What does Washington do on the very day that a top Iranian health official predicted "millions" inside the country could die and pleaded for external help? Slap on some new sanctions and tighten the economic blockade further of course!
It appears the State Department is always ready and willing to set aside time for coming up with new creative ways to economically punish Tehran, widescale coronavirus panic and markets in free-fall notwithstanding:
Pompeo on Tuesday said the State Department is blacklisting nine entities based in South Africa, Hong Kong and China, as well as three Iranian individuals, for engaging in “significant transactions” to trade in Iranian petrochemicals.
While he did not name them, Pompeo said the step included blacklisting Iran’s armed forces social security investment company and its director for investing in sanctioned entities.
The United States imposed fresh sanctions on Iran, keeping up its economic pressure campaign despite an earlier offer to help Tehran cope with the #coronavirus pandemic https://t.co/eSdh2O25Zh pic.twitter.com/uGERNcsw9w— Reuters (@Reuters) March 18, 2020
This included sanctions and travel restrictions on five Iranian nuclear scientists to boot.
Over the past month leaders in Tehran have been pleading for greater outside humanitarian assistance, while also consistently pointing out that the US sanctions regimen is making the pandemic worse, restricting the medicines and equipment crucial to both treating Covid-19 and mitigating the spread.
Even as the world is in a crisis not seen since WWII, Trump and Pompeo's "maximum pressure" campaign is on, apparently. And the Secretary of State's rhetoric was more heated and insulting than ever, declaring “The Wuhan virus is a killer and the Iranian regime is an accomplice.”
“Instead of focusing on the needs of the Iranian people and accepting genuine offers of support, senior Iranians lied about the Wuhan virus outbreak for weeks,” Pompeo said in a press briefing at the Department of State.
“The Iranian leadership is trying to avoid responsibility for their grossly incompetent and deadly governments. The Wuhan virus is a killer and the Iranian regime is an accomplice,” he added.
This prompted a number of angry analysts and journalists to charge Pompeo with 'weaponizing' the deadly coronavirus:
Iran is one of the countries most devastated by the Coronavirus. And sanctions have made the situation much worse.— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) March 18, 2020
So what does Pompeo and his crew of warmongers do?
They impose more sanctions.
You can't make this inhumanity up. https://t.co/Kf0t2IOwPN
The administration did last month unveil an initiative to open up the ability of Iran to obtain limited humanitarian supplies via Europe, but it's unclear the degree to which this has actually helped common Iranians on the ground.
Meanwhile, Iran on Wednesday reported a huge single-day jump in fatalities, reportedly the biggest within a single 24-hour period thus far in the country as another 147 people died.
The ongoing sanctions on Iran amid the coronavirus outbreak is mass murder pic.twitter.com/ZhuKu66MRk— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) March 16, 2020
This brings the official death toll in Iran to 1,135 and a total of 17,361 confirmed cases, amid dire reports that "millions" are expected to be infected before the pandemic dissipates.