A volunteer in the Basij militia sanitizes a bus station in Tehran, Iran, April 2020.
Ali Khara / WANA / Reuters

In February, Iran emerged as an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government swiftly proved incapable of handling the outbreak. Officials downplayed the seriousness of the crisis even as reports surfaced of Iranians dying by the hundreds. The death toll soon surpassed 1,000 and reached more than 5,000 by mid-April, according to official figures—which no doubt underestimate the body count.

The domestic rivals of Iran’s civilian-led government are now trying to capitalize on the administration’s bungled response. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an influential branch of the armed forces often aligned with the conservative religious establishment, has taken measure

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