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Middle East

Coronavirus and Institutional Alignment for Iran’s Crisis Management



Authors: Mojtaba Valibeigi and Elmira Sarhangi*

Within ten days ahead of the official announcement of the first COVID_19 virus disease (COVID_19) in Qom, many discussions in social media raised about the arrival of COVID_19 in Iran, but the official health authorities firmly denied the news. They attributed it to the enemy and creating fear in society for decreasing participation in Anniversary of the Islamic Revolution and 2020 Iranian legislative elections and asked people to follow the news from the official news and bases. Propaganda was made and COVID_19 has become a keyword for enemies.

For the first time on Wednesday February 19, 2020, the official news of the arrival of COVID_19 in Iran coincided with the announcement of the death of two inhabitants of Qom by president of Qom University of Medical Sciences. A day earlier, the public relations of the same Qom University of Medical Sciences released a statement and confidently denied the news of the death of two patients with respiratory complications by COVID_19.  The interval of these two pieces of news release was less than 20 hours. While the expression of the first statement was very definitive, but 20 hours later, the head of the university declared: “Peak respiratory diseases within the last three days” has caused the possibility of having COVID_19 to be investigated.

The first official report of the COVID_19 about the death of two patients in Iran lasted a few hours, and on March 2, Iran allocated the highest victims after China. Also, distance between reports of the incidence of this disease and deaths of people in other countries show a lot more time (for example, Hong Kong 13 days, Italy 21 days and South Korea 29 days). By the day of March 9, Canada, Lebanon, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, Oman, Pakistan, Georgia, China, Estonia, New Zealand, Belarus, Britain and Azerbaijan have identified people with the COVID_19, who have come from Iran. The statistics which had presented, have provoked many questions. If COVID_19 has long been already an outbreak in Iran. was the Anniversary of the Islamic Revolution and 2020 Iranian legislative election the reason behind the fact that regime deliberately declined to announce the COVID-19?Are the announced statistics of patients and victims transparent and correct? Why in dealing with an epidemic (a pandemic) disease, government adopted a strict security policy?

The people in Tehran survey shows common hints apart from their different behaviors in dealing with the COVID-19 disease including: Declaring false statistics, the number of patients is much higher and COVID-19 was earlier than what has been officially announced.

For example, 37_year_old Ramin, a bank employee, while has wearing a face mask and gloves when speaking about COVID_19 expressing his anger and upset, said: “when you live in a country, an authority said confidently something and tomorrow would say the opposite. What you think. It is clear. Always repeats a text. The virus would not have been spread if it had been announced earlier and they had given the right information. They didn’t take it seriously.”

Sarah is a 22_year_old computer student while she had no face mask, says: there is no way! All they know is slogans, not human health! why a disease should be hidden! Why Everything in our society should be hidden. There is no trust left.

Elderly men and women say: They should have announced it earlier, the death rate is much higher, but they don’t tell the truth.

45 years old Javad who works in the market while laughing says: No matter when we die, we will go whenever God wills but Islamic Governance is the means!

Antagonist’s role in Iran’s crisis

Before and after COVID_19 was officially announced, the propaganda of the government was the same, advertising war and martyrdom project. A forever necessary response that crises are related to the enemy not to decisions. It seems a common keyword of all crises! This term has also been raised by Supreme Leader, Religious and Appointed Officials, government officials from the president to the officials of Ministry of Health and Medical Education and The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). for example, we can refer to a part of the 20:30 news report, “Corona panic …” on Feb. 26th. The report says Corona is a code name for overseas media outlets to spread Corona phobia and to bring about unsolidarity in Iran. It aired the day before the first death was announced. It seemed governance structure is really looking for a conspiracy theory and enemy footprints and this is a key factor in their decisions. And in this situation, efficiency and transparency give way to security issues. From Feb. 19, 2020, the Islamic Republic of Iran acknowledged that there was a COVID_19, and by February 22, when the government announced that the coronavirus was outbreaking, how to deal with it can be called a propaganda of advertising war and secrecy.

In all layers of the Iranian Government, before acknowledging it was called as “COVID_19 Panic project” and after that “the sympathy mask of the enemies”. The propaganda known as advertising war, is an identical keyword that has always been heard in all natural crises such as earthquakes, floods, human crises, etc. in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This keyword would be found in all kinds of the crises during the 40 years, and the enemy has always tried to sign the inefficiency of the system, and we should not let the enemy get happy.

“The COVID_19 virus is our enemy effort to reduce the participation in 2020 Iranian legislative election” said Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran. And “it is the political propaganda of the enemy” and after outbreaking, “it is the sympathy mask of the enemies” said President Hassan Rouhani. “

” How much they worked against people’s participation in the elections…. In the end, the disease [Covid_19] was a good excuse. On Thursday night, the night before the election, the news of this virus and the disease was heard in Qom, for instance, [Enemy] started advertising at dawn on Thursday that ‘don’t go to the polls; never stand in the line of voting …., there is a disease, there is a virus, let’s see. That means, they used the least opportunity, and they didn’t let it waste even a few hours; immediately they began to say and permanently emphasized” Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, on the first official comment after the 2020 Iranian legislative election.

In this speech in Qom, Ali Khamenei said that the disease was a “good excuse,” and then pointed out that the enemy was going to reduce the participation in the election by exploiting the opportunity. He accused the opponents of the Islamic system of exploiting COVID_19’s virus opportunity and bringing down the participation of the people.

Ali Khamenei, in particular, pointed to the city of Qom and said the city was one of the densest election constituencies. And the participation in parliamentary elections in Qom was a 43percentturnout of voters. At the same time, Qom was the center for the outbreak of COVID_19 virus in Iran. Regardless of the main problem and the daily crisis of the people namely Covid_19 outbreak, he sought to extract the intended meaning from another crisis namely the nation’s commitment to the Islamic system. COVID_19 virus is important but after expressing Islamic commitment.

On the contrary, he said with a cheerful look: “The people of Qom went to the polls with no concern for the Corona virus and thanked them.

On the other hands, there were the chief custodian and trustee actions of Fatima Masumeh Shrine in Qom which took a different path in the face of the Corona crisis.They did not give much credit to the provincial Security Council approvals and the Ministry of Health and Medical Education instructions. Ayatollah Saeedi, asthe chief custodian of the shrine and Qom Imam of Friday Prayerand Khamenei’s representative, dismissed the Ministry of Health and Medical Education ‘s concerns as irrelevant and he cited Corona as political issue and enemy conspiracy to make Qom unsafe and he pointed out that the enemy will take that wish to the grave. As a result of this opposition, despite the closure of schools and universities in Qom, the shrine of Fatima Masume has the largest community center and public space of the city, remained open. Eventually this led to declaring because of opposition of the provincial Security Council and Crisis Management Headquarters, the shrine has not been closed.

Creating Ambiguity as a Task and Institutional Alignment

If we assume a powerful political, military or security entity for any reason has felt that COVID-19 outbreaking should not be made public at this time, or at least with delayed release. So what is the duty of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education? Maybe officially a tool to serve such a purpose that’s mean a participation in secrecy and sometimes inaccurate disclosure or at least it should be part of the strategy of ambiguity as the official reference in the COVID_19. It should be a tool to implement this task in a professional and international manner to be more believable for the audience. It seems that there is a structural work division between all governmental entities when dealing with crises in order to obscure the information and then remove from the people`s mind.

In general, what is the inherent nature of such institutions of the republic in Islamic system? Given the crisis or the system needs, it is the channel for the implementation of the demands of the Islamic system and move on the path of Islamic structure and it becomes an indispensable, inseparable, indivisible and legitimizing part of it.

And such citizenship rights are defined under the banner of the Islamic system. A clear, unambiguous and consistent definition. In other words, there are no parallel structures in the Islamic Republic but republic structures have the task of adapting to the Islamic system. And, if necessary, act as a tool for Islamic revolutionary demands and play the role of catalyst for such powerful upstream and religious entities under institutions of the republic. Accordingly, there is a particular behavioral framework in dealing with various crises and political events where propaganda and the creation of ambiguity in reality fully comprehensive and systematic manner plays a key role for restoring normality and Stability of Islamic governance structure. And institutions of the republic are considered one of its executive arms and collective values are of secondary importance and the status and value of the people are measured by the expediency of the Islamic system. Where republican system and communal values come from the help of the Islamic system and depending on the circumstances, it will be used for excellent Islamic revolutionary purposes and will respond to crises and this is how the top_down institutional alignment and not parallel, is formed.

*Regional Planning Department, Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran

Visiting Professor of School of Public Administration, University of Victoria, Victoria BC, Canada and assistant prof of Buein Zahra Tech Uni., Qazvin, Iran

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Middle East

Process to draft Syria constitution begins this week



The process of drafting a new constitution for Syria will begin this week, the UN Special Envoy for the country, Geir Pedersen, said on Sunday at a press conference in Geneva.

Mr. Pedersen was speaking following a meeting with the government and opposition co-chairs of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, who have agreed to start the process for constitutional reform.

The members of its so-called “small body”, tasked with preparing and drafting the Constitution, are in the Swiss city for their sixth round of talks in two years, which begin on Monday. 

Their last meeting, held in January, ended without progress, and the UN envoy has been negotiating between the parties on a way forward.

