March 4 (UPI) -- Niccolò Machiavelli famously said, "Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception." The Iranian regime are clearly keen scholars of Machiavelli, having mastered the art of using both force and deception.
They are prolific liars. The theocratic regime's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, lied when one of his diplomats from the Iranian Embassy in Vienna was arrested for handing over a 500gm bomb to two sleepers and ordering them to detonate it at a huge opposition rally in Paris in June 2018. Zarif claimed it was a "false flag" attempt to smear his government.
The mullahs lied about bomb attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Hormuz, despite filmed evidence that showed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps personnel removing a limpet mine that had failed to explode from the hull of a tanker. They lied about launching missile strikes on Saudi oil installations.
The high point of the regime's flagrant dishonesty was surely reached when they lied about shooting down the Ukrainian airliner, killing 176. They maintained this horrible deception for days, until it became so blatantly obvious from filmed evidence that they had been responsible that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself had to order a climb-down, and the truth finally emerged.
With such a rich history of double-dealing and duplicity, it should come as no surprise to learn that they are lying about the escalating threat of the coronavirus, COVID-19, which has spread to all 31 of Iran's provinces. The mullahs are claiming that fewer than 50 people have died and only 500 have contracted the disease. In fact, based on reports from inside Iran, resistance units of the main opposition MEK announced Tuesday that the number of deaths due to coronavirus is over 20 times that number, exceeding 1,200.
These clumsy attempts at cover-up and deception are aimed at hiding the fact that the mullahs' regime failed to take any effective preventive measures to deal with the spread of the virus, including the quarantine of cities where the virus was raging. Until only a few days ago, it had also refused to halt flights to China. The IRGC's Mahan Air flights continued until Feb. 28. To justify the continuing flights, the regime claimed it was transferring virus detection kits from China to Tehran.
The truth is that the IRGC is channeling most available medical resources, including protective masks and clothing, to the regime's officials and to its own military personnel. Even doctors and nurses who are at the forefront of fighting the disease have no medical facilities and protective clothing.
The mullahs knew that the virus was in Iran but covered it up and did not make any announcements to warn the people. Nor did they make any preparations for preventing the virus from spreading, unlike other countries, because the mullahs wanted to see large gatherings of people attending the anniversary of the 1979 revolution and voting in its recent sham election. Khamenei even ridiculed the disease and said the coronavirus was an excuse created by Iran's enemies to discourage people from voting.
Now we hear the virus has spread through Iran's prisons. We have evidence that one prisoner has died from coronavirus in Fashfouyeh Prison. Still the regime does nothing to quarantine and isolate the affected prisons, and the virus is spreading like wildfire to the defenseless prisoners in the appalling unsanitary conditions. The World Health Organization and the entire international community are worried about coronavirus spreading from Iran, as they feel certain the issue is being covered up by the Iranian authorities.
For a long time, we have known that the theocratic regime in Iran are the godfathers of terror, aggressively spreading their brand of Islamic fundamentalism across the Middle East and even further afield. We have recognized that the mullahs are liars and cheats, and they have tricked and duped the world for the past four decades on the nuclear issue. But now they are putting their own 80 million citizens at risk and in so doing are endangering the international community with the spread of this disease.
How can the world community ever trust such a regime? How can we be sure that it has any commitments to the conventions it has signed? This regime deserves to be held accountable for all its lies and crimes.
Struan Stevenson is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.