Yesterday, Iran confirmed 16,169 COVID-19 cases in its country and 988 deaths. The virus’s crushing impact on Iran has no doubt been compounded by the United State’s sanctions, which have been devastating for the country’s economy. Many have called on sanctions to be suspended, but today Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he’s instituting even more restrictions and that the Trump administration will continue to enforce all preexisting sanctions.
“Our sanctions will deprive the regime of critical income from its petrochemical industry and further Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation,” said Pompeo in a statement, The United States will continue to fully enforce our sanctions.”
The Trump administration claims that the sanctions are coming in response to renewed rocket attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, which they believe to be emanating from Iran. The sanctions will mainly target the petrochemical industry, they say. Pompeo is also calling on Iran to release any U.S. prisoners in the country, as a humanitarian gesture during the crisis. “We are aware that they are thinking about whether to release them or not,” he said, “We are urging them … to release every American that is being wrongfully held there as a humanitarian gesture, given the risk that is posed.”
Last week, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) retweeted a post from Iranian-American activist Hoda Katebi condemning the sanctions on Iran. “We need to suspend these sanctions before more lives are lost,” wrote Omar.
We need to suspend these sanctions before more lives are lost https://t.co/G9ow3GgsHr
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) March 13, 2020
This isn’t the first time that Omar has attacked the sanctions policy. “Sanctions are economic warfare,” she tweeted in January ,”They have already caused medical shortages and countless deaths in Iran. You cannot claim to want deescalation and then announce new sanctions with no clear goal. This is not a measured response!”
This makes no sense. Sanctions are economic warfare.
They have already caused medical shortages and countless deaths in Iran.
You cannot claim to want deescalation and then announce new sanctions with no clear goal. This is not a measured response! https://t.co/sGWtwXuNDT
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) January 8, 2020
Recently, Omar introduced The Congressional Oversight of Sanctions Act, a bill that would require congressional approval for any emergency sanctions introduced by an administration. The legislation is cosponsored by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
A week before she dropped out of the presidential race, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, expressing concerns that the sanctions would make Iran’s response to the COVID-19 crisis more difficult.
“I am concerned about the vulnerability of the Iranian people to the coronavirus and the potential for Iran’s coronavirus cases to worsen the spread of the disease to neighboring countries, including regional allies, and to the rest of the world,” wrote Warren. “Therefore, I seek an assurance that every reasonable effort is being made by the United States to ensure the availability of medicine and other non-sanctionable humanitarian items to the Iranian people to help prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.”
The last round of Iran sanctions to be approved by congress were packaged into a wider sanctions bill from 2017 that also targeted Russia and North Korea. Warren, along with every other Senate Democrat, voted in favor of the sanctions. No Democrats voted against them in the House either. The only person who caucuses with the Democrats to vote against them was Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
“Iran is facing a catastrophic toll from the coronavirus pandemic,” Sanders tweeted this morning, “U.S. sanctions should not be contributing to this humanitarian disaster. As a caring nation, we must lift any sanctions hurting Iran’s ability to address this crisis, including financial sanctions.”
Iran is facing a catastrophic toll from the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. sanctions should not be contributing to this humanitarian disaster.
As a caring nation, we must lift any sanctions hurting Iran’s ability to address this crisis, including financial sanctions. https://t.co/OBjff1nsxz
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 18, 2020