As the United Nations implores countries to cease hostilities and wars to help fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus that is causing the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States is finding ways to use the COVID-19 pandemic to fight its wars. While Saudi Arabia promises to begin a ceasefire in Yemen in response to the U.N. call for a global ceasefire, the United States has found four distinct ways to use the pandemic to further its belligerent foreign policy goals in four countries.
China: The Propaganda War
The first shot in the pandemic propaganda war against China was fired when Donald Trump renamed the virus the "Chinese virus". The G7 was stymied in its attempt to release a joint statement that would help the fight against the pandemic when the ministers from all the other countries refused to yield to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s insistence that the coronavirus be called the "Wuhan virus." Donald Trump then went on to threaten putting a hold on US funding of the World Health Organization (WHO) at a time when the 14.67% of funding the US provides is most crucial to the world. Amongst the reasons Trump listed was that the WHO was "China-centric." "I don’t know," Trump said, "they seem to come down on the side of China." He added that "they don’t report what’s really going on" in China. The frequent US claim that China is deceptively reporting its number of deaths and that the number, in reality, is much higher has, at least in part, been debunked, but that didn’t stop Trump from using the claim as propaganda to pressure the WHO. The pressure on the WHO may be because the US is using the pandemic in its propaganda war against China, and the WHO won’t play ball. The WHO, not cooperating with the US, evaluated China’s response as "perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history." Dr. Bruce Aylward, the head of the WHO COVID-19 mission even said, "If I get COVID, I’m going to China." The American strategy seems to be to withhold money from the WHO until the WHO eases America’s propaganda war on China.
Venezuela: Regime Change
The US is using the COVID-19 pandemic to push its stalled attempt at regime change in Venezuela. As US sanctions thwart Venezuela’s efforts to fight the pandemic, the Trump administration revealed a plan that would only release Venezuela from the sanctions on the condition that President Maduro leave office. Though presented as a balanced transition, it is not, since Maduro would not be allowed to run in the upcoming election but US candidate Juan Guaido would. The US is holding the health of the Venezuelan people hostage and using the pandemic to blackmail Maduro into accepting the coup.
Iran: Economic Warfare
In China, it’s propaganda; in Venezuela it’s blackmail; in Iran, it’s economic warfare. The illegal US sanctions on Iran are devastating Iran’s efforts to fight the pandemic. Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif has called the deprivation of Iran at a time of pandemic "medical terrorism." Iran’s desperate appeal to the IMF is facing the threat of a US veto. Iran has called the veto "crimes against humanity," and President Rouhani again called the sanctions "economic and medical terrorism." In Iran, the COVID-19 pandemic is being exploited to intensify the economic war.
Israel: Face Masks
In Israel, the strategy is not deprivation, but supply. Despite Trump’s insistence that the US not ship personal protective equipment to other countries in the midst of a US shortage, the Israeli press is reporting that the "A plane carrying over a million surgical masks for the IDF landed in Ben-Gurion airport Tuesday night, in an operation run by the US Department of Defense’s Delegation of Procurement”. It says that the masks are "for coronavirus use."
Four different countries, four different strategies. But in all of them the US is using the COVID-19 pandemic to wage war instead of heeding the UN call for a global cease fire.
Ted Snider writes on analyzing patterns in US foreign policy and history.