European Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell announced the EU’s intent to support Iran’s fight against the spread of COVID-19, following a March 23 conference call between EU foreign ministers.
“We’ve not been able to provide a lot of humanitarian help but there is some €20 million in the pipeline… that we expect to be delivered over the next weeks,” Borrell said, “We also agree in supporting the request by Iran and also by Venezuela to the International Monetary Fund to have financial support.”
Providing humanitarian aid to a country that has reported 1,934 pandemic deaths might not seem controversial, but the aid defies US sanctions on Iran. US sources claim that the sanctions do not apply to humanitarian aid and are imposed on Iran as part of the US’ “maximum pressure” strategy to realize regime change.
I want to appeal to President Trump on humanitarian grounds to lift the sanctions against Iran till the COVID19 pandemic is over. The people of Iran are facing untold suffering as sanctions are crippling Iran’s efforts to fight COVID19. Humanity must unite to fight this pandemic
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) March 22, 2020
The Atlantic Council researched how economic sanctions have impacted the Iranian coronavirus response and reported that “despite the fact that sanctions exempted humanitarian goods, the US Treasury Department had previously prosecuted medical companies for selling small amounts of medical supplies to Iran, which in turn, has had a deterring effect on other companies doing business with Tehran.”
This problem ought to be easily resolved, Director of Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth pointed out: “The U.S. government should clearly state that no one will be penalized for financing or supplying humanitarian aid in this time of a public health crisis.”
Economic hardship severely hampers the fight against the pandemic, as Lebanon’s interconnected financial and medical crises demonstrate. Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran Javad Zarif accused the Trump administration of “maliciously tightening US’ illegal sanctions with aim of draining Iran’s resources in the fight against COVID-19.”
Iran is facing a catastrophic toll from the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. sanctions should not be contributing to this humanitarian disaster.
As a caring nation, we must lift any sanctions hurting Iran’s ability to address this crisis, including financial sanctions. https://t.co/OBjff1nsxz
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 18, 2020
On March 20, a coalition of 25 civil rights groups, charities, and think tanks in the US joined forces to urge the Trump administration to ease sanctions on Iran. As long as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to intensify, many countries, including the EU, neighboring Pakistan, and China, are now supporting the notion of a temporary reprieve for Iran to assist the country in its struggle against the virus.
Venezuela is buckling under a mixture of sanctions and increasing pandemic-related pressure on its healthcare system. For years, crippling sanctions aimed at its oil industry have caused considerable economic hardship for the South American nation. The US has continued to attempt to weaken the country’s economy enough to realize regime-change, after a failed attempt to replace Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro in 2019.
#UN Secretary-General calls for global ceasefire in view of #COVID-19. A similar appeal is needed to lift extraterritorial sanctions which create enormous difficulties for the fight against the virus in a number of countries and result in increasing death toll. It must be done.
— Mikhail Ulyanov (@Amb_Ulyanov) March 24, 2020
Director of Ancora Humanistas Dr. Oscar Noguera said, “Health personnel are already complaining about the lack of adequate clothing for their protection, while the increased emigration of doctors and nurses has left our hospitals in a vulnerable condition. The number of intensive care beds available in the country is barely close to 80.”
— Global Research (@CRG_CRM) March 23, 2020
President Nicolas Maduro imposed a travel ban and nationwide quarantine. The Venezuelan government’s improvised efforts will most likely have little effect as the global spread of COVID-19 has become a daily reality in most countries around the world.
Economist Jeffrey Sachs stressed that it’s “absolutely unconscionable to keep sanctions on at this moment. The only moral, sane and legal thing to do is stop the madness that is crippling other countries’ health systems.” There appears to be growing support for a temporary relief from sanctions to address the pandemic. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet released a statement today, March 24, to signal the United Nations’ support for temporary relief:
“At this crucial time, both for global public health reasons, and to support the rights and lives of millions of people in these countries, sectoral sanctions should be eased or suspended. In a context of global pandemic, impeding medical efforts in one country heightens the risk for all of us.”