Pompeo hints that US could rethink Tehran sanctions, as coronavirus outbreak devastates Iran

Pompeo hints that US could rethink Tehran sanctions, as coronavirus outbreak devastates Iran
The US has been under pressure to ease sanctions on Iran, due to the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.
2 min read
01 April, 2020
Pompeo still opposed extending a waiver for Iran-linked companies [Getty]
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hinted on Tuesday that Washington could ease some sanctions on Iran, due to a deadly outbreak of the cororavirus in the country.

It comes as the US faces mounting criticism over the tough sanctions regime enforced on Iran, which is struggling to deal with a massive outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.

Iran has reported more than 47,000 cases of the virus and has seen at least 3,000 people die from the disease over the past weeks.

The outbreak has seen EU allies send medical aid to Iran this week, seen as a test of US resolve in enforcing sanctions during the coronavirus epidemic.

On Tuesday, Germany, France and the UK implemented the INSTEX mechanism, a bartering system set up a year-ago, to bypass US sanctions on Iran. The delivery of medical goods was the first instance of the mechanism's use.  

Pompeo has insisted that humanitarian aid is exempt from sanctions on Iran, which was enforced after the US pulled out of a nuclear deal with Tehran in 2018, but countries fear financial penalties from Washington if they send humanitarian supplies to Iran.

"We evaluate all of our policies constantly, so the answer is, would we ever rethink? Of course," Pompeo said, in response to a question on whether the US might ease sanctions on Iran.

The US has come under widespread pressure to ease sanctions on Tehran due to the crisis, which has decimated Iran's healthcare system and economy.

In another sign that the US might be consider easing sanctions, the State Department said it would extend wavers for a number of European, Russian and Chinese firms working at civilian nuclear facilities in Iran.

Pompeo was said to be against extending the waivers, according to AP, but after discussions with the US treasury decided to continue the programme.

"Iran's continued expansion of nuclear activities is unacceptable. The regime's nuclear extortion is among the greatest threats to international peace and security," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

The US imposed new sanctions on 20 Iranian people and companies for their alleged links to a Shia militia blamed for attacks on American troops in Iraq.

Tensions between the two countries have also increased in Iraq, due to the Iran-linked militia attacks on US forces.

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