US Sanctions on Iran
In a 2018 interview with Stephen Colbert, former president Jimmy Carter said that “sanctions exhaust rulers, and hurt the people.” More recently, the maximum pressure policy on Iran of former President Donald Trump marked a shift from Carter’s view on U.S. sanctions. The Carter Administration did coincide with the collapse of U.S.-Iranian relations. At the time, however, both countries had reasons to be hopeful. Here is some information about U.S. sanctions on Iran amid the novel coronavirus.

The Fall of the Shah and Jimmy Carter

The U.S. was pressuring Tehran to demolish despotism, and the Shah was compliant. The Nixon doctrine, a doctrine that stressed military support for authoritarian proxies as an impediment to the spread of communism, was eroding.

Despite these transformations, shows like “60 Minutes” were exposing the Shah’s human rights abuses. The most salient of these abuses was the SAVAK, a clandestine police and intelligence service devoted to the torture and murder of suspected communists, which the U.S. funded.

Additionally, the shah had more focus on military strength than social and economic reforms. In hindsight, the Iranian revolution and the collapse of U.S.-Iranian relations may seem inevitable. Critics of Carter argue that his failure to save the hostages signaled the death knell of his Administration.

The Obama Sanctions and the JCPOA

Since that time, the chasm between both countries has grown wider. Washington and Tehran have been rapidly heading toward collision; disaster feels imminent. During the Obama Administration, the U.S. imposed sanctions on the sale of oil and the funding of Iran’s nuclear program. The intent was to bring Iranian officials to the negotiating table.

In 2012, Obama deemed the “grinding” of the Iranian economy a success. During this time, the value of Iran’s currency plummeted. From 2011-2012, the rial lost 38% of its value, deterring many corporations from doing business with Tehran and plunging the economy into economic isolation.

In 2015, the P5+1—the U.S., Germany, China, Russia, France and the U.K.—reached an agreement that would ease U.S. sanctions on Iran in return for restrictions on its nuclear program. This agreement became known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or colloquially as the nuclear deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency praised the deal. CIA director, John Brennan, and former national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, voiced their support for it.

Trump’s Withdrawal from the JCPOA

In 2018, President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA, famously calling it the “worst deal ever.” Critics of the deal argue that in spite of the deal Iran continues to provide support to various terrorist proxies, such as Hezbollah, the Houthis and the Badr Corps, in addition to the Assad government. As Iran’s sphere of influence burgeons in the Arab world, Tehran draws nearer to the Saudi Kingdom’s sphere of influence. Saudi Arabia has been an ally of the U.S. since World War II. Critics of the deal also contend that a sunset clause will leave open the possibility of Iran continuing its nuclear program in the future.

Now, after pressuring the U.N. to multilaterally reimpose sanctions, the Trump Administration has prolonged the arms embargo previously scheduled to end on Oct. 18, 2020. The administration has also reinstated U.S. sanctions on uranium enrichment and ballistic missile development.

The Impact of the Sanctions on Iran’s Coronavirus Response

As the value of the rial continues to dwindle and inflation continues to soar, the price of food and medicine is skyrocketing. In addition, U.S. sanctions have impaired Iran’s ability to afford humanitarian supplies amid the novel coronavirus. Relief International is providing tens of thousands of masks, coveralls and test kits to frontline workers, as well as giving thousands of hand sanitizer bottles to Afghan refugee camps in Iran to mitigate this dire situation. At the moment, the death count in Iran due to COVID-19 is over 60,000.


U.S. sanctions impinge on Iran’s response to the novel coronavirus. From the revolution until now, amicability between Iran and the U.S. has deteriorated. The Iranian people are the victims of this decay. Today, the Iranian economy is suffering from the novel coronavirus, while Iranian and U.S. officials continuously make accusations toward one another.

Blake Dysinger
Photo: Flickr

Influenza in sub-Saharan AfricaAfrica is known for being one of the world’s poorest continents. Poverty directly affects a person’s susceptibility to diseases like influenza. To combat this disease, the future of healthcare in Africa requires funding to improve accessibility in rural regions. Here’s what you need to know about influenza in sub-Saharan Africa.

