UNITED NATIONS (Dispatches) -- Iran’s representative to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly has denounced Washington’s "unilateral, illegal” restrictions that are hampering the country’s fight against the coronavirus outbreak.
Muhammad Zareian told a virtual meeting of the committee, also attended by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, that the coercive unilateral measures pose a real threat to human rights.
He criticized UN human rights bodies for inaction in the face of "this crime and genocide, which stems from mass violations of human rights” against tens of millions of people across the world.
About U.S. sanctions on Iran, he said "the impact and scope of the unlawful unilateral coercive measures imposed on ordinary Iranians have been exacerbated even during the pandemic.”
"The U.S. government has targeted, for political gains, my fellow citizens, in particular, the most vulnerable among them, including women, children, the elderly and those in need of medical attention. This is nothing but an act of economic terrorism,” Zareian said.
Since pulling out of a historic multilateral deal with Iran and other major powers in 2018, the U.S. has been piling up pressure on Iran through reinstating the sanctions that have been lifted under the agreement and adding new bans.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump claims the sanctions do not target humanitarian items, but the bans have made foreign banks and companies extremely wary of engaging in any trade with Tehran.
On Tuesday, the New York Times said the "cruel” U.S. embargo amounts to collective punishment of tens of millions of innocent Iranians.
To hermetically seal the Iranian economy off from the rest of the world, the paper said, the hawkish U.S. administration has slapped draconian embargoes on Iran, the latest of which targeted 18 Iranian banks that appear to have been the last financial institutions with international ties left untouched by Treasury Department sanctions.
In its latest move, the U.S. has not even spared the country’s Bank Maskan, which specializes in mortgages, and Bank Keshavarzi Iran, which lends to farmers, the paper said.
"This sweepingly broad application of sanctions amounts to collective punishment for tens of millions of innocent Iranians,” the newspaper said. "The new sanctions against these 18 banks are particularly cruel during a pandemic,” it added.
Although Trump administration officials insist the sanctions, which will take effect in December, don’t apply to food and medicine and they claim they have provided waivers to companies that want to sell needed supplies to Iran, the article said, the process of getting waivers approved is too "cumbersome and time-consuming” to meet health needs during a pandemic, not to mention the obstacles facing the country in its banking transactions due to the sanctions, which make it difficult for Iran to touch the export revenue it earns.
The paper also criticized the U.S. administration for obstructing a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to help Iran combat the coronavirus pandemic.
It said the embargoes have also enraged America’s closest allies as the "unilateral and extraterritorial nature of the sanctions” have threatened their companies, prompting the countries to refuse to have Washington’s back at the UN Security Council in its bid to extend an arms embargo on Iran, which is to expire in days.
"The United States has been virtually alone on the United Nations Security Council in trying to ratchet up pressure on Iran,” the article said.
"The more the United States throws its weight around, the more appetite there will be around the world for establishing alternative financial mechanisms that will ultimately deprive Washington of its global clout.”
The paper also recommended that American officials stop piling sanctions on Iran during the pandemic, noting the United States’ so-called maximum pressure campaign "has not achieved the ultimate goal of forcing the Iranian government to capitulate to Washington.”
As Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, says the American "maximum pressure” campaign against Iran is "sadism masquerading as foreign policy,” it said.