As the Iranian regime struggles to maintain its legitimacy following one of the most challenging quarters in its 40-year history, it has added another longstanding enemy of the Iranian people to its list of parties responsible for the coronavirus outbreak that has killed thousands (officially 233) in the country.
That enemy? Israel and the Jews.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Iran’s Press TV, the regime's English-language propaganda network, has been pushing antisemitic conspiracies about the coronavirus in order to distract from Tehran’s abject mishandling of the outbreak, which has killed at least two lawmakers and several senior government officials.
Somehow, by sheer luck, perhaps, President Rouhani and the Ayatollah have avoided infection despite reports about contacts with sick officials in their government.
Given that these failings are coming just weeks after the regime embarrassed itself in front of the world by shooting down a passenger plane packed with students, it's perhaps unsurprising that in their desperation, the regime is appealing to the people's most base impulses.
Over the last several days, Iran has pushed reports claiming that "Zionists" created the coronavirus. As evidence, Press TV cited an article from the same anti-semitic website that once published an article - widely distributed in Iran - about how America's Jewish population is responsible for the country's wars in the Middle East.
On March 5, Press TV claimed that “Zionist elements developed deadlier strain of coronavirus against Iran.” Although the report claimed to reference a foreign “academic,” it fits the pattern of Iran using foreign experts to give the regime’s own views a sense of authority. The agenda of Tehran has been three-fold since the coronavirus outbreak began to affect Iran in mid-February. Iran initially denied that there was a virus outbreak in February so that it could increase voter turnout on February 21.
A few weeks back, after several government officials were infected, the Iranian regime latched on to Chinese propaganda 'conspiracies' claiming the US invented the virus and unleashed it as a 'bioweapon' against its adversaries.
However the IRGC had other ideas. Its leader Hossein Salami began telling people that the virus was “biological warfare” derived from the US. “We are now dealing with a biological war,” he said on March 5. He argued it “may be the product of American biological warfare.” The IRGC’s narrative qquickly became Press TV’s talking point. An article on the homepage on March 8 links to the claim that not only is the US waging “biological warfare” but also cites an article that argues Israel is behind the virus. According to this article, a “former CIA officer” has argued that “the US and Israel are working together.” The same source that Iran’s Press TV relied on for its March 8 article is the same website in the US that once published an article claiming “America’s Jews are driving America’s wars.” That article was tweeted by another former CIA member Valerie Plame in 2017. She is now seeking to run for Congress even though her chances hit a setback on March 7 at a pre-primary convention. Iran’s Press TV relies on the same antisemitic rantings for its articles today about coronavirus.
Unfortunately, these made-up stories are mostly a sign of desperation.