Germany's foreign ministry said the three European countries “confirm that INSTEX has successfully concluded its first transaction, facilitating the export of medical goods from Europe to Iran.” “These goods are now in Iran,” it said in a statement that gave details neither of the goods nor of who was involved in the transaction, AP reported. “Now the first transaction is complete, INSTEX and its Iranian counterpart STFI will work on more transactions and enhancing the mechanism,” the German foreign ministry statement said. Britain, France and Germany conceived the complex barter-type system dubbed INSTEX, which aims to protect companies doing business with Iran from American sanctions, in January 2019. The move came months after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal that Tehran struck with world powers in 2015 and reimposed sanctions.
The wife of an Iranian material sciences professor, who has been held in the United States for close to three years on ‘not-proven’ charges of bypassing Washington’s sanctions against Iran, has recounted his ordeal in American detention. Sharif University of Technology Professor Sirous Asgari was arrested in the United States in mid-2017. Back then, the FBI alleged the scientist had shared information about a project he had conducted on a sabbatical in the US five years before with his students, his wife said in an interview published Sunday. “The findings were published and made available on the Internet afterwards, which means there was nothing secret about the project. Nevertheless, they accused Asgari of stealing information,” his wife said.
2020-03-29As coronavirus cases explode in Iran, U.S. sanctions hinder its access to drugs and medical equipment
Sweeping U.S. sanctions are hampering Iranian efforts to import medicine and other medical supplies to confront one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in the world, health workers and sanctions experts say. The broad U.S. restrictions on Iran’s banking system and the embargo on its oil exports have limited Tehran’s ability to finance and purchase essential items from abroad, including drugs as well as the raw materials and equipment needed to manufacture medicines domestically. The Trump administration has also reduced the number of licenses it grants to companies for certain medical exports to Iran, according to quarterly reports from a U.S. Treasury Department enforcement agency. The list of items requiring special authorization includes oxygen generators, full-face respirator masks and thermal imaging equipment, all of which are needed to treat patients and keep medical workers safe, doctors say.
Eight countries have called on the United Nations (UN) chief to ask for the lifting of unilateral sanctions on various countries that are hindering the global fight against the new coronavirus. The diplomatic missions of Russia, China, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday and warned about the negative impact of the sanctions on the international efforts aimed at containing the deadly virus.
Amid the crisis, on March 17, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced new sanctions against Iran, telling reporters, “We have an open humanitarian channel to facilitate legitimate transactions even while ensuring our maximum pressure campaign denies terrorists money.” But that assessment of the humanitarian channel isn’t widely shared and, despite Pompeo’s repeated assertions that the Trump administration offered Iran help to deal with the coronavirus crisis, he hasn’t provided details of what those offers entail. “Our research showed that in practice, humanitarian exemptions in the U.S. comprehensive sanctions regime have been ineffective in offsetting the strong reluctance of companies and banks to conduct trade with Iran, including the humanitarian trade that is presumably legal,” Human Rights Watch Iran researcher Tara Sepheri Far told Responsible Statecraft. “The Iranian healthcare system, both in terms of access to specialized medicine and also with regards to access to medical equipment, has taken a toll as a result of sanctions,” she added.
Donald Trump's government decided to reinforce the criminal sanctions that the United States has maintained and intensified against Iran for decades. The US peace movement has already denounced the perversity of such a measure, especially considering that Iran is one of the countries most affected by the global coronavirus outbreak, with more than 17,000 confirmed cases of contamination and more than 1,000 deaths registered thus far, while there is still a lack of vital medicines and medical equipment for the Iranian people to face the pandemic. It is therefore outrageous and we repudiate in the most vehement terms Trump's criminal decision to step up on sanctions, at a time when nations should be cooperating to overcome this pandemic and create solutions to protect their peoples and humanity against this humanitarian calamity.
The World Health Organization's Emergency Director for the Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, Richard Brennan, said that Iran's strategies are on the right path to contain coronavirus epidemic. Speaking on the sidelines of visiting the WHO delegation and the COVID-19 pandemic public health experts' visit to Iran, he said that a comprehensive and coordinated approach is currently being implemented in Iran, especially in the areas of patient management, laboratories, and risk communication. [...] The World Health Organization (WHO) says Iran's response to the virus has so far been up to the mark. Still, it says the US sanctions are a big challenge, and Washington would be complicit in the rising death toll in Iran if it would not remove its sanctions. The World Health Organization has considered priorities in combating coronavirus and Islamic Republic of Iran obeys and follows up priorities as defined by WHO. The WHO is dispatching separate delegations to all countries.
The current pandemic could provide an opportunity for President Trump to make a humanitarian gesture towards Iran. He should ease sanctions to allow aid and medical supplies to get into Iran in order to help contain the epicenter of the disease in the Middle East and slow one of the largest outbreaks of this deadly virus. This may open the door for future dialogue that could finally get Tehran and Washington out of this impasse.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in October of last year that American sanctions illegally targeted humanitarian trade by making it “‘difficult if not impossible for Iran, Iranian nationals, and companies to engage in international financial transactions to purchase such goods.” The court ordered that the United States remove any impediments to the free exportation of medicines and medical devices. The United States, however, rejected the ruling, withdrew from the optional protocol of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and terminated its 1955 Treaty of Amenity with Iran. No longer bound by the ICJ, the Trump administration has continued a policy of harsh sanctions. As a result, lifesaving medicine in Iran has become expensive and scarce. From March 2018 to March 2019, the cost of health and medical services in Iran has risen by nineteen percent. The Iranian government has repeatedly labeled American policy as “economic terrorism.”
[...] Below are key dates related to the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran, a description of the U.S. sanctions that took effect on each date, and efforts to blunt the impact of these sanctions by European parties to the agreement. [...]