• 2020-04-16

    The Trump administration’s sanctions have made it impossible for Iranian medical personnel to keep themselves safe amid the pandemic. [...] In March, Mohammad Sharifi Moghaddam, the head of a leading nurses’ union in Iran, told a local news organization that the death toll for nurses in Iran during the coronavirus pandemic has been “unnatural” compared with other countries that have been hit hard by the virus, blaming government mismanagement, staff shortages, and lack of protective equipment. While there is little question that the Iranian government’s response to the coronavirus has been a failure, U.S. sanctions have made the situation worse by disrupting other avenues for humanitarian aid—and the likely result is many more Iranian nurses and health care workers being made into martyrs.

  • 2020-04-14

    To be sure, Tehran has had much difficulty accessing its foreign exchange reserves for humanitarian trade because of U.S. restrictions on transactions with the Central Bank of Iran. Yet an IMF loan would have exactly zero impact on that issue. What does help on that front is Treasury’s quiet policy change in March to allow foreign transactions with the Central Bank for the purpose of countering coronavirus. Exporters are already leaping at this opportunity in South Korea, where Iran holds many billions of dollars in reserves; the policy change applies to other key reserve locations as well. Thus, anyone concerned about getting medical supplies to Iran should be focusing on these newly accessible reserves rather than IMF loans. In short, the IMF loan controversy will have no impact on the country’s ability to purchase humanitarian goods. It is inappropriate for news outlets, EU governments, or anyone else to claim that blocking the loan will impede Iran’s access to such goods. The real obstacle lies in Tehran’s failure to use the many resources it can already access.

  • 2020-04-06

    Even before COVID-19, Iran’s health system was feeling the effect of the sanctions.3 Their impact is now severe because they restrict the government’s ability to raise funds or to import essential goods. Of the ten countries with the highest number of recorded cases of COVID-19 to date, Iran is the poorest.2 In 2019, Iran had the lowest rate of economic growth (–9·5%) and highest rate of inflation (35·7%) recorded in the country for the past 20 years. This financial situation makes the funding of adequate prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19 impossible, and the country cannot take the same measures adopted in other countries to strengthen responses, such as paying the full cost of obtaining treatment.3 Essential medicines and medical equipment are technically exempt from sanctions, but their availability is restricted by the effect of sanctions on the commercial sector, reducing manufacturing and trade capacity, and on foreign exchange. Consequently, although approximately 184 000 hospital and primary health-care staff are working to fight COVID-19, their efforts are thwarted by shortages of test kits, protective equipment, and ventilators. 

  • 2020-04-06

    Since Iran emerged as the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the Middle East, its leaders have called on the U.S. to suspend economic sanctions so that they can more effectively fight and contain the pathogen. The U.S. has instead forged ahead with its strategy and sees the pandemic as an opportunity to further weaken and destabilize the country. The U.S. State Department says that humanitarian goods, including medicine and medical supplies, are exempt and not subject to any trade restrictions. Yet it has imposed sanctions on 18 Iranian banks, including lenders that were still able to carry out trade in foods and medicines.

  • 2020-04-06

    How Europe can help Iran fight covid-19

    Commentary by Esfandyar Batmanghelidj an Ellie Geranmayeh

    European Council on Foreign Affairs

    April 6, 2020

  • 2020-04-06

    Iran is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East. The Islamic Republic’s leadership has engaged in a massive campaign aimed at lifting sanctions imposed on it for its malign activities, claiming sanctions hinder efforts to address the COVID-19 public health crisis. This memo, however, assesses that lifting sanctions would be ill-advised. The Iranian population suffering from COVID-19 deserves much needed medical assistance but that should be funded though reliable NGOs, bypassing the regime and not through the transfer of funds to the regime, which has ample financial resources estimated at over $300 billion for economic stimulus and humanitarian aid. 

  • 2020-04-06

    Today, a bipartisan group of two dozen American and European national security leaders issue a joint statement urging the US government to ease humanitarian trade with Iran in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. “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” the authors write. The statement, organized by the European Leadership Network and The Iran Project, includes signatures from dignitaries such as former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini; four former NATO Secretaries-General; a range of former US officials spanning five Democratic and Republican presidential administrations, and British, French, German, and other European Prime Ministers, Foreign and Defense Secretaries, Ministers, and Ambassadors. 

  • 2020-04-05

    Iran is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East. The Islamic Republic’s leadership has engaged in a massive campaign aimed at lifting sanctions imposed on it for its malign activities, claiming sanctions hinder efforts to address the COVID-19 public health crisis. This memo, however, assesses that lifting sanctions would be ill-advised. The Iranian population suffering from COVID-19 deserves much needed medical assistance but that should be funded though reliable NGOs, bypassing the regime and not through the transfer of funds to the regime, which has ample financial resources estimated at over $300 billion for economic stimulus and humanitarian aid. 

  • 2020-04-03

    Iran has been hit hard by the coronavirus, and US sanctions have hindered its access to drugs and medical equipment. That has led many US officials and foreign policy experts to implore the Trump administration to ease or temporarily lift sanctions. Despite what you may have read, Joe Biden is not one of them. Biden’s April 2 statement on Iran, coronavirus, and sanctions makes no mention of lifting or easing sanctions whatsoever. Instead, it merely asks the Trump administration to take a number of limited actions to clarify what is already true: US sanctions don’t apply to humanitarian goods like medical equipment or drugs. Biden’s specific requests include issuing licenses to pharmaceutical and medical device companies and giving clear guidance to aid organizations.

  • 2020-04-01

    The politicization of the coronavirus pandemic––and other crises––in the Islamic Republic is, of course, interwoven with campaigns for regime change. Lobbies like United Against Nuclear Iran, which have long pressed for ever tougher sanctions, have in recent months singled out pharmaceutical sales to the country, targeting the Western companies still trading with Iran. There was a chorus of indignation when Iran rejected the offer from Médecins sans frontières of a 50-bed field hospital, ignoring the fact that its co-founder, onetime French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, has for the past three years addressed and endorsed the so-called ‘Free Iran’ gatherings of the mek—the ‘People’s Mujahedin of Iran’, a cult dedicated to violent regime change which, following the fall of its previous patron Saddam Hussein is currently stationed in Albania. In viewing the covid-19 pandemic through the prism of international power politics, Western governments, political observers and media pundits have not only failed to comprehend the facts on the ground; they have missed opportunities to learn from Iran’s experience—both what the country got right in responding to the pandemic, and what it got wrong—that could have benefited their own populations, in a world that today is interdependent not only economically and culturally, but perhaps above all in matters of public health.

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