“The two Co-Chairs now agree that we will not only prepare for constitutional reform, but we will prepare and start drafting for constitutional reform,” Mr. Pedersen told journalists.

“So, the new thing this week is that we will actually be starting a drafting process for constitutional reform in Syria.”

The UN continues to support efforts towards a Syrian-owned and led political solution to end more than a decade of war that has killed upwards of 350,000 people and left 13 million in need of humanitarian aid.

An important contribution

The Syrian Constitutional Committee was formed in 2019, comprising 150 men and women, with the Government, the opposition and civil society each nominating 50 people.

This larger group established the 45-member small body, which consists of 15 representatives from each of the three sectors.

For the first time ever, committee co-chairs Ahmad Kuzbari, the Syrian government representative, and Hadi al-Bahra, from the opposition side, met together with Mr. Pedersen on Sunday morning. 

He described it as “a substantial and frank discussion on how we are to proceed with the constitutional reform and indeed in detail how we are planning for the week ahead of us.”

Mr. Pedersen told journalists that while the Syrian Constitutional Committee is an important contribution to the political process, “the committee in itself will not be able to solve the Syrian crisis, so we need to come together, with serious work, on the Constitutional Committee, but also address the other aspects of the Syrian crisis.”

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Middle East

North Africa: Is Algeria Weaponizing Airspace and Natural Gas?



In a series of shocking and unintelligible decisions, the Algerian Government closed its airspace to Moroccan military and civilian aircraft on September 22, 2021, banned French military planes from using its airspace on October 3rd, and decided not to renew the contract relative to the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline, which goes through Morocco and has been up and running since 1996–a contract that comes to end on October 31.

In the case of Morocco, Algeria advanced ‘provocations and hostile’ actions as a reason to shut airspace and end the pipeline contract, a claim that has yet to be substantiated with evidence. Whereas in the case of France, Algeria got angry regarding visa restrictions and comments by French President Emmanuel Macron on the Algerian military grip on power and whether the North African country was a nation prior to French colonization in 1830.

Tensions for decades

Algeria has had continued tensions with Morocco for decades, over border issues and over the Western Sahara, a territory claimed by Morocco as part of its historical territorial unity, but contested by Algeria which supports an alleged liberation movement that desperately fights for independence since the 1970s.

With France, the relation is even more complex and plagued with memories of colonial exactions and liberation and post-colonial traumas, passions and injuries. France and Algeria have therefore developed, over the post-independence decades, a love-hate attitude that quite often mars otherwise strong economic and social relations.

Algeria has often reacted to the two countries’ alleged ‘misbehavior’ by closing borders –as is the case with Morocco since 1994—or calling its ambassadors for consultations, or even cutting diplomatic relations, as just happened in August when it cut ties with its western neighbor.

But it is the first-time Algeria resorts to the weaponization of energy and airspace. “Weaponization” is a term used in geostrategy to mean the use of goods and commodities, that are mainly destined for civilian use and are beneficial for international trade and the welfare of nations, for geostrategic, political and even military gains. As such “weaponization” is contrary to the spirit of free trade, open borders, and solidarity among nations, values that are at the core of common international action and positive globalization.

What happened?

Some observers advance continued domestic political and social unrest in Algeria, whereby thousands of Algerians have been taking to the streets for years to demand regime-change and profound political and economic reforms. Instead of positively responding to the demands of Algerians, the government is probably looking for desperate ways to divert attention and cerate foreign enemies as sources of domestic woes. Morocco and France qualify perfectly for the role of national scapegoats.

It may be true also that in the case of Morocco, Algeria is getting nervous at its seeing its Western neighbor become a main trade and investment partner in Africa, a role it can levy to develop diplomatic clout regarding the Western Sahara issue. Algeria has been looking for ways to curb Morocco’s growing influence in Africa for years. A pro-Algerian German expert, by the name of Isabelle Werenfels, a senior fellow in the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, even recommended to the EU to put a halt to Morocco’s pace and economic clout so that Algeria could catch up. Weaponization may be a desperate attempt to hurt the Moroccan economy and curb its dynamism, especially in Africa.

The impact of Algeria’s weaponization of energy and airspace on the Moroccan economy is minimal and on French military presence in Mali is close to insignificant; however, it shows how far a country that has failed to administer the right reforms and to transfer power to democratically elected civilians can go.

