Iran rejects US aid as coronavirus deaths increase, US refuses to lift sanctions
by Mana Soroush – Richmond World Affairs Council Journalist Intern
Despite the pattern of harsh sanctions that the US has placed upon Iran throughout Trump’s presidency, the US has recently offered aid to Iran due to the high coronavirus death toll and the crucial need for adequate medical attention. Iran, with the highest amount of coronavirus deaths in the Middle East, has rejected this offer. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has stated that the US may be offering this aid as a means to spread the coronavirus further. He also stated that Iran does not need US aid, because Iran can handle “any kind of crisis and challenges, including the coronavirus outbreak.”
Khamenei stated in a televised address, “Americans have several times said that they are ready to help us with medicine and treatment. Their offer is strange when Washington itself is struggling with a shortage of medical supplies and containing the coronavirus epidemic. The mayors and medical authorities of various American cities admitted that they are facing many problems. If you have enough equipment, use them for yourselves.”
He continued, making further accusations against the US, “You Americans are accused of producing the virus yourselves. I don’t know how true it is, but when there is such an allegation, can a wise man trust you? You could be giving medicines to spread the virus or cause it to remain. Experience shows you can’t be trusted, yet you do such things.”
In comparison to Thomas Pickering’s past lecture with the Richmond World Affairs Council on U.S.-Iran relations, this interaction seems to fit well with his predictions. Pickering stated that the U.S. and Iran could face an “accidental” war resulting from miscalculation, misguidance, misjudgment or misunderstanding. While this interaction is not a direct act of war, the harsh economic sanctions that the U.S. has placed on Iran involve the use of economic warfare. Further, Iran rejecting U.S. aid is based on misunderstanding, with Khamenei’s accusation being based on a theory with no supporting evidence.
Many Iranians, along with Iranian diaspora around the world, are advocating for the lifting of US sanctions against Iran instead of medical assistance, claiming that it would allow long-lasting, rather than just temporary change. Hoda Katebi, a Muslim and Iranian-American activist, writer, and owner of a political fashion platform, created a social media movement: 80 Hours of Calls for 80,000,000 Lives: #EndCOVIDSanctions!
This movement calls for the immediate lifting of all sanctions that the US has placed on Iran, which “destroy any hope of Iran containing COVID-19.” The movement description further states that the Trump administrations even added new sanctions on Iran just this week, despite the global pandemic taking thousands of lives. Due to the fact that US sanctions do not allow Iranians to purchase or produce necessary life-saving supplies, such as a simple face mask, this movement aims to make 80 hours of calls to the Office of Foreign Assets Control within the US Department of Treasury.
Feldman, K. (2020, March 22). Iran rejects U.S. offer for coronavirus aid, cites conspiracy
Katebi, H. (2020, March 21). Hoda Katebi on Instagram: 80 Hours of Calls for 80,000,000
Lives: #EndCOVIDSanctions! Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/p/B-ATRfyHaM6/