Reports and in some cases video began emerging last week of mass shipments of humanitarian supplies being halted and grounded by skittish EU countries worried about violating US-led sanctions on Iran.
This as Iranian leaders have lashed out at Washington for ensuring a worsening coronavirus death toll through its "inhuman" sanctions. But the White House has also been coming under heightening pressures from European allies as well, including surprisingly by the UK, which has up to this point by and large stood by Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign aimed at ousting the government in Tehran.
"The U.K. has quietly prodded the Trump administration to ease sanctions because of the crisis, the Guardian reported, without saying where it obtained the information," Bloomberg writes Monday. "On March 17, Iran granted temporary release to British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been in jail in Tehran since 2016." This is being seen as part of a significant broader thawing in UK-Iran relations amid the pandemic crisis.
Iran's recently releasing some 85,000 minor offenders from its packed prisons across the country has resulted in the early good faith return of foreign nationals previously accused of spying.
"On Saturday, a French scholar detained in Tehran was released after he showed signs of the coronavirus, while an Iranian engineer held in France and wanted by the U.S. was released by authorities there," Bloomberg continues. "The apparent prisoner exchange was denounced by the U.S., which had sought the Iranian engineer’s extradition."
The US State Department has claimed it does have 'humanitarian channels' in place as well as exemptions authorizing US companies to sell and ship select medicines and hospital equipment, however, reports suggest American companies are wary of jumping in and possibly suffering punishment.
A great evil is being perpetrated by the #Trump regime against the people of #Iran. Lorries packed with medical supplies destined for Iran, to fight #Coronavirus, are being stopped by #Romania & #Bulgaria obeying US sanctions & economic warfare on Iran. From @SamiRamadani1 pic.twitter.com/sr0tJ624Oy— tim anderson (@timand2037) March 23, 2020
The pressure for some kind of dramatic blanket easing of US sanctions is only set to grow, given that Tehran has for the first time in a half-century turned to the IMF:
Iranians say that their economy is weak and unable to cope with the humanitarian toll because of the U.S. sanctions. Last week, Iran turned to the International Monetary Fund for the first time since the 1960s for aid, though Ali Vaez, the Crisis Group’s Iran project director, said the U.S. may try to block the IMF loan in order to keep up the pressure on the regime.
Should Washington block such crucial aid as more and more Iranians die of Covid-19 amid a devastated health system in the country, it could be the final straw that encourages Britain to finally break from Washington's Iran policy.
Washington's growing reputation as a 'monster' inflicting unneeded extra punishment on the suffering Iranian people will also be further cemented in the minds of world leaders across the globe.