August 21, 2020 | The Hill

COVID-19 continues to ravage Iranian society: Will the regime survive the public’s wrath?

August 21, 2020 | The Hill

COVID-19 continues to ravage Iranian society: Will the regime survive the public’s wrath?

Excerpt

The COVID-19 epidemic continues to ravage Iran without respite, possibly infecting tens of millions of Iranians and leading to hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and countless deaths. The true numbers will never be known, since the Islamic Republic has tried hard to keep them hidden. The epidemic is likely to get even worse absent a vaccine, as the regime lacks the will and capacity to contain its spread. Tehran’s malfeasance will lead to greater societal dissatisfaction, greater economic distress, and perhaps even contribute to the collapse of the regime, complicating the potential plans of a future Trump or Biden administration to negotiate with the Islamic Republic.

The COVID-19 epidemic has become so devastating that the regime has finally decided to openly acknowledge its existence and to urge Iranians to wear masks and practice some form of social distancing. Importantly, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has taken to wearing a mask during major public speeches and appearances and has strongly urged Iranians to follow suit. This may not appear like a major step to outside observers, but it is an important policy shift considering the regime’s refusal to acknowledge and address the epidemic for months when it first appeared.

But it is too little, too late.

Alireza Nader is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute focusing on foreign policy and national security. Follow him on Twitter @AlirezaNader

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Issues:

COVID-19 Iran