Where on the one hand, Iran is battling the forces of the pandemic, on another front, it is facing the war of Sanctions. The United States is waging full-fledged combat duped behind the game of sanctions. As Trump’s electoral campaign is drawing towards a grueling conclusion, so is his foreign policy towards Iran. In the last bid to gain some support and appease his right-wing base of white supremacists, the Trump administration has turned the US missiles towards its age-old rival. In an attempt to restrain the lifting of the UN arms embargo, the US imposed a series of sanctions on Iran.

The United Nations international arms embargo signed in 2015 to limit Iran’s nuclear activities reached its expiration date in 2020 and was lifted despite continued protest by the US. The US opposes the lifting of the arms embargo on the grounds of a snapback mechanism that gave the seven parties that were part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to re-impose sanctions.  According to the US Secretary of state Mike Pompeo, “The United States expects all UN member states to fully comply with their obligations under these re-imposed restrictions,” further adding, “no matter who you are, if you violate the UN arms embargo on Iran, you risk sanctions.” However, the US lost its validity for such authorization when it withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018. Despite the obvious clause on August 20, the United States forwarded a snapback notice to the United Nations Security Council president Guterres. But the Security Council president, along with the other members of the Security Council, argued that the United States lacked the standing for such a claim. As a response on September 18, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom stated US snapback as “incapable of having any legal effect” in light of its withdrawal from the JCPOA in a letter to the Security Council.

The European Union and other world powers, despite having their own arms embargo on Iran, hold a similar view and disagree with the US narrative, with Russia and China taking a more blunt approach with the Chinese foreign minister calling US actions as “utterly unjustifiable.”  For Iran, the lifting of a decade-long UN arms embargo is a step towards multilateralism and an increase in not just the country’s  military advancement but also for its political diplomacy. At the same time, for the region, it is new hope for peace and security. On paper, Iran is free to issue the purchase of combat vehicles and warplanes without seeking UN approval; however, given the current circumstances, Iran’s economy is in no shape to fund foreign weapons. Nonetheless, it now has the reigns to purchase weapons from Russian, China, or elsewhere and is among those countries in the region capable of operating its own production lines of weapons.

After the refusal of re-imposition of UN arms embargo by the international community, On October 8, the United States yet again flooded Iran with the latest string of sanctions, this time attacking the financial sector by putting sanctions on 18 Iranian banks and further added to impose sanctions on any foreign body commencing activities with the listed institutions. This comes as a direct offense on Iran’s already crippling economy.  Since secondary sanctions were already in place in terms of international trade, this new development seems like a matter of US internal policy rather than external. It may be a tactic to please the congress by complicating the foreign policy for a prospective Biden Administration. As foreseeing Biden’s campaign elements, it appears that there might be room for a bilateral dialogue if Iran complies on the nuclear front.

Despite what may be the reason for this new assault by the US, there is no denying the impact it continues to have on the Iranian economy, which is already strangled by its ongoing battle with the Covid-19 crisis. Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury Secretary, stated while issuing the new sanction, “Our sanctions programs will continue until Iran stops its support of terrorist activities and ends its nuclear programs,” “Today’s actions will continue to allow for humanitarian transactions to support the Iranian people.” Despite the US claim that the sanctions would hold exemption for humanitarian aid in order to fight the pandemic, the reality remains that the coronavirus pandemic situation wouldn’t be this dire if it weren’t for the US sanctions that have severely impacted the country’s ability to cope with the surge in cases making it one of the worst affected country in the region. This toppled by the decreasing GDP and the falling Iranian rial casts a gloomy shadow on what was once a bright future. 

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