In times of uncertainty, the Islamic State (IS) has consistently sought to offer local populations stability and present itself as a cohesive and just community for the ideologically likeminded around the world.
As the novel coronavirus was spreading like a bushfire throughout China, Iran and Europe, the pandemic couldn’t go unnoticed by the media apparatus of jihadi groups like the Islamic State (IS). A first reaction by the group was to define it as divine punishment for crimes against Muslims. China was hit first, in IS’ view as punishment for its ongoing crimes against its Uyghur population. When Iran followed, the reaction was that it was the nation’s devious interpretation of Islam that led to this onslaught.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having far-reaching political consequences throughout the West and beyond.
While many that research jihadism have focused on how the Islamic State (IS) has responded to the coronavirus pandemic, IS no longer actually controls territory in Iraq or Syria. Therefore, at best all they can do is provide guidance.
Iran has been badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the first cases of coronavirus were registered in February, the number of confirmed cases has exceeded 100,000, with more than 6,000 victims.
As the current Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates, local health issues have the potential to evolve into transnational challenges and full-fledged international security crises. This situation imposes once more a rethinking of the concept of security at the global level, bringing its nontraditional dimensions into the analysis.
George Orwell’s predictions in 1984 came several decades too early, but they hit the mark. In a heartbeat, Orwell’s dystopic digital authoritarianism might have translated into reality, to the point that nowadays we no longer cast a curious look at the tracking apps on our phones or the video surveillance cameras in shops or buses. This is particularly true for China, where social surveillance has deeper philosophical roots than in Western societies.
The Covid-19 pandemic neither fostered cooperation nor eased US-Iran tensions that reached their peak in the wake of the US killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in January. Instead, the virus has been weaponized by Washington and Tehran under the assumption that it could provide new opportunities to force the other party to review its policies.
The debate about sanctions and their humanitarian implications on populations at large came back into the limelight with the unfolding of the Covid-19 pandemic in Iran.
Iran has been the Middle Eastern epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Islamic Republic was hit early on into the global health crisis. While it is still unclear when and how Iran’s ‘patient zero’ entered the country, it is fair to assume that he or she was part of one of the numerous delegations that kept on traveling between Iran and China even after weeks of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan.