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End the Economic Wars to Save Lives

Barbara Slavin comments on the dire situation in Iran that has been made worse by U.S. economic warfare:

Iranian animosity toward the U.S. is understandable, given the Trump administration’s decision to quit the 2015 Iran nuclear deal despite Tehran being in compliance with it and to impose crushing sanctions. But Iran, which is also seeking emergency relief from the International Monetary Fund, also needs the U.S. to not block a requested $5 billion dollar loan.

Now would be a great time for some COVID-19 related diplomacy.

The U.S. has been inflicting cruel collective punishment on the Iranian people for years, and if ever there were a time to stop that punishment and provide humanitarian relief it would be now. Neither Iran nor the U.S. can afford further escalation. Continuing to wage an economic war on a country while it is in the throes of the same global pandemic that threatens us is vicious.

Tyler Cullis calls for a halt to the economic war so that Iran at least has a fighting chance to combat the outbreak. He explains why the continued economic war is so devastating:

But even if Iran’s government wanted to make the right choices in the days ahead, it is unable to do so, as U.S. sanctions prevent Iran from providing the kind of economic and social safety nets that will become a routinized action for governments around the world. Even if it were a bastion of beneficence, Iran’s government would still remain barred from ensuring the average Iranian — who will face enormous deprivation as the country shutters what remains of its economy — has the economic and social support necessary to sustain day-to-day life.

Most critics of U.S. sanctions miss this fundamental point: U.S. sanctions are doing much more than preventing Iran from importing the medicine and medical goods that it may need to tackle the virus. U.S. sanctions are proving a prohibitive bar to Iran providing the basic goods and services necessary for their people to survive this catastrophic epidemic.

The economic effects of the outbreak are going to be severe everywhere, but the countries that will be hardest hit are the ones that have had their economies ruined by sanctions and blockades before now. Sanctions were already killing innocent Iranians before the outbreak, and now they are guaranteed to add to the death toll. As we face the prospect of a major economic contraction and the hardship that will come along with it, it should make us appreciate how monstrous it is to inflict the same suffering on people in other countries for policy decisions that are beyond their control. There is nothing quite like a global disaster to put in perspective how absurd and irrational our government’s obsession with Iran really is.

It should go without saying that sanctions on Venezuela and North Korea should also be suspended. We don’t need how much of an outbreak North Korea has, but we know that sanctions were already interfering with the provision of humanitarian aid. Sanctions on Venezuela have likewise prevented some people from getting the medicine they need. The U.S. should be renouncing economic warfare in any case, but under the circumstances there is no justification for continuing to strangle whole nations as they struggle with the effects of this pandemic. We need to recognize that the U.S. bears responsibility for undermining Iran’s ability to cope with their outbreak, and the least that we can do is to allow them to resume normal trade so that they can obtain the medicine and equipment they need.

Many things are going to change because of this pandemic, and some of them will be for the worse. Ending the economic wars that our government wages on tens of millions of innocent people would be a good change to make now while it can still help save lives.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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