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US Imposes Fresh Sanctions On Iran Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Cruelty Of Sanctions During Pandemic

Saturday 28 March 2020, by siawi3


US Imposes Fresh Sanctions On Iran Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

By Staff,

March 21, 2020

Photo: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a press conference at the State Department in Washington DC, on March 17, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

The United States has announced a new round of sanctions against Iran as part of its so-called “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that Washington had blacklisted three Iranian entities for engaging in what he called “significant transactions” to trade in Iranian petrochemicals.

While he did not name any firms or individuals, Pompeo said the measure included blacklisting Iran’s armed forces social security investment company and its director for investing in the sanctioned entities.

In a separate statement, the US Commerce Department also said it would boycott a number of entities, including five Iranian nuclear scientists, for aiding Tehran’s nuclear program.

President Donald Trump reinstated US sanctions on Iran in May 2018 after he unilaterally left the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed between Iran and major world powers.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) — known as the World Court — has ordered the US to lift the sanctions it has illegally re-imposed on humanitarian supplies to Iran.

Over the past weeks, calls have been growing on the world stage for the US to lift its illegal sanctions, which have severely affected Iran’s healthcare systems at a time when all countries are trying to join forces against the pandemic.

The new sanctions come as China and Russia, in particular, have urged the US to remove its sanctions on Tehran since the restrictions could interfere with Iran’s efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

The coronavirus, which causes a respiratory disease known as covid-19, emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei Province late last year and is currently affecting more than 160 countries and territories across the globe. It has so far infected over 180,000 people and killed more than 7,400 others.

In Iran, the total number of infections has reached 16,169. Also, the fatality count increased on Tuesday to 988, with 135 news deaths, according to the latest figures provided by the Health Ministry. A total of 5,389 patients have fully recovered.



Cruelty Of Sanctions During Pandemic

By Vijay Prashad and Paola Estrada

March 18, 2020

Photo: Visitors walk near the Massoumeh shrine in Iran’s holy city of Qom, where the Middle East’s first Covid-19 victims died. Photo: AFP

Iran and Venezuela face difficulty accessing needed medicines as Covid-19 rages across the globe

Swiftly moves the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), dashing across continents, skipping over oceans, terrifying populations in every country. The numbers of those infected rise, as do the numbers of those who have died. Hands are being washed, tests are being done, and “social distance” has become a new phrase. It is unclear how devastating this pandemic will be.

In the midst of a pandemic, one would expect that all countries would collaborate in every way to mitigate the spread of the virus and its impact on human society. One would expect that a humanitarian crisis of this magnitude would provide the opportunity to suspend or end all inhumane economic sanctions and political blockades against certain countries.

The main point here is this: Is this not the time for the imperialist bloc, led by the United States of America, to end the sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, and a series of other countries?

Medical shortages

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told us recently that the “illegal and unilateral coercive measures that the United States has imposed on Venezuela are a form of collective punishment.” The use of the phrase “collective punishment” is significant; under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, any policy that inflicts damage on an entire population is a war crime. The US policy, Arreaza told us, has “resulted in difficulties for the timely acquisition of medicines.”

On paper, the unilateral US sanctions say that medical supplies are exempt. But this is an illusion. Neither Venezuela nor Iran can easily buy medical supplies, nor can they easily transport them into their countries, nor can they use them in their largely public-sector health systems. The embargo against these countries – in this time of Covid-19 – is not only a war crime by the standards of the Geneva Conventions (1949) but is a crime against humanity as defined by the United Nations International Law Commission (1947).

In 2017, US President Donald Trump enacted tight restrictions on Venezuela’s ability to access financial markets; two years later, the US government blacklisted Venezuela’s central bank and put a general embargo against the Venezuelan state institutions. If any firm trades with Venezuela’s public sector, it could face secondary sanctions.

The US Congress passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) in 2017, which tightened sanctions against Iran, Russia and North Korea. The next year, Trump imposed a raft of new sanctions against Tehran that suffocated Iran’s economy. Once more, access to the world banking system and threats to companies that traded with Iran made it almost impossible for Iran to do business with the world.

