks, there have also been other independent studies. One of them, a “Survey of Biological Incidents Preparedness of Hospitals in Markazi Province in 2016,” found hospitals to be ill-prepared to confront such attacks.
Now the coronavirus epidemic in Iran has given agencies such as the Civil Defense Organization an opportunity to benefit from conspiracy theories of biological warfare and to use them as codes for securing higher budgets and to spread fresh propaganda. But there is no prospect that such agencies can take any serious action and be effective in fighting epidemics such the current one — as their past record demonstrates.
IranWire reports on Coronavirus Outbreak in Iran
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