In a region, that is beleaguered by threats and challenges of terrorism, organized crime, youth bulge, illegal migration and climate change, you would expect countries like Algeria, with its geographic extension and oil wealth, to be a beacon of peace and cooperation. Weaponization in international relations is inacceptable as it reminds us of an age when bullying and blackmail between nations, was the norm. The people of the two countries, which share the same history, language and ethnic fabric, will need natural gas and unrestricted travel to prosper and grow and overcome adversity; using energy and airspace as weapons is at odds with the dreams of millions of young people in Algeria and Morocco that aspire for a brighter future in an otherwise gloomy economic landscape. Please don’t shatter those dreams!

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Middle East

Breaking The Line of the Israel-Palestine Conflict



The conflict between Israel-Palestine is a prolonged conflict and has become a major problem, especially in the Middle East region.

A series of ceasefires and peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine that occurred repeatedly did not really “normalize” the relationship between the two parties.

In order to end the conflict, a number of parties consider that the two-state solution is the best approach to create two independent and coexistent states. Although a number of other parties disagreed with the proposal, and instead proposed a one-state solution, combining Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip into one big state.

Throughout the period of stalemate reaching an ideal solution, the construction and expansion of settlements carried out illegally by Israel in the Palestinian territories, especially the West Bank and East Jerusalem, also continued without stopping and actually made the prospect of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis increasingly eroded, and this could jeopardize any solutions.

The attempted forced eviction in the Sheikh Jarrah district, which became one of the sources of the conflict in May 2021, for example, is an example of how Israel has designed a system to be able to change the demographics of its territory by continuing to annex or “occupy” extensively in the East Jerusalem area. This is also done in other areas, including the West Bank.

In fact, Israel’s “occupation” of the eastern part of Jerusalem which began at the end of the 1967 war, is an act that has never received international recognition.

This is also confirmed in a number of resolutions issued by the UN Security Council Numbers 242, 252, 267, 298, 476, 478, 672, 681, 692, 726, 799, 2334 and also United Nations General Assembly Resolutions Number 2253, 55/130, 60/104, 70/89, 71/96, A/72/L.11 and A/ES-10/L.22 and supported by the Advisory Opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004 on Legal Consequences of The Construction of A Wall in The Occupied Palestine Territory which states that East Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian territories under Israeli “occupation”.

1 or 2 country solution

Back to the issue of the two-state solution or the one-state solution that the author mentioned earlier. The author considers that the one-state solution does not seem to be the right choice.

Facts on the ground show how Israel has implemented a policy of “apartheid” that is so harsh against Palestinians. so that the one-state solution will further legitimize the policy and make Israel more dominant. In addition, there is another consideration that cannot be ignored that Israel and Palestine are 2 parties with very different and conflicting political and cultural identities that are difficult to reconcile.

Meanwhile, the idea of ​​a two-state solution is an idea that is also difficult to implement. Because the idea still seems too abstract, especially on one thing that is very fundamental and becomes the core of the Israel-Palestine conflict, namely the “division” of territory between Israel and Palestine.

This is also what makes it difficult for Israel-Palestine to be able to break the line of conflict between them and repeatedly put them back into the status quo which is not a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The status quo, is in fact a way for Israel to continue to “annex” more Palestinian territories by establishing widespread and systematic illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Today, more than 600,000 Israeli settlers now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In fact, a number of resolutions issued by the UN Security Council have explicitly and explicitly called for Israel to end the expansion of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied territory and require recognition of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the region.

Thus, all efforts and actions of Israel both legislatively and administratively that can cause changes in the status and demographic composition in East Jerusalem and the West Bank must continue to be condemned. Because this is a violation of the provisions of international law.

Fundamental thing

To find a solution to the conflict, it is necessary to look back at the core of the conflict that the author has mentioned earlier, and the best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to encourage Israel to immediately end the “occupation” that it began in 1967, and return the settlements to the pre-Islamic borders 1967 In accordance with UN Security Council resolution No. 242.

But the question is, who can stop the illegal Israeli settlements in the East Jerusalem and West Bank areas that violate the Palestinian territories?

In this condition, international political will is needed from countries in the world, to continue to urge Israel to comply with the provisions of international law, international humanitarian law, international human rights law and also the UN Security Council Resolutions.

At the same time, the international community must be able to encourage the United Nations, especially the United Nations Security Council, as the organ that has the main responsibility for maintaining and creating world peace and security based on Article 24 of the United Nations Charter to take constructive and effective steps in order to enforce all United Nations Resolutions, and dare to sanction violations committed by Israel, and also ensure that Palestinian rights are important to protect.

So, do not let this weak enforcement of international law become an external factor that also “perpetuates” the cycle of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It will demonstrate that John Austin was correct when he stated that international law is only positive morality and not real law.

And in the end, the most fundamental thing is that the blockade, illegal development, violence, and violations of international law must end. Because the ceasefire in the Israel-Palestine conflict is only a temporary solution to the conflict.

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