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Transcript The Coronavirus and: Weaponizing Pandemics in the Middle East: Is the Pandemic Accomplishing What Targeted Assassinations Couldn’t? with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Part Two

March 28, 2020

Iranian women wear masks in the streets of Tehran. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

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The embargo on Gaza has resulted in an “extra-critical” situation. They cannot get help from anyone. They are forced to deal with what little they have on hand in the way of medical supplies, or to find ways to spirit in those supplies from somewhere else which makes treatment extremely expensive and unavailable for almost everyone.

In an interview many years ago, Pompeo – during the time he was director of the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A) – he said something along the lines of “We lied, we cheated, we stole.” For somebody who has admitted publicly to being a habitual liar, what can we expect from him?

(Concerning Pompeo’s claim that the U.S would lift sanctions to help Iran deal with the Pandemic)

Ibrahim Kazerooni

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Yes, when I saw that statement that the U.S. would lift some of the sanctions in order to send humanitarian aid, I looked into it.

The key here is that while a pharmaceutical company in Germany or wherever has been told that it can send supplies to Iran and that the sanctions in this regard were lifted, at the same time – the sanctions on the Bank of Iran, that would purchase such supplies is still sanctioned. No Western company or bank can thus do transactions with Iran without fear of retaliation.

It’s a cynical trick – yes, Washington says, a country can send medical aid ot Iran but… if the transaction is paid for in dollars, there will be retaliation.

Rob Prince

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Part Two (continued from Part One)

KGNU – Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues – March 24, 2020 (This section begins 27 minutes and 3 seconds into the audio tape)

Rob Prince: Let’s turn to the Middle East in general prior to zeroing in on the situation specifically in Iran. Ibrahim, can you give us an overview of what the Coronavirus is doing throughout the region. How serious is it?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: It is very serious although immediately after it broke out in China I was surprised that one of the main places that the Coronavirus appeared was in Qom (Iran) – of all places.

Rob Prince: Why Qom?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: There are some unsubstantiated explanations given as to the number of Chinese students that are studying in the theological school or the seminaries in Iran. They might be responsible for it.

But I don’t believe these Chinese students had returned home during the specific period of the outbreak and then brought the virus to Iran. It only took two or three days after the initial announcement of a number deaths in China that very quickly people (in Iran) got the virus and died.

So this is one of those enigma’s for which we have no answer. I believe it will take some time before history will be able to unravel it. But certainly it took off in Iran.

As soon as it started from Iran the United States immediately began attacking Iran for not doing enough to protect its population. Countries hostile to Iran such as Saudi Arabia and even political parties within Lebanon also joined the United States in doing so.

Unfortunately for these countries it took only a week before the virus literally spread across the Middle East. All the Gulf States from Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrein, the Emirates and Oman all saw cases appear. Within a week of the virus first appearing, the number of deaths from the virus began to increase.

On the heels of the outbreak in the Gulf, the Coronavirus appeared in Iraq, Lebanon and other places. Whether it’s due to the inability of the central government to provide the statistics or that its war-torn nature has pushed people to the periphery where interaction (with the virus) doesn’t take place – the only country where the Coronavirus has shown up to date (March 24, 2020) is Syria. It was only yesterday or the day before yesterday that the Syrian government first reported a few cases. So far there have not been any virus-related deaths in Syria although these initial cases have now come to light.

The numbers contaminated in Turkey has suddenly increased.

Rob Prince: Considerably correct? The figure of Coronavirus infected there that I saw was close to 1000 cases and that was a couple of days ago.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Yes. More within the region. The numbers for Afghanistan and Pakistan have continued to jump, although the Pakistani government is trying to work with the Chinese., to see if they can get assistance from China.

For the past three weeks the Iranian government has been asking for help but those who could provide it were hiding behind the sanctions. Ultimately the Chinese and the Russians decided to ignore the sanctions and provided the needed aid because this is a humanitarian issue.

This is what the Foreign Policy article we cited talks about – that regarding China, Russia and Cuba – that the response to the pandemic is pushing many countries in the region towards China rather than towards the United States in the urgency of getting pandemic aid because the Unites States itself is unable to provide such aid at this time.

Rob Prince: I have also been reading there are a number of cases in Israel as well as in Gaza and the West Bank. Given the situation in Gaza that was chilling news. I have not heard of any Israeli efforts – in light of the pandemic situation – to lift the blockade. It could be awful

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Unfortunately Rob in terms of what is happening in Israel that Jimmy Carter described as “an apartheid state.” The Israeli government under Netanyahu has focused the government’s entire attention to the situation of the Jewish Community there at the expense of the Arab Community, even the Arab Community “of 1948″ within Israel. Thus, there is a huge crisis in Israel now regarding the treatment of the Arab Community. They are not receiving the needed help and medical attention.

The embargo on Gaza has resulted in an “extra-critical” situation. They cannot get help from anyone. They are forced to deal with what little they have on hand in the way of medical supplies, or to find ways to spirit in those supplies from somewhere else which makes treatment extremely expensive and unavailable for almost everyone.

Yesterday I saw a picture in which the Israeli government showing special treatment of the Coronavirus for Orthodox Jews. As they refuse to go to hospitals, the Israeli government was disinfecting them – they were being washed with medication – in the middle of the street.

Rob do you want to add anything?

Rob Prince: Main point – the region is starting to explode with the Coronavirus and not just Iran and it is unclear how the region will be able to deal with this given all the other problems it is facing – That’s my main point.

I’d like to turn now and concentrate on the Iranian situation itself and look at it in some detail. Obviously, it’s well known that Iran is one of the countries most devastated by the Coronavirus pandemic.

