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On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doubled down on his accusation against Iran, criticizing Tehran for refusing to accept aid from Doctors without Borders (MSF), while claiming that the Iranian president could “better serve” the people by agreeing to accept US “humanitarian aid”.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif slammed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Twitter, suggesting that the latter cannot refrain from “spouting 3rd-rate propaganda” even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zarif questioned whether Pompeo was a secretary of state or a “Secretary of Hate”, noting that “No amount of trolling will gloss over his infamous warmongering & #EconomicTerrorism; killing innocents & impeding global fight against #COVID19”.
Even a pandemic won’t stop @SecPompeo from spouting 3rd-rate propaganda.
One wonders whether he’s Sec of State or Secretary of Hate.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) March 25, 2020
The tweet follows Wednesday tweets made by Pompeo, in which he accused Tehran of “mishandling” the COVID-19 pandemic – consistently named by Pompeo the “WuhanVirus” – and of harming Iranian people by not letting Doctors Without Borders set up a field hospital in the country.
The Iranian regime kicked out Doctors Without Borders @MSF, which was setting up a field hospital for Iran’s most vulnerable #coronavirus patients. The regime’s longest-suffering victims are its own people.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) March 25, 2020
Tehran Rejects MSF Aid
Tehran on 22 March rejected MSF efforts to set up a 48-bed hospital in Isfahan. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said that the country has over 10,000 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, and that an extra 48 beds would not do much.
“They did not notify the Iranian Health Ministry beforehand, and apparently the talks on the issue had taken place somewhere else and it was presented to us as a fait accompli,” Jahanpour added, cited by Mehr News agency.
He stated that Iran welcomes humanitarian aid, except from the US and Israel.
The MSF expressed ‘incomprehension’ over Tehran’s rejection, but stated that they remain ready to re-deploy medical supplies elsewhere in Iran or in any region where they are needed.
US ‘Humanitarian Aid’
The US repeatedly offered help to Iran to slow the outbreak of the coronavirus, but these offers have been rejected.
“Iranian documents show their health companies have been able to import testing kits without obstacle from US sanctions since January”, Pompeo said in his statement on Monday. “The United States has offered over $100 million in medical assistance to foreign countries, including to the Iranian people, and our scientists are working tirelessly to develop a vaccine. Khamenei rejected this offer,” Pompeo claimed, “because he works tirelessly to concoct conspiracy theories and prioritises ideology over the Iranian people”.
Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei pointed out that the US is suffering much more from the virus, and thus should direct resources to those in need in their own country, while also expressing doubt in the sincerity of the US offers.
“Several times Americans have offered to help us to fight the pandemic. That is strange because you face shortages in America. Also you are accused of creating this virus,” said Khamenei in a message to the nation. “I do not know whether it is true. But when there is such an allegation, can a wise man trust you and accept your help offer?”
Sanctions Amidst COVID-19
Sanctions on Iran were reinforced in 2018 when US President Donald Trump in 2018 withdrew the US from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Russia and China have asked the US to lift sanctions against Iran, stressing on how important it is for the country to receive export revenues to finance essential programs, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration is not considering lifting sanctions from Iran, even as the White House has added a new package of sanctions related to Tehran.
Iran is the most COVID-19-affected region in Middle East, with more than 27,000 cases confirmed with estimated 2,000 fatalities, according to the World Health Organization data.