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April 30, 2020

DefenseOne: The US Takes a Small, Insufficient Step to Help Iran Control its COVID Outbreak

By Shervin Ghaffari

The U.S. Air Force has joined the list of organizations that worry about the impact of U.S. sanctions on Iran amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A service intelligence report leaked to the press says sanctions have “left Iran bereft of financial resources to mount an effective public health response” to the pandemic and “unable to order ventilators from abroad, which are crucial for treatment.” The report also says that contact with infected Iranians have given Qatar the largest number of COVID cases in the region of countries hosting U.S. troops. Iran’s situation, the report says, may create “potential negative effects to U.S. forward operating locations due to civilian personnel who are staffed throughout CENTCOM.”

With the well-being of U.S. troops now affected by sanctions, there are signs the U.S. government is altering its approach. On April 16, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, released guidance to clarify exemptions for humanitarian trade. That’s a welcome, but limited, response to a once-in-a-generation crisis. The Trump administration should pursue far more avenues to give relief to Iranians and help keep U.S. troops safe.

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