The Islamic Republic of Iran, the hardest-hit country by the new coronavirus pandemic in the Middle East, these days is countering with both the coronavirus and the sanctions virus which is tougher and has seriously hampered the county's access to drugs and vital medical equipment needed to battle the virus.
So far more than 87,026 people have been tested positive for the COVID-19 disease since it was spotted in Iran on February 19. More than 64,843 people have recovered while over 5,481 have died of the illness, according to figures provided by the Iranian health ministry on April 23 in IRNA.
Meanwhile, the one-sided US sanctions imposed against the Islamic Republic of Iran, which were reinstated after Washington in 2018 left an UN-endorsed nuclear deal with Tehran and five other world powers - the UK, France, Russia and China plus Germany - have been hampering counter coronavirus efforts in Iran.
The Washington's alleged ‘maximum pressure’ through sanctions are compromising the performance of the Iranian healthcare system, despite Washington’s claims that the bans do not prevent Iran from trading in humanitarian and medical goods.
These US sanctions make the importation of medicine, medical equipment and raw materials needed to produce these goods difficult as foreign countries do not engage in trade with Iran dreading Washington’s punishment.
The interesting point is over the past few weeks, Washington has issued new rounds of sanctions targeting companies doing business with Tehran.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has recently announced that the US will continue with its economic sanctions against Iran as part of its attempts to bring about “regime change.”
Iran's Permanent Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi in a letter to President of the United Nations Security Council called for removing the US unilateral sanctions which hinder efforts in anti-coronavirus campaign, adding that:"
These sanctions severely hinder and damage the ability of our governments to mobilize the required resources, either nationally or internationally, for combating and containing this virus, especially by hindering access to the international financial system,” Takht Ravanchi said in his letter which was written on the occasion of ratifying the General Assembly resolution entitled “Global Solidarity to Fight COVID-19”.
**‘No to Sanctions’ Campaign
Iran’s plea is gaining traction around the globe, winning support from several countries including Russia, China, the European Union, the United Nations secretary general, human rights groups and nearly three dozen members of Congress, who have appealed to the Trump administration to stop the sanctions for as long as Iran is combating the battling the coronavirus.
Last week, 33 American senators and representatives sent a letter to the Trump administration, urging it to suspend sanctions as “a humanitarian gesture to the Iranian people” and to “find a way” to deliver direct aid.
“US sanctions should not be contributing to this humanitarian disaster,” Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the signatories, adding that: “Every country on earth is going to be affected by the coronavirus. We are all in this together. If there was ever a moment to show each other unprecedented cooperation and support internationally, this is that moment.”
For the meantime, over 400 Persian language professors and Iranologists from around the world joined ‘No to Sanctions’ campaign in fighting coronavirus pandemic.
According to Sa'adi Foundation, 400 professors and Iranologists from Iraq, Syria, Turkey, the Netherlands, Kyrgyzstan, India, Pakistan, Russia, Ukraine, China, Uganda, Australia, Germany, Greece and Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Portugal, Armenia, Tajikistan, Spain, Italy, Kazakhstan, Yemen, Oman, Ivory Coast, Belarus, Serbia and Tunisia in a statement called for lifting international sanctions against Iran with regard to fighting coronavirus.
Even a diverse group of US academics, researchers and NGO leaders recently have signed an open letter addressed to the leaders of the P4+1 countries (United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, and Russia) and the US lawmakers, calling on them to lift sanctions on Iran impeding Iranian campaign against coronavirus.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also has called for the lifting of sanctions on various countries that are hindering the global fight against the new coronavirus.
"I am talking about the countries that are suffering the most from this pandemic. At the end of the day, it's a question of life and death, this is a purely humanitarian issue," the Russian leader said.
Also, several distinguished academics including Noam Chomsky, Hamid Dabashi, Robert Crews, and John Packer have signed this letter which was drafted and coordinated by the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy.
Also, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has strongly criticized the United States for its refusal to lift sanctions on Iran amid the new coronavirus outbreak.
The broad bans “are negatively affecting the Iranian government’s ability to adequately respond to the mounting health consequences of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” said the HRW.
Washington “should take immediate action to ease US sanctions and expand licensing of sanctions-exempt items to ensure Iran’s access to essential humanitarian resources during the pandemic,” the group added.
Russia has recently announced an initiative dubbed "green corridor" aimed at replacing the economic sanctions amid the global battle against the new coronavirus pandemic, a measure which was highly welcomed by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
"Iran welcomes the Russian idea of "creating a green corridor instead of an economic war and sanctions,” Zarif wrote in a Russian post on Twitter, underlying that the different countries, which shut their geographical borders in order to control the situation with coronavirus, open them to provide assistance.
Zarif particularly took a swipe at the US president for defying international calls for removing the sanctions against Iran, warning about further spread of the deadly virus.
“Donald Trump continues to resist international demands to lift Iranian sanctions to counter coronavirus infection. Coronavirus can spread to neighboring countries,” he said.
** IMF Loan
Iran has also requested a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the first time it has applied for such a loan since the 1960s. Tehran has asked that the loan be provided under the Fund’s Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI), a mechanism which is available to all member countries facing an urgent balance of payment need.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani believes that IMF must fulfill its duties toward all member countries, including Iran, without any bias.
“Under these tough circumstances, the IMF should perform its duty with regard to its international commitments and avoid being swayed by mischievous acts of the enemies of the Iranian nation,” Rouhani said.
Media reports have suggested over the past weeks that the United States government, which, itself, is refusing to lift its sanctions against the Islamic Republic despite the outbreak, is also trying to hamper Iran’s efforts to get the emergency funding. Washington has allegedly claimed that Tehran might use the funds to compensate the losses that are brought about by the bans.