Why sanctions on Iran must end

Press TV  | Yasir Ali Mirza: Iran is among the worst-hit countries affected by the novel Coronavirus pandemic. As per the World Health Organization’s report, as of April 13, the COVID-19 confirmed cases have skyrocketed to 71, 686 and death toll to 4,474 marks. The situation is very grim in the country and the next few days are very crucial in fighting against the global pandemic. Its statistics are trailing behind the United States, Italy, China, Spain, Germany and France so far. It’s bearing the brunt of emergency health hazard coupled with crippling sanctions.

As Iran is struggling to come to grips with containing the deadly contagious disease, the United States stooped to new low and heaped new sanctions on the Islamic Republic in the last week of March. Instead of easing economic sanctions in the time of global humanitarian health crisis, the Trump administration amplified its punitive action by slapping its embargo on crisis-hit Iran. The renewed sanctions came after a report surfaced that former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who was allegedly being sent to Iran for espionage, has died while in custody in Iran.

On behalf of the categorical appeals of the Iranian president and the foreign minister, the international community has called upon the United Sates to lift the sanctions on humanitarian grounds. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet on March 17, “Unlawful US sanctions drained Iran’s economic resources, impairing ability to fight #Covid19. They literally kill innocents…”

Even the United Nations’ Human Rights Council chief Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile and herself a medical physician, also called for reassessment of economic sanctions slapped against Iran in the time of global pandemic, but it also fell flat. The so-called Progressives— Democratic Party presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, Somali-born US Congresswomen Rep. Ilhan Omar, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called these sanctions inhuman and said they should be lifted immediately. Out of insensitiveness, the US did not pay heed and summarily rejected it. The hawkish leaders sitting in Washington D.C. have made it clear that the spread of the virus will not save it from the inhuman sanctions and further tightened its ‘maximum pressure’ strategy to bring Iran to its knees.

Nevertheless, the Trump administration has offered ‘humanitarian assistance’ to Iran in fighting the deadly menace which is just a fig leaf intended to cover the Americans’ vicious policies. Rejecting the US’ proffer as a mere euphemism, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran had no intention of accepting “a glass of muddy water.” He said, “American leaders are lying… If they want to help Iran, all they need to do is to lift sanctions… Then we can deal with the coronavirus outbreak.”

The crippling sanctions imposed on Iranian oil exports and banking systems are obstructing Iranian efforts to procure medicines, medical equipment and other essential items for civil purposes. It also cannot purchase certain items from any other countries, which [amounts to US’] flouting international norms. According to the US Department of Treasury report, the Trump administration has truncated the number of licenses to American companies which export raw material for pharmaceuticals and medical equipment such as diagnostic kits, oxygen generators, full-face respirators, masks, and thermal imaging equipment. Medical staffers are facing difficulties in treating Covid patients due to the inhuman embargoes and [are] unable to contain the morbidity in this state of public health emergency. Some of the prominent Iranian political leaders and clerics have lost their lives. The gravity of this catastrophe can be measured by the fact that Iran had to ask for [a] $5 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan for the first time since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. But the the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) Damocles sword is hanging over the fate of IMF loan as long as it remains under the blacklist. Unmoved by the global appeals, Washington is likely to block Iran’s effort to get IMF’s emergency loan needed to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.

The problem of successive US administrations right from the beginning of the Cold War is that it wants to hegemonize the global politics that leads to unilateralism. The free flow of oil without any hindrance for its flourishing industrial economy is one of the apparent reasons behind its global hegemony. The American political establishment still believes that ‘benign’ US hegemony and its unilateralism are the raison d’etre for world peace. After the ending of [the] Cold War, they still reckon that Pax Americana is necessary for relative peace in the eastern hemisphere of the globe.

Since Trump got into the Oval Office, the POTUS has been increasing punitive actions against Iran. In 2018, he precipitously withdrew from a historic Iran nuclear treaty inked by his predecessor Barack Obama. On the contrary, he reimposed severe economic sanctions against its long-standing nemesis. The belligerence between this West Asian regional power and the ‘global arrogance’ had never gone beyond the verbal attacks. However, in an unprecedented move in January this year, on the persuasion of CIA chief Mike Pompeo, President Trump had given the go-ahead for the elimination of the most celebrated Iranian military officer and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ (IRGC) al-Quds Force chief, Major General Qassem Soleimani, in a targeted assassination in Iraq. Though, General Soleimani was at the frontline in fighting against the global terrorism unleashed by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This US’ hot pursuit is a clear violation of the international law that shows how much it holds respect for it.

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage Iran, one positive development [that] has taken place is that some 32 level-headed US lawmakers spearheaded by Rep. Cortez have written a joint letter to President Trump demanding immediate withdrawal of crushing sanctions against Iran so that it can obtain necessary medicines and medical equipment. The gesture shown by the American political leaders might be a glimmer of hope for the prospective thawing of relations between the US and Iran.

If the US boasts that it is one of the oldest democracies and upholders of human rights, then its leadership must show its willingness to fight out the menace with transnational solidarity and cooperation with moderation and without any prejudices against any country in these trying times. That will suffice its ideals established by its founding fathers. US should internalize the values of multilateralism in letter and spirit. Then world peace can be cherished in a true manner. Unlike others, Iran is no more a pariah state or a rogue entity. The Iranian nation is built upon great civilizational and cultural ethos and impeccable knowledge system.

In absence of any global effort to get it succored, the resilient people of Iran will overcome these difficult times once more on its own as it has evolved commendably since the Islamic Revolution 40 years ago. But the conformist attitude of the international community will remain a fact. Neither its people nor its leadership can be ignored from playing a pragmatic and responsible role in the comity of nations. It needs a fare share of its rights, not charity. So much so that tolerance, cooperation and mutual respect are the key to global peace.

Yasir Ali Mirza is Doctoral Scholar at Centre for West Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)