Coronavirus devastated Iran says U.S. sanctions are taking lives
As Iran grappling with a devastating coronavirus epidemic, a shattered economy and a severe shortage of medical supplies, he says US trade sanctions are costing Iranians lives and called on the US to lift them on humanitarian grounds.
Iran Advocacy is gaining ground around the world, gaining support from allies like Russia and China, but also the European Union, the United Nations Secretary-General, rights groups and nearly three dozen members. Congress, who called on the Trump administration to suspend sanctions as long as Iran fights the coronavirus.
Iran, the world’s epicenter of the virus, has confirmed more than 47,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths, although public health experts believe the actual toll is several times higher.
“We had always said the sanctions were unfair but the coronavirus exposed this injustice to the world,” Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in a recent video message, which he began by removing a surgical mask from his face with blue latex gloves. He called the sanctions “economic terrorism”.
The issue has raised questions about the collision of US sanctions with a deadly pandemic, including whether Iran tries to exploit the crisis to achieve a long-standing goal of lifting sanctions, whether the US is using the virus to push Iran beyond what sanctions alone could do, and what responsibility does the United States have for a catastrophe caused at least in part by Iran’s own inept response.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was unequivocal, saying in a tweet on Saturday that “Iran’s concerted effort to lift US sanctions was not aimed at tackling the pandemic. This is money for the leaders of the regime.
He accused Iranian leaders of “trying to escape responsibility for their grossly incompetent and murderous governance.”
When Mr Zarif accused the United States of carrying out “medical terror,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus tweeted “Stop lying,” adding, “It’s not the sanctions. This is the diet.
If anything, the United States has doubled its efforts, imposing new sanctions just two weeks ago, even as it offered Iran medical aid to fight the pandemic, the aid it Iran refused.
The United States frequently reiterates that the sanctions exempt the sale of drugs and medical devices. However, secondary U.S. sanctions against financial institutions and companies that do business with Iran have made it nearly impossible for Iran to purchase items like ventilators to treat coronavirus patients.
The sanctions “have largely dissuaded banks and international companies from participating in commercial or financial transactions with Iran, including exempt humanitarian transactions, for fear of triggering secondary US sanctions against themselves,” Human said. Rights Watch in a report last year, months before the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Now the need for such equipment is urgent.
“US sanctions are preventing medical supplies from being sent to Iran,” Connecticut Democrat Senator Chris Murphy said in a statement. Tweeter Tuesday. “As a result, innocent people are dying. “
Iranian leaders also bear some of the blame for its clumsy response to the crisis.
The virus was first detected in Iran in late February, but the government, ignoring advice from its own health experts, has taken no action to impose social distancing or lock down affected areas until this week, allowing the virus to spread unchecked and turn Iran into a regional hub for the epidemic.
The government has come under fire for underreporting the number of cases and downplaying the threat, while rivalries between the government and the military left the country wondering who was in charge to contain the pandemic.
In addition, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rejected the american offer humanitarian aid, claiming the virus was “created by America”. Analysts said accepting US aid was also seen as politically untenable – it wouldn’t fix the economy or end sanctions, but would have the unwanted effect of making the US appear benevolent.
Shifting attention to US sanctions distracts attention from Iran’s own failures and aligns itself with Iran’s political goals.
“Iran sees an opportunity to take advantage of the coronavirus to put pressure on the United States to relax its maximum pressure policy as it is at an impasse with the economy,” said Siamak Ghasemi, an Iran-based economist. “Of course, the sanctions relief will give the government more financial resources to fight the coronavirus, but they are also looking at the long term.”
But some analysts say the Trump administration also sees the virus as an opportunity, an additional tool that, alongside sanctions, could force Iran to capitulate to US demands, including a renegotiated and stricter nuclear deal and a limitation of its regional activities.
“The Trump administration believes the epidemic has succeeded where sanctions have not weakened the economy further,” said Ali Vaez, Iranian director of the International Crisis Group. “They believe the deadline for bringing Iran to its knees has shortened because of the coronavirus. “
There is no doubt that the virus has hit the already faltering Iranian economy.
Most small businesses, restaurants and hotels and other service industries have been closed for more than a month during what is usually their most lucrative season, around the Persian New Year. Factories have cut production and unemployment has skyrocketed, with economists saying Iran is losing at least a million jobs a month.
Economists have said the coronavirus will reduce Iran’s GDP by a third and create a budget deficit of at least $ 10 billion this year. Before the virus, the sanctions had already cost Iran around $ 200 billion in revenue, mostly from decimated oil sales, and have devalued the currency by half in the past two years. And oil sales to the few countries that still flout US sanctions, like China, have plummeted with the drop in the price of crude oil.
“When the government doesn’t have access to its resources, it can’t bail out businesses, it can’t quarantine and it can’t provide economic support so people don’t work,” Pooria Asteraky said. , a tech entrepreneur who consults occasionally for Iran. M Ministry of Telecommunications.
In desperation, Iran requested a $ 5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, the first time it had requested such a loan since the 1960s. The European Union said it would back the loan, but the United States should block it.
Economic distress drove Iranians to the streets in November, and the government knows it could do it again now that the economy is even worse. Blaming the United States might deflect some of that anger.
Whoever is responsible, the sight of overwhelmed hospitals, mass graves and doctors pleading for medical supplies has gained some international sympathy, especially among countries already opposed to the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Iran and the imposition of sanctions.
The European Union donated $ 22 million in humanitarian aid to Iran last week and Japan sent $ 23.5 million. On Tuesday, the European Union exported medical products to Iran in its first use of a financial mechanism put in place last year to allow European companies to circumvent US sanctions.
On Tuesday, 33 U.S. senators and officials sent a letter to the Trump administration, urging it to suspend sanctions as a “humanitarian gesture to the Iranian people” and “find a way” to provide direct aid.
“US sanctions should not contribute to this humanitarian catastrophe,” Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the signatories, said in a statement on Tuesday. He added: “Every country on earth is going to be affected by the coronavirus. We are all in there. If there has ever been a time to show unprecedented international cooperation and support, this is the time. “