Photo: Reuters

Iran: US offer to help combat COVID-19 “a lie;” demands sanctions relief instead

Iranian leaders continue to furiously reject the United States’ offer of humanitarian assistance against the coronavirus that is devastating the Islamic Republic, while demanding that if Washington wants to help it must lift sanctions aimed at curbing the country’s nuclear development program.

“American leaders are lying … If they want to help Iran, all they need to do is to lift sanctions …. Then we can deal with the coronavirus outbreak,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared in a televised speech.

“You have blocked Iran’s oil exports, you have stopped Iran’s banking transactions… Your help offer is the biggest lie in the history,” Rouhani said.

Rouhani also urged Americans to call on their government to lift sanctions as Iran fights the coronavirus.

Iran has been the country hit hardest by COVID-19 in the Mideast.  According to Reuters “Factbox” list of Interactive graphic tracking ot the global spread, there were 1,685 recorded deaths and 21,638 confirmed cases as of 0200 GMT today. Iran’s own Health Ministry there is a mortality rate of one person every 10 minutes.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei characterized the repeated-American offer to “‘only ask us to help you with medication and treatment'” as odd.

“Their offer is strange,” said Khamenei in an address also broadcast on state television, saying that “while Washington itself is struggling with a shortage of medical supplies to contain the coronavirus epidemic, pointing to the admissions made by the mayors and medical authorities of various American cities that they are facing many problems.”

The Iran’s Supreme Leader then challenged, “If you have enough (equipment), use it for yourselves,” before inflammatorily stating, “You Americans are accused of producing the virus yourself.”

Khamenei went on to say, “I don’t know how true it is. But when there’s such an allegation, can a wise man trust you? You could be giving medicines that spread the virus or cause it to remain. Experience shows you can’t be trusted, and you do such things.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader proclaimed, “we have no less enemies but the most evil enemy of the Iranian nation is America,” and “”They (American officials) are all kinds of charlatans who speak like charlatans. They are cruel, merciless, and terrorist.”

Tensions between the two countries have been running high since 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump exited Tehran’s 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy. Friction further escalated when a U.S. drone strike killed Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps top commander Qassem Soleimani on 3 January. Iran retaliated by hitting American targets in Iraq on 8 January.

China, which is a signatory of the JCPOA, has also appealed to the U.S. to lift sanctions on Iran immediately.

Washington nevertheless sent Tehran a blunt message last week with the imposition of even further sanctions; making it clear that the spread of the virus will not save it from punitive economic measures that are choking off its oil revenues and isolating its economy.

“U.S. is NOT listening, impeding global fight against #COVID19. The ONLY remedy: DEFY U.S. mass punishment. MORAL & PRAGMATIC imperative,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted today.