Iran ranks third, after Italy and China, for the number of coronavirus deaths worldwide. As of March 19, 1,284 people have died and 18,407 have been infected, according to the Iranian Ministry of Health. The World Health Organization (WHO), however, suspects the actual numbers could be five times higher.
While in 2019 tensions in the Gulf nearly came to the breaking point, 2020 may mark a turnaround (or at least a truce) in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
In February 2018, anticipating the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared a policy of “preferring East over West”, thus paving the way for deeper cooperation with Asian powers such as China, Russia, and India.
There is no dearth of conflicts in West Asia. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has defied resolution for seven decades. The fight against the Islamic State and its offshoots in Iraq and Syria has drawn in the U.S., Russia, Iran and Turkey, while the civil war in Yemen has heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. U.S.
The “maximum pressure” campaign of the Trump administration against Iran has moved forward: on April 8, Washington announced it will label the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC, also commonly known as the pasdaran) a terrorist organization and will add it to the list of FTOs (Foreign Terrorist Organizations).
When in 1979 a revolutionary mass movement in Iran ousted Shah Reza Pahlavi to establish the Islamic Republic of Iran, political leaders in Iran’s immediate neighbourhood became anxious about the potential appeal of the Islamic Revolution on their own populations. Not only had one of the key aims of the revolution been to empower the “downtrodden” (mostaz’afin) — a notion many Arab leaders saw as being directed at different strata of their societies.
The Islamic Republic, whose survival nobody would have betted on, still lives on. No matter what John Bolton predicted last year – “the Islamic Republic will not last until its 40th birthday” – or what common sense suggested in the early days of the revolution, when very few people thought it would have lasted more than six months.
Of the many challenges that Iran has faced over the 40 years since the 1979 revolution that overthrew the Shah and established the Islamic Republic, one was dead on arrival: the impossible fight against time by the generation who fought the revolution. Four decades later, of that circle of combatant clergy fewer and fewer members are still alive and in power.
The establishment of official diplomatic relations between China and Iran dates back only to 1971. Nevertheless, the two countries share a web of economic and cultural interactions rooted in history, which finds in the ancient Silk Road its idealised apogee. A flourishing past, a shared sense of national humiliation, and the idea of a possible alternative world order frame the narrative that backs the Sino-Iranian axis.