Iran Official Says Trump Sanctions Are 'Medical Terrorism' During Coronavirus Pandemic

Continued American sanctions on Iran represent "medical terrorism" as Tehran continues its battle with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, according to the country's Foreign Ministry spokesperson.

Seyed Abbas Mousavi said Tuesday that President Donald Trump's administration was in no position to criticize Iran's handling of the crisis, given its failure to contain the pandemic, according to the state-backed Fars News Agency.

Mousavi accused the Trump administration of "putting Iranians' health at risk through economic and medical terrorism" and "committing crimes against humanity." The White House has maintained its "maximum pressure" sanctions strategy on Tehran, despite the regime there claiming that the restrictions are damaging its ability to combat COVID-19.

The Trump administration has repeatedly dismissed the complaints, noting that the sanctions make allowances for medical supplies. But the Iranian government argues that sanctions block financial transactions and discourage nations and organizations from dealing with Tehran, even if humanitarian supplies are technically allowed.

This week, European nations sent medical supplies to Iran using the INSTEX barter system, established as a means to skirt U.S. sanctions on the country by ensuring that no money changes hands directly between Europe and Iran. The German Foreign Office said—on behalf of Germany, France, and the U.K.—that more INSTEX transactions would occur in the future. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested the U.S. might rethink some sanctions due to coronavirus, though offered no concrete plans to do so.

Iran was one of the early epicenters of the COVID-19 outbreak, and remains one of the worst affected nations. The country has recorded more than 44,600 infections, almost 3,000 deaths and more than 14,600 recoveries, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The regime has been accused by Pompeo and others of covering up the true extent of the outbreak, which has penetrated to the top of government.

But Mousavi suggested that the U.S. government has been "weak" in its own right in responding to the pandemic.

With more than 189,630 confirmed cases, the U.S. now has the largest number of infections in the world, with more than 4,000 deaths and more than 7,000 recoveries. Trump initially downplayed the severity of the situation and railed against social distancing restrictions, but has now admitted that at least 100,000 Americans will die in the coming weeks and months.

"Trillions of dollars which have been spent for intervention in the Middle East" could have instead been ploughed into the U.S. healthcare system, Mousavi argued, better preparing it for such a crisis. Such funding may have meant that the U.S. would not see the "misery of medics wearing trash bags and COVID-19 patients in despair," he added.

Iranian officials have repeatedly maligned Trump and his administration's response to coronavirus, plus alongside China and Russia have spread disinformation and conspiracy theories blaming the U.S. for the outbreak. Even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has peddled such allegations.

Last week, Pompeo condemned what he called Khamenei's "fabrications," and warned that such dishonesty would put Iranians and people around the world at greater risk from coronavirus. He also noted that the U.S. had offered Iran medical support, but this had been rejected by the regime.

The secretary of state has also warned that the Iranian and Chinese people will eventually hold their authoritarian regimes to account over officials' coronavirus failings.

Iran, Donald Trump, terrorism, coronavirus, sanctions
This file photo shows a banner in Tehran's Vali Asr square in Iran, celebrating medics who are battling the coronavirus pandemic, on March 17, 2020. Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images/Getty