(Op-Ed) Humanitarian and Ethical Concerns Should Be Factored Into the Calculus of Sanctions
Updated: Oct 14
Author: Rizwan Amir
This article is an opinion piece, it does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the ECC.
The coronavirus pandemic has tested the government and healthcare system of every nation on the planet. Iran, one of the hardest-hit countries, has struggled to contain this deadly virus due to an immense shortage of necessary medical equipment, a paralyzed economy, and a failing government. Amidst this pandemonium, another key player has further intensified this mishandled crisis: the United States.
The United States has imposed strong economic sanctions against Iran since the late 1970s. These sanctions have crippled the Iranian economy, often becoming a reason employed in Iranian anti-American philosophy and propaganda. Sanctions against the Persian nation go back more than 40 years to November 1979, when radical Iranian students seized the American embassy in Tehran and took diplomats hostage, a clear violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Then-President Jimmy Carter ordered a $12 billion freeze on Iranian assets. Since then, sanctions against Iran have only become more heated and sometimes controversial. The most recent being President Donald Trump's unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal, a preliminary framework agreed by all members of the UN Security Council and the EU. Ever since this withdrawal, President Trump of the US has imposed ""maximum pressure" in terms of sanctions on Iran.
And now, during a global pandemic, these sanctions have further reduced Iran’s already ineffective government's efforts to contain COVID-19. Due to comprehensive sanctions implemented by the US, it has made it quite difficult for Iran to purchase needed medical equipment such as ventilators from foreign nations. Thus, Iran’s compromised government has further stumbled against the coronavirus.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has called on the Trump administration to lift sanctions as a way to give Iran a fighting chance against this deadly contagion; notably, he has also previously been regarded by Secretary of State Pompeo as a “propagandist of the first order.” And unsurprisingly, the Trump administration has even imposed more sanctions during this period. On March 18, 2020, the Trump administration slapped new sanctions on Iran. Rather, the US has tried to give humanitarian assistance which Iran has refused because of its deep distrust of US-made medicine. Both nations seem to be preserving a sense of arrogance hoping for some kind of diplomatic gain in the long term.
Yet, the main issue is that the coronavirus pandemic is not just an economic crisis, it is a humanitarian one. Tens of thousands of people have already perished. The global death toll has surpassed one hundred thousand. Now the priority from the perspective of the Trump administration should not only be decimating an adverbial country’s economy. It is a time to save lives, even if it means considering a temporary, targeted sanction reduction.
Opinions expressed on the Advocate are not necessarily those of ECC, and our publication of opinions alone is not an endorsement of them.