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Iran claims victory as UN top court orders US to lift Iran sanctions on humanitarian goods

The International Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday that the U.S. must lift sanctions on Iran that could hinder humanitarian imports to the Islamic Regime. (Michel Porro/Getty Images)

The United Nations' highest court ruled on Wednesday that the United States must lift any sanctions against Iran that would hinder humanitarian trade for the Islamic Regime. Tehran hailed the decision, calling it a victory over Washington.

What are the details?

The International Court of Justice — located in The Hague, Netherlands — ordered Washington to "remove, by means of its choosing, any impediments" to the free exportation of humanitarian goods and civil aviation necessities in the wake of re-imposed sanctions against Tehran.

U.S. sanctions against Iran were previously lifted under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump withdrew from in May. Amid the gradual re-imposition of sanctions against the country, Iran challenged the trade restrictions in July, citing the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights between the U.S. and Iran.

In the preliminary ruling, the court determined that prohibiting the importation of goods like medical devices, pharmaceuticals and food could leave Iran with "irreparable consequences" that "may have a serious detrimental impact on the health and lives of individuals in the territory."

The decision was announced over Iran's state-run television as "The victory of Tehran over Washington by the Hague Court," WNBC-TV reported.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif hailed the court's ruling over Twitter, calling it "another failure for sanctions-addicted [United States government] and victory for rule of law."

Can the UN court enforce that?

While the ruling is legally binding, the court has no real enforcement powers and Washington already makes allowances for the trade of humanitarian goods.

Foundation for Defense Democracies senior adviser Richard Goldberg told USA Today, "U.S. sanctions already have a humanitarian exemption for food, medicine and agriculture commodities — an exemption mullahs often use to make money on the black market while denying the Iranian people access to humanitarian goods."

But many — including Iranian surgeon Hamidreza Vafayi — say that the refusal of international banks to work with Iran has cut off the country's ability to obtain critical supplies.

Vafayi told AFP, "As far as I know, there is no official statement on sanctioning medicine trade with Iran. Yet when we cannot have banking ties (with the world) we are in fact under an undeclared medicine sanction regime. The truth is that no company would sell us drugs now."

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