∙ It has the highest rate of per capita infections in the region, the Middle East.
∙ The death toll continues to rise
∙ There was a study done by Sherif University of Technology in Teheran. It ‘warned of an unspeakable catastrophe with projections that infections won’t peak until late May and estimates that the death toll could reach as high as 3.5 million people.” – Pretty chilling
∙ US sanctions on Iran have played a devastating role during the pandemic – preventing the import of medicines and medical equipment and overall weakening Iran’s healthcare system

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Rob, can I interrupt here?

When people talk about U.S. sanctions, they think that this is something new. I would like to briefly address this.

Iran and the Iranian people have been under sanctions from the moment that the Islamic revolution in Iran succeeded and the Shah was kicked out. Since 1979 when the whole regime change that took place.

The United States was not prepared to forgive the Iranian people or the Iranian government for what they had done – two things:

1. The United States lost the economic benefits that Iran provided to Washington. It was a military bulwark of U.S interests in the region. Now Saudi Arabia has taken its place in this regard. It was the military and security aspect in the northern part of Iran against the Soviet Union – part of the U.S. effort to encircle Moscow – that was lost. Iran has been under sanctions from that time

2. Then there are the eight years of the Iran-Iraq war that was imposed on Iran. In that war, the United States supported Iraq against Iran. After that there was one pretext or another for increasingly imposing more sanctions.

Back in 1979 – 1980, during the Algerian negotiations concerning the release of the (American embassy) hostages, there was some discussion of possible removal of the sanctions, but again nothing happened. Within a few months, Ronald Reagan began to re-impose sanctions against Iran. After Reagan, George Bush (the father) added on as did Bill Clinton and so on.

Any and all administrations that have come to power since the Iranian Revolution not only did not remove the sanctions, but each one has added to them, imposing harsher and harsher measures.

As a consequence, few hospital or research center in Iran are capable or equipped to deal with such an unexpected medical crisis as this. Had the Iranian medical profession known something about the Coronavirus previously, they would have prepared for it.

But because it was unexpected, the medical profession was caught by surprise, the medical industry was as well as the health industry. To establish a plan, organize themselves and literally put something together takes a considerable amount of time. The Iranian population has paid a huge price.

As I have told you within the last couple of weeks a number of my friends – they are around my age and even younger – as well as some professors that I had – they lost their lives.

Rob Prince: You mentioned to me that some forty acquaintances, friends, professors have died of COVID-19.

Ibrahim I want to add something here.

Under pressure from the world, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a statement a few days ago claiming that the United States was willing to lift the sanctions so as to be able to provide humanitarian aid.

But what I’m seeing happening is that instead of dropping the sanctions that the Trump Administration has added new ones even in the midst of this pandemic.

What can be made of Pompeo’s statement?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: In an interview many years ago, Pompeo – during the time he was director of the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A) – he said something along the lines of “We lied, we cheated, we stole.” For somebody who has admitted publicly to being a habitual liar, what can we expect from him?

This is another lie on top of everything else.

To divert attention from the pressure it has been under to lift the sanctions against Iran, the United States paid lip service to reducing sanctions – yes, we will lift certain sanctions – but I have talked with friends in Iran – doctors, physicians – and they have said that not an iota of help has come from Washington – far from it!

To the contrary, the United States has done just the opposite – putting pressure on European countries prohibiting them sending trucks loaded with medical equipment from bringing aid to Iran. The Trump Administration has promised to punish those countries that do.

Rob Prince: Yes, when I saw that statement that the U.S. would lift some of the sanctions in order to send humanitarian aid, I looked into it.

The key here is that while a pharmaceutical company in Germany or wherever has been told that it can send supplies to Iran and that the sanctions in this regard were lifted, at the same time – the sanctions on the Bank of Iran, that would purchase such supplies is still sanctioned. No Western company or bank can thus do transactions with Iran without fear of retaliation.

It’s a cynical trick – yes, Washington says, a country can send medical aid ot Iran but… if the transaction is paid for in dollars, there will be retaliation.

To be continued

 

3 Comments leave one →
  1. William Conklin permalink
    March 28, 2020 10:17 am

    Well, the wonderful neo-liberal rulers of the yankee hegemon have now placed a price on Maduro’s head and Maduro is handling the Venezuelan crisis better than Trump is handling ours. Let’s look too at Israel, the minion of the United States in the Middle East. Israel has about 50 percent of its population in prison, it maintains a blockade and has destroyed the sewage plant of Gaza and bombed the hospitals. The situation is so bad it is beyond belief. Corona will hit Gaza and when it does, the situation will quickly become uncontrollable. Many sick Palestinians may decide that storming the fence is better than dying a slow corona death, so tens of thousands may storm the prison fence. If that happens, the brave IDF will run out of their racist bullets and they will turn and run from the zombie hoard. Corona will overflow Israel and the Orthodox Racists will be on their knees praying to their racist god that gave olive country to them. One could argue that in the long run the current mess was caused by a benevolent god who is trying to save human society and the earth from the scourge of neo-liberal rich jerks, environmental devastation, and the human need to procreate at an unsustainable rate,

  2. Gene Fitzpatrick permalink
    March 29, 2020 6:41 am

    Apropos the sanctions against suffering Iran, one could reprise the 1954 role of lawyer Joseph Welsh against Sen. Joe McCarthy (the American Government) and say: “ Have you no decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

    Gene Fitzpatrick

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  1. Transcript The Coronavirus and: Weaponizing Pandemics in the Middle East: Is the Pandemic Accomplishing What Targeted Assassinations Couldn’t? with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Part One | View from the Left Bank: Rob Prince's Blog

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