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U.S. sanctions on Iran are making its coronavirus crisis worse. Ilhan Omar is calling for them to be suspended.

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COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on Iran, where at least 14,000 people have been infected and 853 have died. The virus has killed 129 people in just the last 24 hours. Many have pointed to the fact that U.S sanctions on the country have compounded its current crisis, as they hurt Iran’s economy and its health care system. Last week, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) reiterated her call for the United States to suspend the sanctions. Omar retweeted a post by Iranian-American activist Hoda Katebi and wrote, “We need to suspend these sanctions before more lives are lost.”

The Katebi tweet referenced the plight of her family back in Iran. “I’m terrified,” it reads, “My aunt is a doctor in Iran. Bc of sanctions there is a MASSIVE shortage of medical supplies, including face masks. She keeps giving her face mask to other docs bc there aren’t enough for everyone. For the love of GOD we need to end sanctions on Iran NOW.”

Omar repeatedly condemned the sanctions on Iran, before the coronavirus ever hit the country. After the Trump administration announced new sanctions on the country in January, she tweeted, “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!”

Last month, the congresswoman introduced a package of 7 foreign policy bills that she calls “The Pathway to Peace.” “I want to make sure that here in the United States we understand that there are other countries who take in so many people of the world’s most pained people, and in the United States we could do better,” said Omar at the time.

One of those bills is the The Congressional Oversight of Sanctions Act, which would require congressional approval for any emergency sanctions introduced by an administration. The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said its  battle against the virus had been “severely hampered” by the sanctions and today China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang called on the United States to suspend them. “We urge the US to immediately lift unilateral sanction on Iran,” he tweeted, “Continued sanction is against humanitarianism and hampers Iran’s epidemic response & delivery of humanitarian aid by the UN and other organizations.”



Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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13 Responses

  1. Kay24 on March 16, 2020, 5:59 pm

    It is only humane to do so. These poor people are suffering badly through no fault of theirs, and we should not be punishing them, because we disagree with their leadership. There are women and children in dire straits over there, and they must be helped.
    Trump is a vindictive and vicious man, and besides he does not have any properties over there, so what does he care? He is the cause of their suffering, after all he destroyed the Nuclear Agreement, which the UN Monitors have confirmed the Iranians were adhering to. Yet he inflicts this pain on them, through his idiotic sanctions.
    This outrage is unacceptable, end the suffering of these poor people, and give them a chance to survive.

    • Misterioso on March 16, 2020, 7:56 pm


      Trump’s puppet masters, including Sheldon Adelson and several other highly influential super wealthy American Zionists in lock step with “Israel’s” leaders utterly oppose lifting the inhumane sanctions on Iran. As I’m sure you know, when they tell Trump to “jump,” he jumps.

    • eljay on March 16, 2020, 8:34 pm

      The U.S. – like Israel – loves to boast about how “moral beacon” and “light unto the nations” it is, while conducting itself in a manner befitting a less-bad-than-the-worst state. Birds of a “no light between”, “shared common values” feather…

  2. Misterioso on March 16, 2020, 7:41 pm

    “Sickening U.S. Sanctions on Iran,” by Finian Cunningham, Sputnik International, March 11, 2020

    “At a time of global crisis as seen with the coronavirus epidemic, it is heartening to witness compassion and solidarity that unites all human beings.

    “Russia, which has so far been relatively unscathed from the disease, is reportedly sending 50,000 test kits to Iran for detecting the virus. The Islamic Republic has recorded over 300 deaths so far and there are fears of many more fatalities to come over the next few weeks as the flu-like disease spreads to all provinces.

    “Meanwhile, China – where the outbreak originated in December – is sending thousands of ventilators, respirators and other equipment to Italy, which has become the worst-affected country in Europe by the disease.

    “In stark contrast to these international humanitarian actions, the United States continues to impose crippling economic sanctions on Iran under its policy of ‘maximum pressure’.

    “Iran’s parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani this week called on the rest of the world to demand the lifting of US sanctions because they are hampering the fight against Covid-19 in Iran.

    “Washington claims that its sanctions on Iran do not specifically target medicines and humanitarian supplies to the country. But that claim is cynical sophistry. Even the US-based Human Rights Watch organization – usually uncritical of American foreign policy – has stated that sanctions are hitting Iran’s public health services.

    “A ruling by the United Nations’ International Court of Justice in October 2018 also found that US sanctions were unlawful, especially because they prevent Iran from importing vital humanitarian supplies.

    “Two weeks ago, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that his country would offer humanitarian assistance to Iran over the coronavirus crisis if Tehran made a request. Pompeo said the US “stands with the people of Iran”.

    “Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has subsequently rejected Washington’s ‘offer’, dismissing it as a disingenuous propaganda stunt. He said that if Washington really was concerned for the people of Iran then it would immediately revoke its economic sanctions that are restricting every industrial sector, including banking and shipping.

    “Any fair-minded person would agree with President Rouhani. What is charitable about throttling a country and then offering superficial respite? It’s tantamount to waterboarding a prisoner and then letting him breathe for a few seconds before continuing the torture.

