WHY ITALY AND IRAN?
MARCH 17, 2020
Italy and Iran have been two of the countries hardest hit by the Wuhan coronavirus, outside of China. Why?
Helen Raleigh explains at The Federalist:
The reason these two countries are suffering the most outside China is mainly due to their close ties with Beijing, primarily through the “One Belt and One Road” (OBOR) initiative.
OBOR is Beijing’s foreign policy play disguised as infrastructure investment. Here’s how it works: China and country X agree to do an infrastructure project in country X. Country X has to borrow from a Chinese bank to finance the project. A contract is always awarded to Chinese companies, which then bring supplies and Chinese employees to country X to build the project.
As a result of One Belt and One Road, there are more than 300,000 Chinese living in Italy.
Almost exactly a year ago in March 2019, against warnings from the EU and the United States, Italy became the first and only G7 country to sign onto OBOR. As part of the deal, Italy opened an array of sectors to Chinese investment, from infrastructure to transportation, including letting Chinese state-owned companies hold a stake in four major Italian ports. …
Lombardy and Tuscany are the two regions that saw the most Chinese investment. Nearly a year later, the first Wuhan coronavirus infection case in Italy was reported in the Lombardy region on Feb. 21. Today, Italy is experiencing the worst coronavirus outbreak outside China, and Lombardy is the hardest-hit region in the country.
The Iran case is interesting as well:
2019 was the year Iran officially signed up to OBOR. China sees Iran as a crucial player to this initiative because Iran is not only rich in oil but also lies in a direct path of an ambitious 2,000-mile railroad China wants to build, which will run from western China through Tehran and Turkey into Europe.
Today, Iranian health officials trace the country’s coronavirus outbreak to Qom, a city of a million people. According to the Wall Street Journal, “China Railway Engineering Corp. is building a $2.7 billion high-speed rail line through Qom. Chinese technicians have been helping refurbish a nuclear-power plant nearby.” Iranian medical professionals suspect either Chinese workers in Qom or an Iranian businessman who travelled to China from Qom caused the spread of the coronavirus in Qom.
News reports indicate that a number of high Iranian officials have contracted coronavirus, and I believe at least one or two have died. Raleigh explains:
Although on Feb. 1 the Iranian government banned its airlines from flying to China, it made an exception for Mahan Air, an unofficial airline for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The WSJ reported that Mahan Air “had carried out eight flights between Tehran and China between Feb 1 and Feb. 9 to transfer Chinese and Iranian passengers to their respective home countries.” This explains why so many high-level Iranian officials are infected by the coronavirus, including First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri and more than 20 lawmakers.
Relying on China for economic development was never a good idea, but it turned out to be more dangerous than we knew.
Hat Tip: Jim D.