Different appeals are made to Washington to ease its punitive measures against Iran, where the coronavirus has affected 18,000 people with 1,284 deaths. Iranian President Rouhani and Supreme leader Khamenei praise the courage of doctors and nurses. Washington responds by increasing sanctions.
Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In light of the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic in Iran, the most affected country in the Middle East, international activists and some governments are calling on the United States to relax its punitive sanctions against Tehran.
The "immoral" US sanctions introduced by Washington following its decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) are hindering the work of medical professionals treating the sick and countering the spread of the virus, as previously reported for other diseases.
Speaking to the nation on the occasion of the Iranian New Year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani thanked doctors and nurses for their courage in fighting the epidemic. “Our nation has managed to reach its goals, despite difficulties,” he said.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, praised Iranians for their "dazzling" sacrifices. He did not directly attack the United States; instead, he said that “Iran benefited from America’s sanctions. It made us self-sufficient in all areas.”
So far, Iran has reported 18,400 cases, 1,284 deaths and almost 6,00 people healed, this according to the latest information. This tragic tally has been exacerbated by the difficulty in getting drugs and masks.
The situation has pushed some intellectuals and activists to appeal to the White House. US journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted this week that “strangling Iran with sanctions [. . .] has the direct effect of preventing them from providing services to sick and dying people, [this] is monstrous.”
Before US sanctions, Iran boasted one of the best healthcare systems in the Middle East; now hospitals are overcrowded and the government is asking for 172 million masks from abroad.
Some reports indicate that Iran might go to the International Monetary Fund for a US billion loan, a first since 1962.
Jamal Abdi, president of the US-based National Iranian American Council, tweeted this week that "actively denying an entire country medicine and humanitarian goods and continuing to pummel their economy in midst of global pandemic is the height of 'malign behavior' in my book.”
Despite appeals and growing concern in the international community, the Trump administration seems un willing to soften its approach and is holding onto its "maximum pressure" strategy.
Unlike the US, China is one of the countries helping Iran with aid and criticising US policy. China's Foreign Affairs Ministry tweeted that "continued sanction on Iran is against humanitarianism and hampers Iran's epidemic response and delivery of humanitarian aid by the U.N. and other organizations."
Similarly, Russia has called on the US to provide immediate relief, arguing that “the global pandemic is not a time for settling geopolitical accounts, especially those that have no basis”.
Although the coronavirus crisis has broadened the consensus over the need to ease the pressure on the Islamic Republic and get Washington help Iran’s fight against the epidemic at both the social and economic level, the White House has responded by increasing sanctions.
In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused Iranian leaders of “trying to avoid responsibility” in the crisis, adding that the “Wuhan virus is a killer and the Iranian regime is an accomplice.”