Coronavirus claimed its first victims in Iran on Wednesday when two elderly people died in the Shia holy city of Qom. (ISNA)

February 24, 2020

The outbreak of coronavirus in Iran, where the deadly virus has killed 18 people according to Al Arabiya sources, is the fault of US President Donald Trump, said a senior Iranian religious cleric on Friday.

Coronavirus, which initially broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan, claimed its first victims in Iran on Wednesday when two elderly people died in the Shia holy city of Qom. It has since killed more than 15 and up to 18 people, according to Al Arabiya sources’ initial reports. Iran puts the death toll at eight.

“The enemy wants to instill fear in people’s hearts, make Qom look like an unsafe city and to take revenge for all its defeats,” said Imam Hojjat ol-Eslam Seyyed Mohammad Saeedi as he led Friday prayers in Qom, reported opposition outlet Radio Farda.

“Trump will die frustrated in his wish to see Qom defeated,” he added.

Iran-US relations are currently strained, with the US continuing to tighten the screws of its “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign, seeking to isolate Tehran which it says supports destabilizing terrorist proxy organizations across the Middle East.

Saeedi also alleged that Trump had targeted Qom with coronavirus because the city was a “shelter for the Shia of the world, the center of religious seminaries and the city where Shia sources of emulation live.”

On Sunday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei also blamed Western powers for meddling in internal affairs, this time alleging that Western media was spreading fear of coronavirus inside Iran to discourage Iranians from voting.

Al Arabiya

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Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.