Biden calls for easing of sanctions on Iran due to coronavirus pandemic

Democratic presidential frontrunner argues Trump's policy vis-a-vis Iran has backfired and sanctions should be lifted.

Elad Benari ,

Joe Biden
Joe Biden

Former US Vice President and Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden on Thursday joined in on the calls for the United States to ease sanctions on Iran as the Islamic Republic reels from the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden said the United States should set up a dedicated channel for banks and other companies to operate in Iran and issue licenses for the sale of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, according to AFP.

The former Vice President also called for guarantees to aid groups that they will not be penalized for operating in Iran -- and said Tehran should reciprocate by freeing detained Americans.

Biden said that President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign on Iran, which includes sweeping sanctions, had "badly backfired" by encouraging aggression from the clerical regime.

"It makes no sense, in a global health crisis, to compound that failure with cruelty by inhibiting access to needed humanitarian assistance," Biden said in a statement quoted by AFP.

"Artificially limiting the flow of international humanitarian assistance to pursue a political point will not only allow the Iranian government to deflect responsibility for its own botched response, it will increase the threat this virus poses to the American people, now and in the future," he added.

Since leaving the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, the US has reimposed sanctions on Iran that were frozen as part of the deal.

Iranian leaders have said that the US sanctions “severely hamper” the Islamic Republic’s ability to fight coronavirus.

Despite the sanctions which block Iran from selling its crude oil and accessing international financial markets, Washington has offered Iran help in fighting the coronavirus.

Iranian leaders, however, have outright rejected the United States’ offer of humanitarian assistance and demanded that United States should lift sanctions if it wants to help Iran to contain the virus.

Biden’s call is in line with his rival for the nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders, who on Tuesday called for the US to lift the sanctions it imposed on Iran as it battles the coronavirus pandemic.

“Coronavirus has killed 2,600 in Iran, but U.S. sanctions are obstructing medicine and aid from getting in,” tweeted Sanders.

In a direct appeal to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, he added, “Pandemics know no borders. Let us put aside our countries' disputes and lift sanctions to reduce human suffering.”

The tweet marked the second time in recent weeks that Sanders has called for the US sanctions on Iran to be lifted as the Islamic Republic struggles to contain coronavirus.

In mid-March, Sanders tweeted, “As a caring nation, we must lift any sanctions hurting Iran’s ability to address this crisis, including financial sanctions.”