Some politicians in the West insist that Iran deserves a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund because of the coronavirus crisis. However, Iran's Health Minister Sa'id Namaki says Tehran was never short of "whatever needed" to cope with the coronavirus pandemic or cover other medical needs. (Photo by Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)
With the Khomeinist regime once again in deep trouble, the usual suspects launch a campaign to portray the Islamic Republic as victim and US President Donald Trump as oppressor.
Slowly the blame is shifting from the mullahs to the Trump administration as the debate is redirected to tackle the hypothetical question of US military action rather than the Islamic Republic's real misdeeds.
"No War on Iran" placards are appearing where "No wars by Iran" would make more sense.
The attempt at fabricating another "cause" with which to bash America is backed by the claim that the mullahs are behaving badly because Trump refuses to talk to them, although he has repeatedly said he is prepared to talk anywhere, anytime.
Eleven Democratic senators have written to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling for an end to "maximum pressure" which, with no evidence, they claim is the chief, if not the only, source of Islamic Republic's sorry state today.
For his part, the Democratic Party's presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden has called for the US to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the witches' brew that President Barack Obama dished out to bypass international law and the US Congress.
Those calling for the lifting of sanctions offer four arguments.
Some insist that Tehran deserves help because of the coronavirus crisis.
Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California) says we cannot let people die by preventing Tehran from securing a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) because of a US veto.
The fact that Tehran's application is still under study by the IMF and that no US veto has been cast is ignored. The lobby supporting Tehran wants the mullahs to be exempt from even routine banking rules. Their message is: Give the mullahs cash and ask no questions!
However, Khomeinist leaders say loud and clear that they don't need any outside help to deal with the coronavirus and that, on the contrary, they are giving aid to anyone who asks for it. President Hassan Rouhani says that the Islamic Republic has already helped a dozen countries, among them the People's Republic of China. Tehran has also given assistance to the Mayor of London Saddiq Khan, a Muslim, to cope with the coronavirus in a city where Muslims form a substantial portion of the population.
Islamic Health Minister Sa'id Namaki says Tehran was never short of "whatever needed" to cope with the virus or cover other medical needs.
Surena Sattari, Rouhani's aide for technology, says the Islamic Republic is producing "all equipment needed at a fraction of the cost in Western countries".
Fars News Agency, run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), reports that Iran is exporting coronavirus testing kits, masks and other equipment to a dozen countries. Rouhani throws in the tantalizing tale that Iran may be the first to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, ahead of the American "Great Stan" and the Israeli "Little Satan."
Last March, Tehran arrested and expelled a team of Doctors Without Borders, who came from France to fight the coronavirus.
In other words, the Islamic Republic doesn't need medical and technical help; it needs crisp greenbacks that could be spent on Hezbollah, Bashar al-Assad, the Popular Mobilization Forces, the Houthis, Hamas and other members of the "Resistance Front". And, then, not to forget the $100 million Tehran has allocated for lobbyists in the US.
The second argument is that if Tehran is pressed too hard, it may renounce the JCPOA and even exit from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).
The answer to that is: So what?
The JCPOA has already been violated by all participants. Tehran has officially suspended complying with some key parts. The US, under Obama, was committed to buy Iran's stock of plutonium through Westinghouse, a company that went bust; but never did. Russia was committed to buying Iran's stock of uranium enriched up to 20% but stopped doing so after only half was shipped out. China was committed to re-design and recommission the nuclear plant in Arak. But five years later it hasn't, clinging to flimsy excuses. Britain, France and Germany, were committed to help Iran revive its foreign trade and gain access to capital markets. So far, however, they have only arranged a $7 million package for Iran to buy medical supplies it claims it doesn't need.
A "deal" that none of its participants respects seems to be more of a confidence-trick than genuine diplomacy.
As for the Islamic Republic leaving, or with some shenanigans, half-leaving, the NPT, the "so what" mentioned above could be repeated more loudly.
If the mullahs wish to develop a nuclear arsenal they would not be stopped by JCPOA and/or NPT. Nor would possession of a nuclear arsenal ultimately save their weird system.
The old Soviet Union had enough nuclear weapons to destroy planet earth 22 times over, and, yet, it collapsed under the weight of its contradictions without opponents firing a shot.
The mullahs have used the nuclear blackmail to confuse adversaries.
On the one hand they say they will never make a bomb because it is "haram" (forbidden). On the other they imply unless they are helped to pursue their misdeeds they would do just that.
In other words, they say: Reward me for not doing what I never wanted to do anyway!
The reward they want, and people like Senator Feinstein seem ready to provide, is to get a free hand in building an ideological empire as a springboard for "exporting" revolution. In the end, either Iran must become like the rest of the Middle East or the rest of the Middle East must become like the Islamic Republic.
The third argument is that the embargo imposed by the United Nations on sales of arms to Iran will end in October and, unless "maximum pressure" is eased; the mullahs may rush to buy weapons.
That argument, too, is hollow. Who is going to sell them arms?
Hopefully, not the US, or France and Britain. Russia may. But even then, Russia has always looked for a weak Iran on its doorstep. President Vladimir Putin sold Tehran an air defense system for $800 million but delivered the obsolete version of S-300, keeping the upgraded version for India and Turkey, among others.
Even then, where would Tehran find the money?
Unable to sell oil even at current low prices, the mullahs won't have much to spend on arms. China, of course, could, and because it sits on $22 billion of Iran's frozen assets, it might not face payment problems. But switching to Chinese arms might require years of redesigning Iran's defense doctrine when the current regime's survival policy is internally challenged on a day to day basis.
The fourth argument is that unless Trump yields, the mullahs might produce an "October Surprise", just days before voting, to derail his re-election, by testing a nuclear device or capturing some American hostages or even seizing a US Navy vessel in the Strait of Hormuz.
Well, that is what a "think tank" in Brussels is peddling, with a nod and a wink from "The New York Boys" in Tehran.
Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987. He is the Chairman of Gatestone Europe.
This article was originally published by Asharq al-Awsat and is reprinted by kind permission of the author.