The US administration of Donald Trump has imposed fresh sanctions on companies based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for allegedly buying petroleum products from Iran. This was announced on March 17, Tuesday, even as Iran struggles to deal with one of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19 in the world.
The fresh sanctions imposed on the five companies bar US citizens from doing any business with these companies and also freeze their assets in the US. They have been accused of buying petroleum products from the National Iranian Oil Company in 2019 delivered to the UAE.
The move comes despite appeals by several countries including China, human rights groups and activists from across the world to lift the earlier sanctions imposed against Iran after the US unilaterally withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action (JCPOA) or the Iran nuclear deal in 2018. The JCPOA was signed by the previous Obama administration in the US with Iran and five other countries in 2015 to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons in exchange for ending the years-old international sanctions against the country.
The US then also imposed unilateral sanctions to prevent Iran from selling its petroleum products in the international market. Iran relies heavily on the revenue generated from the export of these products to fund social expenditure, including in the country’s medical and health care sector that is critical to tackle the current health emergency.
Five Iranian scientists were also sanctioned by the US on Tuesday for their alleged involvement in Iran’s nuclear program before 2004. They have been identified as Aref Bali Lashak, Sayyed Mohammad Mehdi Hadavi, Kamran Daneshou, Mehdi Teranchi and Ali Mehdipour Omrani.
These sanctions were followed by the blacklisting of some Chinese and South African companies on March 18, Wednesday, by the US state department.
Iran is facing a huge challenge in coping with the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country. Over 1,200 deaths and more than 18,000 cases have been confirmed so far.
China and other countries have been assisting Iran at this time of crisis. Last week, Iran asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a USD 5 billion emergency fund to fight the pandemic.
CODEPINK, a US-based peace organization that has been fighting against the antagonistic US policy on Iran for years, condemned the announcement of fresh sanctions. They posted on their twitter account, “The day after #Iran warned that the #coronavirus could kill millions of Iranians, @SecPompeo announced that the US will be imposing MORE sanctions on Iran. The Trump administration isn’t even bothering to hide its blatant cruelty & genocidal acts of war.”