Is Trump Administration Right In Blocking Iranian Aid Request Amidst Covid-19 Pandemic?

The Trump administration has made it clear that it will block Iran’s request for humanitarian aid of $5 billion from the International Monetary Fund claiming that the money will be spent by Iran, not on poor Iranians but to finance its vast network of proxies across the Middle East to further to destabilize the region.

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The Trump administration stated that Tehran has the funds to battle the pandemic, citing the billions of dollars in its sovereign-wealth fund; President Rouhani withdrew 1 billion euros from the fund for that purpose this week.

However, the expected block on loan has irritated prominent Iranian leaders’ who have called the blockade a crime against humanity. In fact, Rouhani has been busy reminding the world leaders of its humanitarian duty and has appealed to countries sympathetic to Iran to call America to lift its blockade.

However, that is easier said than done. The US has the support of Iran’s principal detractor Saudi Arabia and many other Arab countries in addition to more than 16.5% of the IMF’s voting shares which would make it difficult for even the combined efforts of European Union, China, and Russia to prevent the US from blocking the aid.

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Tehran’s behavior too has lent credence to America’s action as the Middle Eastern nation has not given its pursuit of nuclear arms, despite the pandemic killing scores in the country.

A month ago, not only did the country blocked efforts of the United Nations to inspect its nuclear activities but had also threatened to pull out of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty if its actions were reported.

Iran has further antagonized United States and its allies by ceasing to support terrorists’ organisations in neighbouring Iraq and other countries. Another factor likely to hamper Iran’s request for aid is the ransom demand of $5 billion Tehran has made for the release of American hostage Michael White.

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Furthermore, Iranians have themselves hurt their own chances by requesting assistance from the International Monetary Fund on the one hand while also claiming that Iran has not been affected by sanctions in general and especially in its fight against Covid-19 pandemic.

Medicines and medical equipments have been exempted from the sanctions and the United States has also pointed out to the fact that Tehran had refused to accept $100 million American help in medical assistance earlier.

However, U.S. sanctions are hindering Iranian efforts to import medicine and other medical equipments to battle the pandemic, according to experts. “There are a lot of shortages, hospitals do not have sufficient diagnostic kits and there is also a shortage of masks,” said Nouradin Pirmoazen, a thoracic surgeon in Iran.

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According to the World Health Organization, the fatalities from the Covid-19 pandemic Iran could be five times as high as official figures show.

The Trump administration has continued exemption on the sale of humanitarian supplies to Iran. The US Treasury Department recently approved a Swiss-sponsored mechanism permitting for the trade of food, medicine and other supplies with Tehran.

“The whole world should know that humanitarian assistance to Iran is wide open. It’s not sanctioned,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to facilitate both the humanitarian assistance moving in and to make sure the financial transactions connected to that can take place as well,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

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Many political opponents have also written to the IMF saying that financial assistance will not go to help the poor but instead it will be diverted by the regime for its own purposes.

Even as infections have spread rapidly in Iran, their parliament convened a session against the advice of their health officials with the result being that Ali Larijani – the speaker being the latest among the high profile figures to be quarantined.

The Ayatollahs have blamed the US for all their ills from the time they snatched power from the Shah of Iran in an Islamic Revolution almost 40 years back. To help the common Iranians, Tehran must come forward unconditionally to save the country from the deadly pandemic.

With Inputs From Bobby Ghosh, Bloomberg and Erin Cunningham, Washington Post. Edited By Xavier Francis, EurAsian Times.