The impact of COVID-19 on Iranian politics
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The first city officially affected by COVID-19 was Iran’s religious centre, Qom, on 19 February 2020. However, as this paper shows, Qom is not only the Islamic Republic’s most important city when it comes to religious matters, but also when it comes to political issues. In consequence, the pandemic quickly spread from the initial epicentre throughout the country in three waves with, to date, more than 600,000 positive cases and 36,000 deaths. In stark contrast to other countries, a very large proportion of members of Iran’s clerical and political establishment as well as government institutions had been infected. Despite the alarming figures, Iranian authorities tried to avoid strict confinement measures to prevent not only the healthcare system but also the already enormously strained economy from collapsing. COVID-19 in combination with crippling US sanctions have had severe impacts on the Iranian economy and its government, whose credibility and performance had already been called into question. The article provides an early analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on the Islamic Republic and its political system, enquiring into immediate and future challenges for the current and the next government in dealing with the effects of the pandemic in combination with the US’s maximum pressure campaign.