Sanctions hamper Iran’s anti-coronavirus efforts: leaked intel

April 25, 2020 - 12:25

TEHRAN — A leaked intelligence brief reveals U.S. sanctions have “left Iran bereft of financial resources to mount an effective public health response,” according to The Nation.

Citing the military intelligence cable, The Nation reported on Wednesday that the U.S. sanctions have “badly crippled” Iran’s economy as well as its ability to respond to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The document, which dated April 3, warns that U.S. sanctions have left Iran “unable to order ventilators from abroad, which are crucial for treatment.”

One segment of the briefing says “President Trump refuses to let up on choke hold.”

Norman Roule, a retired CIA official who served as national intelligence manager for Iran until 2017, told The Nation that the international community should do everything it can to enable the Iranian people to obtain access to medical supplies and equipment partly because “as Iranians travel throughout the region, they will continue to disperse the virus.”

Roule, a 34-year veteran of the CIA, stressed that if the coronavirus spreads unchecked throughout the country, it threatens everyone.

The intelligence brief appears to echo Roule’s concern about the threat of the virus spreading outside Iran’s borders, warning, “It creates potential negative effects to U.S. forward operating locations due to civilian personnel who are staffed throughout CENTCOM. This ultimately affects military personnel due to the inevitable social interaction in maintaining operations.”

The intelligence brief, produced by the Air Force’s 461st Operations Support Squadron and marked For Official Use Only, was provided to The Nation by a Pentagon official on the condition of anonymity to avoid professional reprisal. It notes that “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that [the] U.S. offered to help and Iran refused.”

While Pompeo has rhetorically expressed openness to easing sanctions, no concrete offer has been made, and he has not given any indication that he has dropped his 12 preconditions for sanctions relief. 

Jake Sullivan, who negotiated with Iran while serving as the State Department’s director of policy planning under the Obama administration, reportedly said of Pompeo’s preconditions, “The 12 requirements the secretary set seem intended to ensure that no deal ever happens.”

Iran suffers from the highest number of reported coronavirus cases of any country in the Middle East. As of Friday, it reported 88,194 cases, with 5,574 deaths.

The Trump administration maintains what it calls a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. Not only has the administration barred U.S. firms from doing business with Iran but in May 2019, the administration ended sanctions exemptions for foreign countries buying Iranian oil. 

The coronavirus will likewise severely damage the economy. Daniel Russel, a former U.S. diplomat who served as the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs until 2017, told The Nation that while pandemics have a devastating initial effect on public health, a brutal second wave can come in the form of an economic downturn—particularly in developing countries like Iran.

“I ran the Asia Bureau in the State Department, and I was constantly reminding people that no matter how bad things seem, they can always be made worse,” Russel said.

Iran has unsuccessfully requested $5 billion in loans from the IMF in order to combat Covid-19, in addition to a $50 million loan from the World Bank. This marks the first time that Iran has asked the World Bank for a loan since 2005.

Secretary of State Pompeo has vociferously opposed Iran’s request for a loan.

Iranian government spokesperson Ali Rabiei said on April 13 that the United States has no right to prevent the IMF from giving loan to Iran.

“From the legal point of view, the United States is not in the position to obstruct the legal performance of institutions and international organizations,” Rabiei said in a press conference.

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