Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that the Washington-based IMF should “stand on right side of history & act responsibly” by releasing the funds. He also said the fight against the virus, which has infected more than 10,000 people in Iran and killed hundreds, has been “stymied by vast shortages caused by restrictions,” a reference to the U.S. sanctions.
Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, it is the first time that Iran has approached the IMF for assistance. The Pandemic is a real threat to Iran as the vulnerability is much more than expected. The spread of COVID-19 is highest in Asian and the fatality rate is also rather high. According to reports released on 16 March 2020, another 129 fatalities from the new coronavirus, the largest one-day rise in deaths since it began battling the Middle East’s worst outbreak, which has claimed more than 850 lives and even infected a number of senior officials in the country. Businesses in Iran’s capital remained open, however, even as other countries in the region grounded planes, sealed their borders and moved toward full lockdowns.
Complete lockdown means a halt to the economy. Iran’s GDP per capita is 5,415.21 USD (2017) World Bank, with a GDP growth rate: 4.3% annual change (2017) World. Iran is one of the major Oil & Gas producing countries. It ranks second in the world in natural gas reserves and fourth in proven crude oil reserves. Economic activity and government revenues depend to a large extent on oil revenues and therefore remain volatile. Oil prices dipped down and have affected adversely.
Iran is facing the worst sanctions imposed by the US. On 8 May 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. Sanctions by the United States came into effect in November 2018. In September 2019, a U.S. official stated that the United States will sanction whoever deals with Iran or purchases its oil. President Trump said that he directed the Treasury Department to “substantially increase” sanctions on Iran. The new sanctions targeted the Iranian national bank. A senior Trump administration official said the new sanctions targeted the financial assets of the Supreme leader’s inner circle. On 21 February 2020, Iran was placed on the FATF blacklist. Iran was passing through its worst economic crisis.
Yet, the outbreak of COVID-19 has worsened the situation. It requires huge resources to contain or quarantine patients. The test kit is rather expensive and health facilities are not sufficient to meet the rapid spread of the outbreak.
Pandemic is a challenge to humanity and it must be addressed globally, irrespective of race, religion, color, language, or country. The issue should be addressed purely on a humanitarian basis, not on political grounds, without any discrimination, save humanity.
Keeping the seriousness of the situation, sanctions on Iran must be removed immediately unconditionally. The world must respond to Iran’s requirements and needs to address COVID-19, on an urgent basis. The developed world and advanced nations may play a positive role. In my opinion, any sanctions imposed by any individual country are irrational. It should be discussed in UNSC and only the UN should be empowered to impose sanctions. However, on a bilateral basis, any two nations can deal with sanctions mutually. But should nor force other nations to implement sanctions imposed by any individual country.
IMF, World Bank, and all other international financial institutions must respect humanity and respond to Iran’s needs. Politics must be kept aside, while dealing with humanitarian issues, like the current situation in Iran.
Strongly appealed to the International Community, to address the Humanitarian issues purely on Humanitarian grounds. No discrimination, no politics, only save a life, respect human life, respect humanity.
Author is a Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.