Pompeo: US May Ease Iran Sanctions to Fight Coronavirus

US had previously ruled out any easing of Iran sanctions

In a substantial break from previous policy statements, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Tuesday that the US may ease sanctions against Iran in the days to come. US officials, and Pompeo in particular, had been denying that this was the case all month.

Iran brought this up as a major need for fighting coronavirus, saying sanction easing is one real way to help them. The US went so far in rejecting this as to even declare at one point that coronavirus wouldn’t help Iran “escape” from sanctions.

Trump had issued one statement suggesting the US was willing to help Iran, but at the time it appeared to be in any way other than sanctions relief. Interestingly, over the past week it was reported the US had issued waivers allowing Iran to buy medicine and equipment, though they denied it at the time.

It seems almost certain that was true now, with the waivers going to other countries that had Iranian assets frozen, allowing Iran to buy things for the virus. The US had previously denied that the sanctions were limiting Iran’s access to aid, though that clearly was an issue that they are now making halting steps to resolve.

A big obstacle to this is that US officials don’t want to admit how much the sanctions are harming the humanitarian situation in Iran, and will want to ease things as subtley as possible so as not to get criticized by hawks for going too soft.

Sanctions relief could potentially open the door to improved diplomacy, even if that isn’t the intent. The US and Iran are both getting hit hard by coronavirus, there is clearly a common crisis between them to bring them together.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of Antiwar.com.