Political Polarization During a Humanitarian Crisis; What American – Chinese Conflict Means for Iran



Although China has aided Iran the most in fighting the coronavirus, some seek to use this humanitarian crisis for political gains by increasing the polarization between America and China.

According to the Tasnim News Agency, COVID-19 has gripped the world for a while now and has infected a considerable number of people. The sheer speed at which it spreads and the unclear behavior of this virus have caused social and economic difficulties, posing a challenge for many countries.

China was the first country to be affected by the novel coronavirus, and after several months, has been able to contain this stubborn disease. Yesterday for the first time, the country did not report any deaths from COVID-19. Other countries, including many in the West, have criticized China without knowing all the facts, while they themselves have been stricken by the coronavirus. The situation is such that hearts are breaking from the East to the West upon hearing the news of victims young and old.

Besides posing a health care and sanitation challenge for countries, the coronavirus has raised serious questions about the international order, the governance of world powers, and the quality of their response to this crisis. The fact that some non-Western countries have had more success against a global pandemic than those in the West has astonished and surprised the Western world. These days, intellectual circles are beginning to question the future of Western liberalism and the fact that such a system, when confronted with a humanitarian crisis, was not as effective as systems in Asian countries. COVID-19, in addition to being a medical crisis, is a warning bell for the economic and political systems of the West.

Amid this chaos, the issue the West currently faces is how to justify these circumstances. It seems that at least for now, the West is attempting to avoid embarrassment by weakening the power of Eastern countries with accusations of Chinese cover-ups and inaction. But the facts tell a different story. When it comes to the coronavirus, China is several steps ahead of the West, and has nearly brought the virus under control. On an international level, China has behaved more responsibly than the U.S. While China was sending its own aid shipments to nations around the world, including those in the West, Western countries, particularly the U.S., were snatching masks from its own allies. Can we really be expected to trust the narrative and judgment of a country that unethically stole another nation’s aid shipments off the tarmac? Such behavior coupled with current conditions is so unreasonable and unjustifiable that the West has been left with no choice but to push anti-Chinese sentiment.

At the same time, accusations from Western officials and media outlets have not only been directed at China. From the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, many in Western media and governments described the epidemic with so much excitement it seemed they were nearly overjoyed. President Donald Trump, who repeatedly spoke derogatorily about the spread in Iran, has not only refused to help Iran, but has also tried to block international aid to Iran through a new round of sanctions and threats to other countries.

Tom Tugendhat, who has served as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the British Parliament, today accused Iran, Russia and China saying, “Rather than helping other countries prepare a swift and strong response, it is increasingly apparent that they manipulated vital information about the virus in order to protect the regime’s image.”

The question is why Western officials assume that their interpretation is correct. Is it because when they speak from London or Washington, their statements are automatically true? In fact, these statements, along with their choice of suspects, plainly show that they see humanitarian crises as political games. Naturally, if we are talking about inaction and cover-ups, other countries are also involved whose situation is far worse than that of Iran, Russia and China. So why do they only talk about these countries? At least China, instead of stealing masks, has tried to help other countries out of this crisis.

On Saturday, Mohammad Keshavarz-Zadeh, the Iranian ambassador to China, tweeted, “So far 28 flights carrying government and public aid from the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou have been sent to our country. The attached chart shows that 10 million masks, 500,000 Coronavirus test kits, 300,000 surgeon’s gowns and isolation suits, 2,200,000 pairs of gloves, 350 ventilators, 500 assembled hospital rooms and many types of medicine and hospital equipment” among the aid items China sent to Iran.

Recent statements by Kianoush Jahanpour, spokesman for Iran’s anti-coronavirus headquarters, caused an uproar among many parties and media outlets both inside Iran and abroad. Jahanpour later corrected his remarks, and thanked China for its aid. Shortly afterward, Abbas Mousavi, spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Department, also thanked China for its help in combating the coronavirus.

But over the past few days, a “bitter joke” has become the keyword for attacking relations between Tehran and Beijing, which have become stronger than ever because of current circumstances surrounding the coronavirus. Public opinion is forming on the basis of personal suspicions. Perhaps some have become anti-China because of their own ignorance or from the influence of media propaganda, but it seems that others have their own goals and agendas in mind.

By engineering such a standoff, the West is attempting to save face after recent transitions. Accordingly, baseless and unfounded attacks against China are just another part of the game. Furthermore, many are trying to disrupt the relationship between Iran and China and have simply found a way to justify that cause politically. By breaking up relations between Iran and China, the U.S. is trying to back up its policy of “maximum pressure” against Iran and cut off any remaining lifelines in order to force Iran into one-sided negotiations. Even many within Iran from across the political spectrum are trying to set up “polarization of America and China” as the basis for kicking off new negotiations with Washington.

Whatever their intentions, the outcome is the same: a cruel politics-focused outlook on a humanitarian crisis. Shutting off relations with the country that has provided the most aid against the coronavirus would represent political gain caused by playing with innocent people’s lives. At the same time, the coronavirus has disrupted many lives and left thousands scarred, and we cannot let ourselves further American sanctions in worsening the situation through self-imposed isolationism.

At the same time, we must be careful to avoid sinophilia. Nobody here should go out of their way to defend China, but the most essential thing right now is to be optimistic and to be on the side of people’s lives and best interests. In our coronavirus-stricken world, where the U.S. is attempting to bring about more suffering upon Iranians because of its political motives, the only option is to find new and alternative ways to allow people to breathe freely.

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