The Impacts of US Sanctions in the War Against Coronavirus

April 12, 2020

Related Country: 

  • United States

The entire world is now facing a World War Against COVID-19. This relentless and highly contagious virus, as the common enemy of the whole human family, is seriously threatening the lives of all with no distinction as to nationality, race, color, religion or gender.

At this common fight, all of humanity is on the same front. But, despite our tireless efforts, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus is clearly “accelerating”.

We MUST win this battle by standing united, going beyond mere “expression of solidarity” and demonstrating “solidarity in action” as well as well-coordinated international cooperation.

To succeed quickly and sustainably, we must ensure that no individual, family, community or nation is left behind as no nation will be spared and no one will be safe until everyone all over the world is safe.

Sanctions function as enemy’s “fifth column”

Any act whatsoever restricting the ability of a nation to tackle the crisis would let the disease spread like wildfire and consequently weaken the global fight against the pandemic.

A clear example is the continued application of unilateral sanctions, which undermine the related ability of targeted nations and the whole world to fight the pandemic. Accordingly, their application under current unprecedented global health crisis involving all nations is against the common interests of humanity.

In short, in our common fight against COVID-19, sanctions, by undermining our front from within in favor of the enemy, function exactly like the “fifth column”. It is but a treachery.

Sanctions inhibit Iran’s ability to fight COVID-19.

While Iran is experiencing one of the worst outbreaks of the coronavirus, the US sanctions – which, according to the US officials are the most extensive sanctions ever imposed on a country -- are drastically hindering Iran’s efforts to identify and treat patients and effectively prevent the spread of the virus.

This is despite the fact that Iran’s medical facilities, doctors and nurses are among the very finest in the world, and the professional nature of its national efforts to suppress COVID-19 is highly acknowledged by the WHO.

The so-called humanitarian exemptions are not working.

To escape from the disgrace of the illegal and immoral nature of sanctions, the US officials continue to claim that humanitarian and medical needs are exempt from sanctions.

On 27 February 2020, the US Treasury finalized with much fanfare “The Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement” (SHTA) allowing certain humanitarian transactions with Iran. However, this narrow channel does not match Iran’s humanitarian needs in the current situation.

The United States has forced SHTA to pursue a very tight and tough procedure, under the pretexts like “ensuring the upmost transparency” or “enhanced due diligence” -- requiring companies to provide extensive information to the Treasury Department every month on the Iranian beneficiaries of the goods, the Iranian companies’ business relationships and financial details and alike -- thus making it practically very difficult for companies to trade with Iran.

Additionally, almost impossible or cumbersome nature of transferring Iran’s reserves blocked outside the country to the designated Swiss bank, not only does not allow the SHTA to function properly now but may actually render it redundant in a matter of few months.

Likewise, recently several companies that supply the medical equipment required to fight the coronavirus have stopped shipping to Iran because the current US sanction’s regime makes the shipping of such items to Iran almost impossible.

Moreover, the only message of the U.S.’ additional new sanctions, imposed in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, is that companies must avoid doing any business with Iran, even if their work is humanitarian in nature.

In short, the US sanction’s regime, including its related penalties, is extremely broad and has created a compliance minefield for the legal trade with Iran and consequently, medical suppliers and relief organizations simply steer clear of doing business in Iran in the fear of accidentally getting caught up in the US sanctions’ web.

Emergency aid is not the panacea

From the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, Iran has received emergency aid from neighboring and other countries as well as the WHO and certain humanitarian organizations, which are highly valuable and much appreciated in current trying times.

However, for a vast country like Iran with a population of nearly 83 million, which is among the worst impacted countries by COVID-19, such emergency aid is not the panacea as, under the current pandemic, donor countries themselves face their own crises. Accordingly, neither Iran nor any other country can rely only on emergency aids.

Lifting sanctions is a must

In the World War Against COVID-19, either we will win together or we will lose together. But we MUST win it through, first and foremost, rendering massive support to the most needed developing countries. 

It is also essential that each and every country could use, freely and fully, its own resources to effectively suppress the pandemic, which is impossible without immediate removal of all sanctions on banking, insurance, transportation, medical, industry, energy, exports, imports and the like.

This is what the international community is calling for. Such strong and repeated calls have recently been made including by the United Nations Secretary-General, the WHO Director-General, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and some other international dignitaries as well as many former and current statesmen and stateswomen, parliamentarians, religious leaders, academia, non-governmental organizations and civil society institutions.

To prevent further deterioration of the situation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the international community must not allow the continued application of inhuman and unlawful sanctions to harm the very health and lives of the world citizens.

Under the current global pandemic, urgent removal of all sanctions is in the interest of all humanity and hence a must. To prove that we are mature enough to care, in addition to our own, about the life of the rest of the humankind, this is the right thing to do which must be done promptly.