Transatlantic Call to Ease Humanitarian Trade with Iran due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 6, 2020

Publication: 

European Leadership Network and the Iran Project

Related Country: 

  • United States
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom
  • Norway
  • Turkey
  • Belgium
  • Netherlands
  • Germany
  • Czech Republic
  • Italy
  • Denmark
  • France

Like many Americans and Europeans, Iranians are also facing one of their country’s darkest times in living memory. As the world grapples with COVID-19 – the disease caused by the novel coronavirus – we must remember that an outbreak anywhere impacts people everywhere. In turn, reaching across borders to save lives is imperative for our own security and must override political differences among governments.

Iran’s reported case fatality rate – which may greatly understate the true numbers – is one of the highest in the world. Though never intended to kill, US “maximum pressure” through sanctions on Iran are compromising the performance of the Iranian healthcare system as Iran’s outbreak moves into its second month. Despite humanitarian exemptions provided under US and international law, these sanctions make the importation of medicine, medical equipment and raw materials needed to produce these goods domestically slower, more expensive, and complicated – when even possible – by deterring potential suppliers out of fear of overstepping sanctions’ limits.

Like every country – even one as large and wealthy as the United States – success in fighting the virus requires that Iran have flexible, reliable and affordable means of importing these crucial supplies through commercial channels. The Trump administration’s sanctions on Iran are the most extensive coercive economic measures ever imposed on a country. A focused reduction in overall pressure would have a significant impact on the ability of Iran’s healthcare system to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, potentially saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Iranians and, by helping to curb the virus’ rapid spread across borders, the lives of its neighbors, Europeans, Americans and others. 

Read the full statement at the European Leadership Network.