Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
March 23, 2020
“I also want to call attention to the Iranian regime’s misinformation campaign surrounding the origination of the Wuhan virus. Instead of focusing on the needs of the Iranian people and accepting genuine offers of support, senior Iranians lied about the Wuhan virus outbreak for weeks.”
The Iranian leadership is trying to avoid responsibility for their grossly incompetent and deadly governance. Sadly, the Iranian people have been suffering these kinds of lies for 41 years. They know the truth: The Wuhan virus is a killer and the Iranian regime is an accomplice.”
-Secretary Pompeo, Remarks to the Press March 17, 2020
- Iran’s lack of transparency about its coronavirus outbreak has resulted in a catastrophic public health risk to the Iranian people, as well as to Iran’s neighbors.
- Instead of halting flights to China when the risk of contagion was clear, the regime threatened and imprisoned dozens of Iranians who told the truth about the outbreak. The regime encouraged large public gatherings to try to bolster its legitimacy, with no regard for the health risk to Iranian citizens.
- The regime is hiding a significant amount of information about the coronavirus outbreak. It is likely far worse that the regime is admitting. This lack of transparency poses a significant health risk to the Iranian people, as well as to Iran’s neighbors.
- Reports that COVID-19 has spread to Iranian prisons are deeply troubling and demand nothing less than the full and immediate release of all American citizens. Their detention amid increasingly deteriorating conditions poses a serious health risk and undermines their basic human dignity.
- The United States has and continues to offer humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people to help address the coronavirus outbreak. It is unfortunate for the Iranian people that their government has rejected this offer. Our priority has been to stand with the Iranian people – and this offer is still on the table.
- U.S. sanctions are not preventing aid from getting to Iran. The United States maintains broad authorizations that allow for the sale of food, agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices by U.S persons or from the United States to Iran.
- The media should know better than to believe and propagate Chinese and Russian propaganda that misleads the public into believing U.S. sanctions are to blame.
- Now, regime officials make false claims that the U.S. engineered the virus – focusing their time and resources attempting to deflect blame instead of taking responsibility and providing for the health, prosperity, and rights of Iranians, who deserve far better.
- For years, the Iranian regime has prioritized its proxies over the Iranian people and stolen the money the Iranian people deserve and expect to go for their healthcare. In July 2019, one billion euros intended for medical supplies “disappeared” and another $170 million dollars allocated for medical goods were instead spent on tobacco. Since 2012, the regime has spent over $16 billion on terror abroad – the Iranian people know that any sanctions relief would go to sponsor terrorist, not humanitarian activities.
- If regime officials are looking for funds to combat the outbreak, they can start by returning money they stole from the Iranian people. Supreme Leader Khamenei runs a hedge fund worth tens of billions of dollars, much of which was “earned” by confiscating resources from the Iranian people.
DISINFORMATION AND MISMANAGEMENT
- Instead of taking appropriate precautions against the spread of COVID-19, Iran’s terrorist airline, Mahan Air, operated at least 55 flights between Tehran and China in February, according to public reports.
- On February 10, Deputy Health Minsiter Ali-Reza Raisi told reporters: “I declare that there are no cases of coronavirus in the country and our citizens should only follow news released by the Health Ministry on the coronavirus.” The same day, a 63-year-old Iranian woman died from the coronavirus.
- The Iranian regime only admitted that coronavirus had entered Iran on February 19,nine days after the first reported death.
- On March 5, the head of Iran’s cyber police announced the arrest of 121 Iranians for “spreading rumors” about the coronavirus. The regime also reportedly threatened medical staff against revealing accurate statistics of coronavirus cases and deaths.
- In March, the head of the IRGC, Hossein Salami, claimed the spread of COVID-19 in Iran might be due to a U.S. biological attack, and an advisor to the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament claimed coronavirus was being used as biological warfare by the United States.
- On March 12, Ayatollah Khamenei falsely claimed that there is evidence that COVID-19 might be a “biological attack.”
- On March 17, Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif falsely claimed U.S. sanctions are killing Iranian “innocents” with its sanctions. He failed to note the Department of State has offered aid through Switzerland dating back to February.
- The Chinese Foreign Ministry has also falsely accused the United States of hampering Iran’s epidemic by not lifting sanctions. In fact, on February 28, the Department of State offered aid to specifically address the spread of COVID-19 in Iran, an offer that was conveyed to Iran through the government of Switzerland and rejected by the regime.