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 is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.