Common Dreams - March 18, 2020

"How evil and heartless can this government get?" peace activist Medea Benjamin asked Wednesday after the State Department announced it would impose new sanctions on Iran as the country faces one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world.

The move by the U.S. government flew in the face of demands from advocacy groups and the Iranian government to suspend sanctions to ensure Iranians can access life-saving medication and supplies.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the U.S. will introduce fresh sanctions on nine entities and three individuals who the U.S. says provide the Iranian government with revenue, in order to "deprive the regime of critical income from its petrochemical industry and further Iran's economic and diplomatic isolation."

The move follows rocket attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, which the Trump administration claims were linked to Iran-backed forces.

Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war group CODEPINK, called the State Department's move "unconscionable."

"Pure evil," wrote journalist Ben Norton. "This is Nazi behavior."

Iran is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world by the coronavirus pandemic. More than 17,300 people had tested positive for the respiratory disease at press time, and more than 1,100 have died. 

Under normal circumstances, U.S. sanctions on Iran—which were last strengthened last year—have kept people in the country from accessing medication as well as raising prices on food and rent. 

As Iran faces the coronavirus outbreak, however, the impacts of the sanctions have been heightened, as Iran is left without sufficient testing kits, ventilators, antiviral medicine, and other life-saving supplies.

As the death toll in Iran rose Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted that the U.S. "should not be contributing to this humanitarian disaster."

"Iran is facing a catastrophic toll from the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. sanctions should not be contributing to this humanitarian disaster.
As a caring nation, we must lift any sanctions hurting Iran’s ability to address this crisis, including financial sanctions. " - Senator Bernie Sanders

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