The New York Times recently hosted a long op-ed column by someone named Siamak Namazi, who presents the results of his ‘research’ concerning the medical situation in Iran. This act of generosity toward a veritable stranger to the discourse on Iran seemed a bit strange to us, so we decided to look deeper.
The touchy opening line and accompanying cartoon – the latter an editorial decision by the paper itself – leads the reader astray right off the bat. The rest of the article systematically distorts the root causes of the problem on the basis of ‘interviews’, subsequently relieving the Iranian regime of the deserved responsibility (irresponsibility!).
For background, I have written on a number of occasions aboutthe effect of sanctions on the people of Iran, and in particular, the health care field.
While Namazi at least recognizes that…
“The Iranian government deserves firm criticism for incompetence in handling the crisis, poor allocation of scarce foreign currency resources and failing to crack down on corrupt practices…”
He still believes …
“The main culprit are the U.S. and European sanctions that regulate financial transactions with Iran.”
Namazi and his like are banking on the fact that most readers in the west do not have access to Persian-language sources that refute claims by regime advocates. But we do, and especially recommend listening to what Iranians are hearing.
For example, in this particularly enlightening article the chairman of the medicinal union of Iran, Muhammad Zada, claims that the large pharmaceutical companies simply haven’t boycotted Iran.
At the official level, VP Rahimi recently boasted that:
“Despite sanctions and pressures imposed on the Iranian nation by big powers, Iran had made considerable progress in medical and pharmaceutical fields and it produces about 97 percent of its medical needs by itself.”
Meanwhile, Minister for Food and Drugs Affairs Ebrahim Sheibani announced that
“the country is now able to produce 96% of its overall need to medicine, and added that at present, 150 raw and basic materials which are needed for pharmaceutical products are also provided from domestic suppliers.”
Perusal of Iranian media sources strengthens the sense that internal corruption and interagency bureaucracy are predominantly responsible for stifling the flow of foreign medicines; much of which is sitting at the Customs in Iran.
Turns out there is also a serious medical brain drain out of Iran, in particular the nurses are leaving. Apparently the economic situation is combining with the often brutal and widespread abuse of women’s rights in contemporary Iran to push out educated female professionals.
Who is the author of the New York Time’s op-ed, anyway? We discovered that Namazi has worked very closely with Iranian regime lobbyist in the USA, Trita Parsi. In fact he was amongst the founders of the NIAC, the controversial lobby group which has had problems ‘sticking to the rules’.
So it’s not especially surprising that the same week in which Namazi printed his piece, another unofficial spokesperson Reza Marashi and (again) Trita Parsi, produced an almost identical piece in the Huffington Post. Their timing was impeccable, almost as if they are lobbying together – or even receiving instructions from the same source…
What does all this say about the New York Times? Considering it was the first major western publication to push the pro-regime medical shortage line (way back in November), perhaps the paper has become so blinded by an idée fixe it can no longer see the facts.