American Style Aid to Iran: Piling-Up SanctionsParnaz Talebi
As Iran scrambles to curb the rapid outbreak of the deadly coronavirus nationwide amid sanction-triggered economic difficulties, the issue of negotiations between Tehran and Washington has once again hit the political circles of the two long-lasting opponents.
In Iran, the government of President Hassan Rouhani that sealed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actions with world powers in 2015, seeks to seize every opportunity to revive the dead deal. As the JCPOA’s European signatories have already failed in advancing the agreement under the US pressure, Iran, hard hit by the pandemic, tries to use the opportunity to ease the standoff with the US who pulled back from the deal in 2018 in a unilateral move.
Iran response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak requires more economic as well as medical resources
Since then, Washington started a maximum pressure campaign of economic sanctions against Iran, aimed at pressuring Tehran into a fresh nuclear deal. Iran has so far rejected any renegotiation on the nuclear deal, trying to protect its economy under the tough sanctions. However, the country’s response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak requires more economic as well as medical resources and Tehran says it is the time for Washington to loosen the sanctions.
President Rouhani has underlined that the governments’ measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus have also to weigh protecting the economy, which is under heavy sanctions. Iran has asked for a 5 billion dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund after the body announced a 50-bilion-dollar program in relief aid for the worst coronavirus-hit countries. Even if the loan is cleared, meeting the requirements would be very difficult for Iran regarding its economic condition.
Trump’s maxim pressure have failed so far and the epidemic offers him an opportunity to get back on his path
A similar campaign in the US has urged the government to ease the anti-Iran sanctions as the pandemic rages across the country. A number of Democrats including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have pushed for sanctions waivers emphasizing the need to provide medical supplies and humanitarian support. This campaign believes the US President Donald Trump’s measures against Iran have failed to achieve any goal and the epidemic offers him an opportunity to get back on his path. Clearing the IMF loan, suspending the sanctions and sending help to Iran without any preconditions are the measures that could help the US in this regard.
However, Trump’s administration has shown no signs of heeding such pleas, and instead, announced a new round of sanctions against the Islamic Republic last week. This is the other side of the story. The hawks’ campaign, led by US Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo, sees the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran as an opportunity to bring the country to collapse. Ramping up the sanctions against Iran while the country is grappled with increasing number of patients and fatalities, leaves no doubt that US aid offers are only humanitarian gestures.
Easing sanctions and releasing Iran’s blocked assets overseas may be a practical way for US to show the good will to the Iranians
Besides, the United States, as the country who leads the world in number of the coronavirus cases, has been plagued by rapid spread of the infection. Its overwhelmed hospitals and the lack of equipment and staff has left no room for the US government to provide medical and technical help to any other nation. However, easing anti-Iran sanctions and releasing its blocked assets overseas may be a practical way to show the good will to the Iranian government and the world, as well.
UN, and countries like China and Russia, and even US ally, UK, have also urged the United States to lift its anti-Iran sanctions so that Tehran could better deal with the outbreak. However, Washington claims that its sanctions do not hinder trade of medicine and humanitarian supplies. But since the sanctions prevent international financial transactions and shipping, they render any trade, including that of vital medicines and health equipment, almost impossible.
No doubt, the US sanctions are hampering Iran’s efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, which has affected tens of thousands of people in the country. Yet, the US government continues to pile up sanctions against Iran, taking toll on a nation it has repeatedly claimed to stand by. However, actions speak louder than words.
Parnaz Talebi is a journalist and resercher. She has done her MA in North American Studies at University of Tehran.