Context: America’s refusal to ease sanctions on Iran even when the West Asian country is struggling hard to contain the novel coronavirus spread with limited resources.

Current scenario in Iran:

  • Iran is the hardest hit by the pandemic in West Asia, has already seen 3,739 deaths and 62,589 infections.
  • Iran failed on multiple fronts in the battle: 
    • The government was initially reluctant to enforce drastic restrictions on businesses, religious establishments and people.
    • Inefficiency of Iran’ health care system: infections began spreading at an exponential pace, it was more than what Iran’s health-care system could handle. 
    • Struggling to meet people’s needs: Cash crunch and sanctions of the USA accentuated the problem.
  • The sanctions, reimposed by President Trump after unilaterally pulling the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, shrank the country’s economy by 8.7%. 
  • Recent fall in oil prices and the pandemic have multiplied Iran’s woes. Now, Iran also lacks the resources to make necessary purchases.
  • The USA said exports of essential goods needed to fight pandemic are already exempted and rejected calls for easing sanctions.

Impact of sanctions:

  • No functional payment mechanism with Iran:  Most global banks, fearing U.S. retaliation and legal consequences, stay away from doing business with Iran, which makes it difficult for Iran to find a functional payment mechanism. 

Both countries should reconsider its policies: 

  • The USA with one of the largest numbers of infections should try to understand the situation of Iran. Despite the U.S. being the world’s largest economy, and home to a gigantic health-care industry, authorities appear clueless on quick containment. 
  • Washington should have suspended or at least eased the sanctions on Iran, allowing the country to import food, medicines and other humanitarian goods without restrictions.
  • Such a decision would have provided opportunities to both the countries to resume diplomatic engagement.
  • Instead of America bashing, Tehran’s focus should be on getting maximum help from abroad and beefing up its fight at home to save lives.


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