The United States sent a clear message to the Iranian regime this week: Economic sanctions won't stop because of the coronavirus.
Even as the infectious COVID-19 disease ravages the Middle Eastern country, killing one person every 10 minutes and infecting 50 people every hour, the U.S. has kept up its "maximum pressure" campaign aimed at deterring the regime's terrorist activities and nuclear aspirations.
This week, the Trump administration imposed fresh sanctions on the regime, blacklisting more than a dozen companies based around the world — including in the United Arab Emirates and China — and several nuclear scientists for aiding the export of Iran's petroleum products.
"The Trump administration will continue to target and isolate those who support the Iranian regime," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said of the move. "The Iranian regime uses revenues from petroleum and petrochemical sales to fund its terrorist proxies … instead of the health and well-being of the Iranian people."
Iran has blasted the move amid the country's struggle against the deadly COVID-19. As of Friday morning, more than 18,000 had tested positive for the virus in the country, resulting in over 1,400 deaths.
"Washington's increased pressure against Iran is a crime against humanity. All the world should help each other to overcome this disease," an Iranian official told Reuters.
U.S. officials have maintained that the sanctions, both existing and new, have no affect on U.S. humanitarian aid available to the country.
"Our policy of maximum pressure on the regime continues," U.S. special representative for Iranian affairs Brian Hook told reporters. "U.S. sanctions are not preventing aid from getting to Iran."
On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeated the claim that the sanctions are not preventing medicines and assistance from going to Iran.
"Humanitarian assistance to Tehran is wide open," he said.
Furthermore, Hook added that the U.S. sent a diplomatic note to Iranian officials offering to help with the outbreak, but "it was quickly rejected."