In a statement on Thursday, Biden highlighted Iran’s struggle “to contain one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks in the world” and that the “Iranian people are hurting desperately.”
The sanctions were reinstated in 2018 after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, and launched a “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic.
Biden added that “it makes no sense, in a global health crisis, to compound that failed strategy with cruelty by inhibiting access to needed humanitarian assistance. Whatever our profound differences with the Iranian government, we should support the Iranian people.”
Iran says US “medical terrorism” against Iranians through imposing toughest-ever sanctions on the country is leading to a “humanitarian catastrophe” as it makes it “impossible” for ordinary people to have access to essential drugs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, more than 30 members of the US Congress — including Senators Bernie Sanders and Edward J. Markey as well as Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, wrote a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, urging the suspension of US sanction on Iran as a humanitarian gesture to 80 million Iranian people at this crucial time.
Other countries such as China and Russia have also urged the Trump administration to lift illegal bans on Iran. Russian foreign ministry called the sanctions “anti-human” and that such sanctions prevent effective fight against the lethal virus.
Despite Pompeo’s claim that humanitarian assistance, medical devices, equipment, and pharmaceuticals, are not sanctioned, many banks and companies have refrained from doing business with Iran fearing US secondary sanctions.
“One of the problems for international aid has been to clarify the legal issues related to sanctions to ensure that medical supplies and medicines can be brought into Iran,” Olivier Vandecasteele, Relief International’s (RI) country director for Iran, said in a statement.
No ‘moral responsibility’
Trump on Thursday said the US no “moral responsibility” to halt Iran sanctions if Tehran does not ask for it to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
“No, no, no, they didn’t even ask me about it,” Trump said during a press briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force when asked if he had a “moral responsibility” to lift the sanctions.
The US president said that he would only consider “helping” Iran if “they asked”.
“If they want to meet, we’d love to meet and we’d settle the whole thing out,” he added.
“I put it out very publicly with respect to Iran,” Trump said during the Thursday news conference. “I said if they need help with respect to the virus, we’d love to send – we have the greatest medical professionals in the world – we’d love to send them over.”
Iranian authorities have dismissed the offer as hypocritical “words without action” and have urged the international community to act against Washington’s “economic terrorism” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has refused American assistance to fight coronavirus, suggesting it could be man-made by the US government.
The Leader said that it was among the “weirdest things which they tell us to ask them” for sanctions relief as Washington continues to impose new bans on the country.
But Iranian officials have demanded the end of American sanctions that have devastated Iran’s economy.
Last week, the Trump administration imposed new sanctions on 20 Iranian people and companies.
Press TV and Al Jazeera contributed to this story.