Zarif on COVID-19 and Sanctions

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif charged the United States with “war crimes” and “economic terrorism” as U.S. sanctions “literally kill innocents” because of Iran’s ability to acquire medical supplies during the COVID19 crisis. On February 28, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had offered humanitarian aid and medical supplies to Iran to deal with its growing health crisis. But on March 7, Zarif accused the Trump Administration of “maliciously tightening” sanctions to drain Iran’s resources needed to fight the coronavirus. “The world can no longer be silent as US #EconomicTerrorism is supplanted by its #MedicalTerrorism,” Zarif tweeted. On March 14, he said sanctions “kill innocents.” Under U.S. law, humanitarian goods are not subject to sanctions, but some U.S. and foreign companies and banks have been reluctant to do business with Iran for fear of running afoul of the complex U.S. sanctions regime. On March 29, Zarif urged the international community to stop complying with U.S. sanctions. “STOP aiding WAR CRIMES,” he tweeted. 

For two years, Zarif had worked closely with the Obama Administration—and five other powers—to forge the 2015 nuclear deal that lifted many U.S. and international sanctions. But President Trump reimposed sanctions after he abandoned the nuclear deal in 2018. The following is a collection of Zarif’s comment on COVID-19 and sanctions.
 

 

Video message from March 18

"Dear friends, my name is Javad Zarif, and I am the Foreign Minister of Iran. Today I'm not solely addressing you as my country's representative, but as a fellow human being. At a time when we Iranians normally celebrate Nowruz, our New Year concurrent with the arrival of Spring, we are faced with multiple and historic challenges.

"My country is among the hardest hit by the Coronavirus even as, like other nations, we are now learning how to better confront it. Sadly, a huge part of the danger Iranian's face is due to restrictions unjustly imposed on them by the United States Government. Iran today is the most intensely sanctioned country in history, not in line with United Nations decisions, but contrary to them. The economic siege imposed on us impedes all legitimate trade and deprives us from our own resources, the ones necessary to address the needs of our people, including their health and livelihoods. Even amid this pandemic the US government has vengefully refused to lift its unlawful and collective punishment, making it virtually impossible for us to even buy medicine and medical equipment. The bigger tragedy is that many companies and countries who officially oppose these sanctions have chosen to comply with them, perhaps in hopes of avoiding the future wrath of the United States, despite President Trump time and again proving that this is just wishful thinking.

"Dear friends allow me to be frank. We are all in this together. To better confront the virus, we need to better work together. But to get there, the war on multilateralism, international cooperation, and the rule of law must come to an end, and those who passively comply with the whims of unilateralist bullies must wake up to the reality that they're also responsible for the destructive ramifications of aggressive unilateralism. I can assure you that we Iranians, relying on millennia of civilizations and unified national resilience, will overcome these challenges and emerge as a stronger and more compassionate community. I wholeheartedly wish the same for all my fellow human beings.

"But we human beings are capable of adopting a more empathic, and eventually a more prudent, approach towards one another, one premised on mutual respect and equal footing. It takes real courage and moral imperative. And if we are to make the world that will emerge from COVID-19 a better one, it is vital that we seize the opportunity to forge a new path.

"Eight centuries ago our great poet Saadi wrote, ‘All human beings are members of one frame, since all at first from the same essence came. When time afflicts a limb with pain, the other limbs at rest cannot remain.’ I wish all who celebrate Norouz, and all of you and your loved ones good health, happiness, and a brighter year ahead. Thank you."

"Dear friends allow me to be frank. We are all in this together. To better confront the virus, we need to better work together. But to get there, the war on multilateralism, international cooperation, and the rule of law must come to an end, and those who passively comply with the whims of unilateralist bullies must wake up to the reality that they're also responsible for the destructive ramifications of aggressive unilateralism. I can assure you that we Iranians, relying on millennia of civilizations and unified national resilience, will overcome these challenges and emerge as a stronger and more compassionate community. I wholeheartedly wish the same for all my fellow human beings.

"But we human beings are capable of adopting a more empathic, and eventually a more prudent, approach towards one another, one premised on mutual respect and equal footing. It takes real courage and moral imperative. And if we are to make the world that will emerge from COVID-19 a better one, it is vital that we seize the opportunity to forge a new path.

"Eight centuries ago our great poet Saadi wrote, ‘All human beings are members of one frame, since all at first from the same essence came. When time afflicts a limb with pain, the other limbs at rest cannot remain.’ I wish all who celebrate Norouz, and all of you and your loved ones good health, happiness, and a brighter year ahead. Thank you."

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Javad Zarif (@jzarif_ir) on

 

Excerpted translation of Persian caption by PressTV:

“This is the ugliest face of a government addicted to sanctions which wants to revive its abortive maximum pressure campaign through weakening Iran in the face of the corona.”

“Iran's health system, its citizens and its government, like Europe and the United States, are engaged in countering the corona, but what doubles the suffering of Iranians, restricts choices in crisis management and aggravates concerns for citizens' livelihoods, is the togetherness of the sanctions and the corona.”

“The combination of sanctions and the corona is a more dangerous enemy and a more dreadful malady; sanctions make the corona bolder and taking difficult decisions for crisis management even harder.”

The international community “needs a moral will to defy and win over the excessive demands of the United States.”

Sanctions and compliance with them “should not lead to more war crimes.”

“In order for global efforts to come to fruition and for the world to come back to life, we must believe that all this earth is a land of struggle and wherever we lose, the whole world will fail.”

“The world is in debt to every effort, whether in Wuhan, Tehran, Milan, Madrid, New York; every bitter news and every unfortunate image of human death demands the mourning of the whole world.”

“If the coronavirus pandemic fails to stop madness in politics and irresponsible unilateralism, the world and moral values will fail again.”

 

In response to Zarif’s tweet, State Department  Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus accused Iran’s regime of lying and stealing. She suggested the government look to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “tax-free hedge fund” instead of blaming sanctions for Iran’s dire situation. She was probably referring to Setad, an organization controlled by Khamenei that has reportedly amassed billions of dollars in property and other assets.

 

March 30 in an op-ed in the Russian business newspaper Kommersant (translation by Tasnim News Agency)

“The illegal blockade of Iran’s financial resources by the sweeping U.S. sanctions makes access to drugs and medical equipment impossible.”

“This is leading to a humanitarian catastrophe.”

“The world community must come to its senses and help Iran against economic, medical and drug terrorism.”

“The American policy of maximum pressure hampers Iranian exports, while Iran has fewer and fewer sources of investment.”