Iran’s top chief on Sunday denied US aid to the new coronavirus, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory that the virus could be created by humans in America.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comments come as Iran faces overwhelming US sanctions preventing the country from selling its crude oil and accessing international financial markets.
But as Iranian civilian officials in recent days have increasingly criticized the sanctions, 80-year-old Khamenei has instead chosen to tamper with the same conspiracy theory increasingly used by Chinese authorities over the new virus to hijack the blame for the pandemic.
“I don’t know how real this accusation is, but when it exists, who in their common sense would trust you to bring them medication?” Said Khamenei. “Maybe your medication is a way to spread the virus further.”
He also alleged, without providing any evidence, that the virus “is specifically designed for Iran using the genetic data of the Iranians that they obtained through various means”.
“You could send people as doctors and therapists, maybe they would come here and see the effect of the poison they produced in person,” he said.
No scientific evidence
There is no scientific evidence offered anywhere in the world to support Khamenei’s comments.
However, his comments come after Chinese government spokesman Lijian Zhao tweeted earlier this month that “it may have been the United States military that brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make your data public! The United States owes us an explanation! “
Lijian also did not present any evidence in support of his claim, which saw the US State Department summon the Chinese ambassador to complain.
Wuhan is the Chinese city where the first cases of the disease were detected in December. In recent days, the Trump administration has increasingly called the virus “Chinese” or “Wuhan,” while the World Health Organization has used the term COVID-19 to describe the disease caused by the virus. . Even an American senator from Arkansas has tampered with the unfounded conspiracy theory that it was a Chinese man-made biological weapon.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially the elderly and people with existing health problems, this can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people are recovering from the new virus.
Scientists have yet to determine exactly how the new coronavirus infected the first people. Evidence suggests it comes from bats, which infected another animal that spread it to people at a market in Wuhan. The now closed wholesale seafood market in Huanan advertised dozens of species such as giant salamanders, baby crocodiles and raccoon dogs that were often called wild animals, even when raised.
An article published last week in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Medicine also said it was “unlikely” that the virus “appeared through laboratory manipulation of a SARS-CoV-related coronavirus”.
Khamenei made the comments in a speech broadcast live in Tehran on Sunday in Iran on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. He had canceled his usual speech at the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad about the virus epidemic.
His comments come as Iran has more than 21,600 confirmed cases of new coronavirus among 1,685 reported deaths, according to government figures released Sunday.
Support for conspiracy theories
Iran is one of the countries most affected in the world by the new virus. Across the Middle East, Iran accounts for eight of 10 cases of the virus and those leaving the Islamic Republic have transported the virus to other countries.
Iranian officials have criticized US aid offers during the virus crisis as being spurious. They accused the Trump administration of wanting to capitalize on its “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran since its withdrawal from the nuclear deal in May 2018. However, the United States has directly offered aid to the Republic Islamic in the past despite decades of enmity, such as during the devastating earthquake in Bam in 2003.
Reallocating the blame could be useful to the Iranian government, which has faced widespread public anger after denying for days that it had shot down a Ukrainian airliner, killing 176 people. In recent times, widespread economic problems have also seen mass protests that have left hundreds of people dead.
Iranian extremists have supported conspiracy theories in the past when it suited their interests. Following the September 11 attacks, some have publicly doubted the role of al-Qaida and state television promoting the unfounded conspiracy theory that the Americans blew up the building themselves.
Former radical President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also raised doubts about the September 11 attack, calling it a “big lie,” while also describing the Holocaust as a “myth.”
On Sunday, Iran imposed a two-week closure on the country’s main shopping centers and malls to prevent the spread of the virus. Pharmacies, supermarkets, grocery stores and bakeries will remain open.
In Saudi Arabia, the kingdom has declared that its armed forces are now participating in the fight against the virus and are establishing mobile hospitals in different cities.
And in Kuwait, the authorities have instituted a night curfew from 5 p.m. at 4 a.m., offenders face up to three years in prison and fines of $ 32,000 if arrested and convicted.