On Tuesday, Iran called on President Biden to lift sanctions that are hampering the Islamic Republic’s efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Iran was hit particularly hard by Covid-19, and the Trump administration hit the country with sanctions throughout the pandemic.
Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said he expects the Biden administration “to free the transfer of Iran’s own foreign exchange resources to fight the coronavirus and for health and food, and lift banking sanctions quickly.”
While the US claims its sanctions have humanitarian exemptions, US sanctions almost always have an impact on the medical sector of the target country. In October 2020, the Trump administration hit Iran with sanctions that essentially blacklisted the country’s entire financial system from the global banking system.
The financial sanctions technically had exemptions for humanitarian goods and medicine, but the people of Iran felt the impact of the measures almost immediately. Such severe measures discourage banks from processing any transactions with Iran, despite what exemptions there may be.
Blacklisting Iran’s financial sector exacerbated the shortages of medicines that were already in limited supply due to previous US sanctions.
It’s not yet clear how President Biden is going to approach Iran. While the Iranians are calling for him to lift sanctions and revive the 2015 nuclear deal, hawks in Congress and US allies like Israel are pressuring Biden not to return to the agreement.