On March 18th, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that “Iran responded, will respond” to the US assassination of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Major-General Qassem Soleimani.
“The Americans assassinated our great commander. We have responded to that terrorist act and will respond to it,” Rouhani said in a televised speech.
Rouhani, however, said that despite the pressures imposed on the people, economy and oil industry, Iran managed for the first time to control the country without using oil money.
He said that during the first three quarters of the Iranian year, the economic growth was positive both with and without oil.
On March 17th, the US imposed fresh sanctions on Iran, keeping up its economic pressure campaign even as it offered to help Tehran cope with the coronavirus pandemic and called on the Islamic Republic to release detained Americans.
It is essentially attempting to blackmail Tehran into a regime change.
Pompeo urged Iran to free U.S. citizens it has detained as a humanitarian gesture because of coronavirus. Iran has reported 17,361 coronavirus cases and 1,135 deaths in one of the worst national outbreaks outside of China, where the pandemic originated.
“We are aware that they are thinking about whether to release them or not,” Pompeo told reporters. “We are urging them … to release every American that is being wrongfully held there as a humanitarian gesture, given the risk that is posed.”
Iran is considering freeing some U.S. citizens, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a news conference where he made clear Washington will maintain its maximum-pressure campaign to choke off Tehran’s ability to export its oil.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US 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.
Separately, the Commerce Department said it will add six people – including five Iranian nuclear scientists – and 18 corporations to the U.S. “Entity List” for aiding Iran’s nuclear program, Pakistan’s unsafeguarded nuclear and missile programs, and Russian military modernization efforts.
Just days earlier, on March 14th, Rouhani said that Iran’s fight against the coronavirus was being “severely hampered” by U.S. sanctions.
State media said Rouhani wrote to a number of world leaders, without naming them.
“In (a) letter to counterparts @HassanRouhani informs how efforts to fight #COVID19 pandemic in Iran have been severely hampered by US sanctions, urging them to cease observing them,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter.
“It is IMMORAL to let a bully kill innocents,” Zarif said.
On March 16th, China’s Foreign Ministry asked the US to lift its sanctions, saying they were thwarting Tehran’s efforts to counter the pandemic, officially known as COVID-19.
“We urge the US to immediately lift unilateral sanctions on Iran. Continued sanctions are against humanitarianism and hamper Iran’s epidemic response and delivery of humanitarian aid,” spokesman Geng Shuang said.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry made a similar announcement, calling the sanctions “anti-human”.
“Illegal unilateral US sanctions, imposed since May 2018 as part of the ‘maximum pressure’ campaign, are a powerful obstacle to the effective fight against the infection,” Russia’s foreign ministry said.
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