Since the WHO confirmed coronavirus as pandemic, the virus has gone global and afflicted all countries indiscriminately. Containing such a fast-spreading virus requires action, not only at national but also at international level.
First and foremost, each country must take appropriate measures domestically through enforcement of rigorous containment strategies. This, in turn, demands enormous national resources and a robust economy to cater to the needs of the many who might have been suffering from the disease, or its collateral damage and side-effects.
Secondly, at the international level, specialised organisations, namely the World Health Organization, and other relief agencies have a lot to offer; both in terms of breaking new grounds in discovering a vaccine, offering expert medical assistance to afflicted countries and mass logistic coordination. In the meantime, however, all countries, particularly the developed ones, both individually and collectively, have a crucial role to play in capacity building and helping others deal with the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak in their territories and the virus’ final defeat.
Considering the above, the case of Iran is a peculiar one; Iran is the third most severely hit country in the world after China and Italy, yet the latter two, face none of the predicaments that Iran has found itself in.
Since the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA, the Iranian economy has lost around $200 billion, making it increasingly difficult to effectively mobilise the scarcely available and sanctions-strained resources to put up an effective battle against the virus. The rather high death toll among the medical staff is indicative of this grim fact. While a robust domestic economy is essential for enforcing rigorous measures in containing coronavirus at the national level, the US unilateral sanctions, amounting to over 100 restrictive Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) actions only after 8 May 2018, have drastically reduced the economic capacity to fight the virus in Iran, thereby putting the entire country and the region at risk. The $1.67 billion of Iranian assets blocked in Luxembourg is but an example of the vast Iranian assets illegally blocked abroad, the release of which would go a long way towards the containment of the virus in Iran.
In line with WHO health regulations, Iran has taken all measures in full transparency to curb the outbreak which has now become a pandemic. As a matter of fact, WHO officials have commended Iran’s efforts in containing coronavirus. Despite all, a clique of anti-Iranian US officials and their affiliated lobbyists are capitalising on the misery of the people of Iran, by resorting to coercive and illegal measures, including the urge to continue unilateral sanctions and to impose their demands on other countries at a time when even the most acute hostilities should cease in a collective effort to put an end to a threat that knows no bound.
Apart from the inhumane nature of US sanctions, their extraterritorial application is not even recognised under EU law. The choice for the international community, the European Union and its members is clear: will they make the legal and moral decision and come to Iranian people’s aid by defying the US illegal sanctions and honouring their multilateral commitments under the JCPOA, Security Council Resolution 2231 and the EU law itself?
Hossein Dehghani is the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Belgium.
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