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.
“I am encouraging the waiving of sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support. This is the time for solidarity not exclusion,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres wrote in a letter to the G-20 economic powers. “Let us remember that we are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world.”
A diverse group of academics, researchers and NGO leaders have signed the following open letter addressed to the leaders of the P4+1 countries (United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, and Russia) and US lawmakers.
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.
Demonstrating compassion in times of crisis is good foreign policy, and in this case it may actually help achieve the goals the Trump administration is pursuing. Yet last week the Trump administration tightened its sanctions, blacklisting several companies around the world for “significant transactions” in petrochemical products with Iran. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin issued a statement stressing that the United States would continue to target those who support the Iranian regime, even as it “remains committed to facilitating humanitarian trade and assistance in support of the Iranian people.” He has insisted all along that sanctions do not prohibit humanitarian contributions.
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.
Since March 5, Chinese businessman Chen Cangsong and his Iranian friend Hassan Tavana have been working around the clock, busy with gathering donations from all over the world and then sending them to Iran, where the COVID-19 epidemic is raging. Both Chen and Hassan serve on the Business Council of the United Nations Maritime-Continental Silk Road Cities Alliance based in Quanzhou, in the southeastern Chinese Province of Fujian, where they have sent a rush shipment of supplies, including over 80,000 medical masks and 3,000 goggles, to Iran. Chen is busy dealing with the influx of messages from donors in member companies scattered in 16 countries. "We have our phones work day and night to make sure no donation is missed as sometimes messages come around midnight or before dawn," Chen said. Like Chen and Hassan, there are a large number of Chinese and Iranians extending their helping hands as brothers and sisters to fight against COVID-19 in Iran.
In light of the increasingly dire situation in Iran as the country combats the COVID-19 pandemic, NIAC Action and 25 other organizations – including J Street, Truman National Security Project, MoveOn, Win Without War and Ploughshares Fund – in calling on President Trump, Sec. Mnuchin, and Sec. Pompeo to loosen the administration's crippling sanctions regime on Iran for 120 days in order to aid the Iranian people’s fight against the virus. The combined groups, representing millions of Americans, signals a strong desire for the administration to reevaluate their Iran policy in the wake of the pandemic. NIAC Action Executive Director Jamal Abdi released the following statement accompanying the letter: “The Trump administration's current unwillingness to significantly ease sanctions on Iran during this time of crisis is like rubbing salt into a gaping wound. With hospitals overrun and Iranian doctors struggling to procure necessary equipment, the U.S. must be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. “As COVID-19 rips through country after country, Iran’s experience has been particularly devastating. While advanced medical systems across Western Europe seem to be collapsing under the weight of patients infected with the virus, Iranians have had to contend with both their own government’s negligence and crushing sanctions that slow the response and punish ordinary Iranians. “Humanitarian assistance shouldn’t come with strings attached, and we are all at risk from the pandemic regardless of nationality. We call on the administration to ease its sanctions policy so that all resources are available to fight the pandemic in this dark hour for the Iranian people.”