Iranian officials stole more than $1 billion meant for fighting coronavirus pandemic, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said, according to various reports. The comment came in the backdrop of sabre-rattling between Iran and the US over who was behind the spread of the coronavirus.
"Regime officials stole over a billion euros intended for medical supplies, and continue to hoard desperately needed masks, gloves, and other medical equipment for sale on the black market," Pompeo said on Monday, according to Washington Examiner.
Alongside the fight to push back the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 15,000 people across the world, a perception battle has also been raging. China has successfully pushed back against the world referring to the coronavirus as Chinese virus or Wuhan virus, but US President Donald Trump has repeatedly used the word 'Chinese virus' to refer to the Covid-19 epidemic.
In return, a top Chinese foreign ministry official said last week US soldiers might have brought the coronavirus to Wuhan in 2019, a charge the US has rubbished.
Geopolitical and ideological affiliations
"When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be the US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!" China's foreign ministry spokesperson Lijian Zhao tweeted.
The blame game over coronavirus then slowly advanced, with nations taking positions based on geopolitical and ideological affiliations. Iran and Russia stood on the side of China, amplifying conspiracy theories that put the blame on the US.
"You Americans are accused of having created the coronavirus," Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said this week. "You could be giving medicines that spread the virus. ... You could be sending a medicine that causes the virus to remain permanently so that it won't go away."- he added.
Pompeo, responding to the allegation, said that Iran was more interested in waging an ideological warfare instead of fighting coronavirus. Pompeo said the Iranian regime ignored repeated warnings from its own health officials, and denied its first death from the coronavirus for at least nine days. The government is lying to the Iranian people and the world about the number of cases and deaths, Pompeo added.
Pompeo targets Mahan Air
"In February, Iran's chief terror airline, Mahan Air, ran at least 55 flights between Tehran and China, further infecting the Iranian people," said Pompeo. "At least five foreign countries' first cases of coronavirus were directly imported from Iran, putting millions more lives at risk," Pompeo added according to JNS. [JNS is Jewish News Syndicate].
Conspiracy theorists had postulated early on that the virus was leaked from a lab in Wuhan where China was allegedly making bioweapons. The World Health Organization, however, concluded that the virus originated in Wuhan and that the earliest cases were linked to a "zoonotic source" at the Huanan Seafood Market.
The State Department made available documents that showed that billions in humanitarian funds were misused by Iran. This includes millions of dollars Iran used in late 2019 to buy tobacco instead of medical supplies, the Washington Freebeacon reported.
"Supreme leader Khamenei's fabrications regarding the Wuhan virus are dangerous and they put Iranians and people around the world at greater risk... Facts matter," Pompeo added.