    “The Trump administration re-imposed crippling US sanctions on Iran in May 2018 after the Americans decided to dump the international nuclear accord. As the ICJ ruling above makes clear, those sanctions are unlawful. Again, let that fact sink in: US policy towards Iran is unlawful.

    “The American economic stranglehold has slashed Iran’s global oil exports, plunging the country’s economy into turmoil. Even before the coronavirus epidemic emerged, Iranians have been deprived of life-saving medicines because of failing import-purchasing power and skyrocketing inflation. Untold numbers of patients have died from lack of drugs for cancer treatment and other terminal illnesses – all because of the US blockade on the country.

    “But from the callous American point of view, this is all going to plan as part of “maximum pressure” to incite regime change. Professed concern for the Iranian people by President Trump and his administration is simply sickening.

    “Unfortunately, the rest of the world can become inured to the barbarity of economic sanctions inflicted on Iran by the US. The slow, daily death toll of people perishing from chronic lack of medicines can become invisible due to the seeming abstract nature of these deaths.

    “However, with the coronavirus now gripping Iran it suddenly becomes clear again just how monstrous US policy towards that country is. Whatever American propaganda fantasies might claim about Iran, there is absolutely no justification for kicking sick innocent people when they are down.

    “Washington calls Iran the ‘world’s number one terror state’. What does that make the US when it is choking a nation that is trying to fight off a disease that may kill thousands?

    “At the end of the day, what comes around goes around. There are growing fears that the Covid-19 virus is set to explode in the US, mainly because of years of underfunding of public health services. American governments have for years pandered to the rich elite, while the majority of its citizens have become mired in poverty and deprivation. The US authorities are nowhere near prepared to deal with the impending humanitarian crisis, according to American medics and nurses.

    “The heartlessness of successive US governments towards Iran – and in particular under the current Trump administration – is heartlessness shown towards all human beings, including ordinary American citizens. And vile US policy will reap what it has sown.”

  3. oldgeezer on March 16, 2020, 9:38 pm

    These sanctions are war crimes. Crimes against humanity. And potentially qualifies as genocide.

    Sanctions frequently do not work. Sanctions do kill innocent civilians. We even know the number of excess deaths due to them.

    To wilfully take actions that will cause deaths in such mass numbers far exceeds any plausible use of the phrase collateral damage. Nor phrases like necessary price.

    These are war crimes of the highest degree and those behind them should be held to account

    Additionally the US offer to provide aid is laughable. They can’t even meet the needs of their own citizens. Taking on the needs of an additional 80 million was never going to happen.

  4. CHUCKMAN on March 17, 2020, 8:34 am

    Nothing better reveals America’s worst character than its behavior towards Iran and Venezuela at a time of great hardship.

    It indeed does bring back thoughts of dear old Madeleine Albright, a genuinely hateful creature, speaking callously about the tens of thousands of dead children in Iraq.

    By the way, she received the Medal of Freedom just like Joe Biden, who perhaps got it for his advocacy of America’s industrial-scale extrajudicial killing operation or perhaps his glorious work in Ukraine or his enthusiastic support for invading Iraq and killing a million people.

    If ever there were something totally misnamed, it is the Medal of Freedom.

    The name quite literally has the character of one of Orwell’s Party slogans in “1984.”

  5. James Canning on March 17, 2020, 11:47 am

    Yes, suspend the sanctions on Iran.

    • Mooser on March 17, 2020, 2:24 pm

      “Yes, suspend the sanctions on Iran.”

      By all means. Trump might even be able to negotiate some reductions and guarantees concerning Iran’s nuclear program in return.

  6. genesto on March 17, 2020, 12:28 pm

    You can put the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of Israel and the Zionist lobby that cares nothing about the humanity of Persians, Arabs or Muslim people in general.

  7. Jackdaw on March 17, 2020, 12:29 pm

    Maybe Iran should first recall the IRGC from it’s far flung posts in the Middle East. Then end Iran’s support of terror groups Hezbollah, IJ and Hamas.

    And first and foremost, stop murdering Iranian citizens protesting their government.

    • Misterioso on March 17, 2020, 2:57 pm


      Maybe “Israel” should end its imprisonment of millions of indigenous Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip and end its brutal illegal occupations of East Jerusalem and the West Bank along with its illegal occupations of Syria’s Golan Heights and Lebanon’s Shebaa Farms.

      Hypocrsiy, thy name is Jackdaw.

    • eljay on March 17, 2020, 5:45 pm

      || Jackdaw on March 17, 2020, 12:29 pm ||

      Dude, I totally agree with you that it is unjust to “single out” and subject Israel to ineffectual BDS when it should be receiving the same treatment as Iran: Crushing economic sanctions and constant existential threats of destabilization, devastation and regime change.

    • oldgeezer on March 17, 2020, 7:02 pm

      Jackdaw displays a complete lack of humanity. Whether it’s why he can support the outlaw state of Israel or as a result of his belief in a racist political ideology is the only question.

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