Iran calls for US sanctions to be lifted due to coronavirus

A temporary hospital for coronavirus patients was set up by the Iranian military at the North Tehran International Exhibition Center on March 26. Ebrahim Noroozi / AP

Still subject to a strict economic sanctions regime by Washington, Iran is struggling to provide an effective response to the continuing health crisis in the country. Friday, April 3, the daily report issued by the Iranian authorities reached 3,294 dead. Actual figures are however much higher according to the widely shared opinion of Iranian medical sources regularly consulted by The world since February. Authorities responded late and inconsistently to the Covid-19 epidemic. Their own dysfunctions are compounded by an additional handicap with Washington's pursuit of a policy of maximum pressure against the country. A reality that Tehran has not failed to exploit on the international scene.

The diplomatic offensive waged since mid-March by Iranian President Hassan Rohani and his foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responds to a simple watchword: the Trump administration's continuation of its policy of maximum pressure kills. Such a position has the advantage of achieving unanimity among the Iranian population at a time when the government is suffering from a serious crisis of legitimacy. Tehran finds an opportunity to play on the differences of opinion between the Americans and the Europeans, who favor a relaxation of the sanctions. In Washington, where the Covid-19 epidemic is perceived by supporters of the harshest positions vis-à-vis Iran as a blessed opportunity to bring the regime to its knees, we limit ourselves to rejecting any link between sanctions and capacity of the Iranian authorities to respond to the health crisis.

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However, the subject is starting to be the subject of debate in Washington. On the defensive, the American administration recalls that, theoretically, medical supplies are not subject to sanctions. The reality is however much more complex. Certain protective equipment, including that necessary for the fight against the Covid-19, is still penalized. The import of sophisticated equipment such as artificial respirators also requires complicated procedures with the Treasury, which have enough to put off suppliers.

These heavy restrictions are, however, negligible in the face of the insurmountable obstacle of sanctions weighing on financial exchanges, which generally hamper banking transactions with Iran, whatever their purpose. A mask maker will not be worried about sending a shipment to Iran. On the other hand, he will have the greatest difficulty in receiving payment from his client.


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