In particular, the US government made it clear that any business with the public sector of Iran and Venezuela was forbidden. The health infrastructure that provides for the mass of the populations in both Iran and Venezuela is run by the state, which means it faces disproportionate difficulty in accessing equipment and supplies, including testing kits and medicines.
Breaking the embargo

Arreaza told us that his government is alert to the dangers of Covid-19 with a health infrastructure that has been affected by the sanctions. Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez is leading a presidential commission to manage whatever resources are available. “We are breaking the blockade,” Arreaza said, “through the World Health Organization, through which we have obtained medicine and the tests to detect the illness.” The WHO, despite its own crisis of funds, has played a key role in both Venezuela and Iran.

Nonetheless, the WHO faces its own challenges with sanctions, particularly when it comes to transportation. These harsh sanctions forced transportation companies to reconsider servicing both Iran and Venezuela. Some airlines stopped flying there; many shipping companies decided not to anger Washington. When the WHO tried to get testing kits for Covid-19 from the United Arab Emirates into Iran, it faced difficulty – as the WHO’s Christoph Hamelmann put it – “due to flight restrictions”; the UAE sent the equipment via a military transport plane.

Likewise, Arreaza told us, Venezuela has “received the solidarity from governments of countries such as China and Cuba.” This is a key issue. China, despite its own challenges from Covid-19, has been supplying testing kits and medical equipment to Iran and to Venezuela; it was China’s vigorous reaction to the virus that has now slowed down its spread within China itself.

In late February, a team from the Red Cross Society of China arrived in Tehran to exchange information with the Iranian Red Cross and with WHO officials; China also donated testing kits and supplies. The sanctions, Chinese officials told us, should be of no consequence during a humanitarian crisis such as this; they are not going to honor them.

Meanwhile, the Iranians developed an app to help their population during the Covid-19 outbreak; Google decided to remove it from its app store, a consequence of the US sanctions.

End the sanctions

Yolimar Mejías Escorcha, an industrial engineer, tells us that the sanctions regime has put a lot of pressure on everyday life in Venezuela. She says that the government “continues to make an effort to ensure that people who most need it get health care, education, and food.” The opposition has tried to say that the crisis is a consequence of the government’s inefficiency rather than a result of the imperialist blockade on Venezuela.

On March 6, she tells us, a new campaign was launched in the country called “Sanctions Are a Crime.” She hopes that this campaign will explain clearly to people why there are shortages in her country – the sanctions being the core reason.

In 2019, a group of countries met at the United Nations in New York to discuss the US unilateral sanctions that violated the UN Charter. The intent was to work through the Non-Aligned Movement to create a formal group that would respond to these sanctions. Arreaza told us that Venezuela supports this initiative but also the declaration of principles drafted by Iran against unilateralism and the Russian formal complaint about denial of visas for officials to visit the UN building in New York.

“We hope to resume meetings this year once the difficulties presented by Covid-19 are overcome,” he said. They want to meet again, Arreaza said, to “advance joint, concrete actions.”

What Arreaza told us are initiatives at the interstate level. At the same time, there are ongoing initiatives led by popular movements and political organizations. In November 2019, an anti-imperialist solidarity meeting was held in Havana with representatives from 86 countries. At this meeting, it was decided that attention must be focused on the inhumane use of power in our time; a call was sent out to hold a week of anti-imperialist struggle between May 25 and May 31. The aim of the week is to alert the world’s public about imperialism and – in this context – about the murderous sanctions regime driven by the United States, more murderous in this time of Covid-19.

The question that a week of activities such as this poses is quite simple: What kind of moral fiber holds together an international system where a handful of countries can act in a way that goes against all the highest aspirations of humanity?

When the United States continues its embargoes against more than 50 countries – but mostly against Cuba, Iran and Venezuela – when there is a global pandemic afoot, what does this say about the nature of power and authority in our world? Sensitive people should be offended by such behavior, its mean-spiritedness evident in the unnatural deaths that it provokes.

When then-US secretary of state Madeleine Albright was asked about the half-million Iraqi children who died because of US sanctions, she said those deaths were a price worth paying. They were certainly not a price that the Iraqis wanted to pay, nor now the Iranians or the Venezuelans, or indeed the majority of humankind. We march in May against this desiccated worldview; we march for humanity.