US sanctions have helped to make Iran the biggest coronavirus victim in Asia

Iranian and US flags side by side
Ed Sykes

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has hit Iran harder than any other country in Asia. At the time of writing, it has a death toll of 6,486. One factor that has contributed to such a high number has been US sanctions, which Donald Trump’s government actually increased during the pandemic.

This situation highlights why it’s more important than ever to stand up to Washington’s awful US foreign policy machine.

Sanctions and coronavirus

Iran has long been a key regime-change target for the US. And under Trump, the US government has chosen to wage economic war on Iran. Washington’s assassination of an Iranian general at the start of the year, meanwhile, heightened tensions further – taking the countries onto war footing. But US sanctions on Iran in recent years have been particularly devastating. There have been numerous media reports in recent months about how they have been killing innocent Iranian people. During the current pandemic, meanwhile, that deadly impact has continued.

Canary contributor Slava Zilber recently spoke to US doctor and activist Dr Abdul El-Sayed. He said of his country’s sanctions on Iran that:

we have a responsibility to protect life no matter whose life it is. And we are watching other countries battle this pandemic just like we are. And to know that our government is doing anything that would harm their ability to protect lives in their societies I think is really damaging. It’s awful. And so I believe that we need to certainly put a moratorium on those sanctions.

He also pointed out that:

Who suffers when sanctions are put on a country? It tends to be the poorest, most marginalized people in the society.

Indeed, as The Canary has detailed previously, sanctions often harm civilians much more than government targets.

The destructive effect of sanctions on Iran’s economy has also seemingly contributed to its government easing anti-coronavirus measures too soon:

And sanctions have had other negative effects on Iran in recent weeks too:

US-Iranian tensions

Phyllis Bennis, a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and member of the board of Jewish Voice for Peace, previously spoke to Zilber earlier this year about US-Iranian tensions. On 5 January, for example, the Iraqi parliament voted that US forces should leave Iraq, and Bennis said:

people in Iraq, and increasingly the officials in Iraq, namely the parliament and the prime minister, do not want US troops in Iraq. They don’t see them as protecting Iraqis. They see them [as] putting Iraqis at greater risk, as we’ve just seen with this most recent tit-for-tat between the United States and Iran playing out on the territory…

She also mentioned months of deadly protests in Iraq in 2019 which showed that “a wide variety of forces in the country” opposed the presence of foreign forces. As she stressed:

the last twenty years has not been one where people across the region would see the United States as a force for good in the Middle East. It has brought greater suffering – the sanctions that have been imposed, the bombings, the use of drastic weapons that have slaughtered civilians, the deaths of civilians because of economic sanctions that began years before the military attacks

She added:

We need serious, enforceable bills to be passed that will cut US funding, cut the military budget’s allowance for war with Iran, and that will make sure that the president is … prevented … from waging war, from sending troops into harm’s way without a declaration of war or an explicit authorization from the Congress of the United States.

Fight for peace

Journalist Glenn Greenwald previously said the US maintaining and increasing sanctions on Iran during the coronavirus pandemic was “monstrous” and “evil”. Many others agreed. Because while the US government likes the world to believe it’s a champion of human rights, that’s a highly questionable claim. And its behaviour during the current pandemic highlights its cruelty.

As El-Sayed said, we must “protect life no matter whose life it is”. So let’s demand an end to pointless and deadly sanctions; and let’s demand an end to elitist regime-change efforts. Humanity deserves so much better.

Featured image via U.S. Department of State

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