Influenza in Sub-Saharan Africa

While sub-Saharan Africa only accounted for an estimated 7,000 influenza deaths in 2015, this remains the most common and deadly global disease. The mortality rate of influenza in sub-Saharan Africa affects children under the age of five and those over 75. Though the mortality rate seems low compared to the U.S., it does not take into account the presence of healthcare services in Africa versus the U.S. In contrast to Africa, the U.S. had 22,705 influenza deaths in 2015. While these statistics are higher, the U.S. also has more accessible healthcare.

Furthermore, studies have shown that influenza affects many more people than accounted for. Research from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows 40% of antibodies for flu (B) were found in community members 40 years of age and older. This reveals that the virus continued to circulate with no monitoring processes. Importantly, this lack of surveillance contributes to countries’ and NGO partners’ ability to prepare for the next outbreak.

Higher rates of influenza in sub-Saharan Africa are typically found in low to middle-income regions with little resources and access to sanitation and healthcare. In particular, influenza puts nearly “two-thirds of the 34 million” persons infected with HIV at a higher risk for infection and mortality. Existing diseases such as HIV thus put a significant amount of the African population at risk for influenza.

Healthcare in Africa

Africa continues to possess one of the world’s worst healthcare infrastructures, despite funding from the U.S. In 2006, the U.S. gave R100 billion to the South African National Health Insurance (NHI). However, the U.S. provided $28.8 billion to those uninsured in the U.S. during that year, nearly twice the amount granted for all international health.

Rural regions in sub-Saharan Africa account for 60% the population, while urban areas contain 40%. Rural regions lack accessible healthcare compared to urban regions. Due to industrialization, urban areas have greater access to healthcare facilities and university hospitals.

Across many parts of Africa, the ratio of doctors to patients “is below 1/1000 population, with the ‘ratio of physicians per 1000 population essentially unchanged between 2004 (0.77) and 2011 (0.76).” Demand for physicians within these regions is increasing. However, although Africa is producing more physicians, many migrate to the U.S. This leaves rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa with few qualified healthcare providers.

Solutions and Aid

Awareness and aid are crucial to improving infrastructure and healthcare in Africa, so that it can respond to influenza outbreaks. The W.H.O. has created the Africa Flu Alliance, finding factors leading to the underfunding of healthcare to assess its overall impact. Similarly, the Africa Flu Alliance created a “strategic road map” of targets to control influenza in sub-Saharan Africa. It hopes to influence organizations, private funding and projects to support the organization’s initiatives.

Private sectors and nonprofits contribute to approximately half of Africa’s total healthcare funding and expenditures. Twenty-two organizations and nonprofits are working to combat the gap between health services in rural and urban areas. In addition, The African Network for Influenza Surveillance and Epidemiology (ANISE) was created in 2009, with a growing network alongside the CDC. Continual meetings from 2009 to 2012 allowed officials and representatives to discuss achievements and areas of improvement.

Reducing Aid Dependency: Can It Work?

Despite the reliance on Western assistance for years, President Trump’s foreign aid budget cuts could be incredibly harmful or begin for Africa. Given the situation, governments within Africa will need to strive for improvements in monetary policies, transparency and reduced corruption. To improve self-sufficiency, experts recommend regional integration, or “the process by which two or more nation-states agree to co-operate and work closely together to achieve peace, stability and wealth.” Initiatives like Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) will enable 54 countries to trade freely. This will improve Africa’s economic stability by an estimated 50% increase in trade.

The battle of influenza in sub-Saharan Africa correlates directly with the absence of monitoring for significant health concerns. Expanding upon the existing healthcare infrastructure can not only contain and treat disease but also help grow Africa’s economy. Surveillance will be key in this process, as statistics tell actors what they need to improve. But with the support NGOs, funding can help control influenza in sub-Saharan Africa.

Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act
Xinjiang is located in China’s northeast corner. Of its 19 million inhabitants, 8 million belong to the Uyghur Muslim minority. Since the days of Mao Zedong, the Chinese government has consistently persecuted certain religions, including Islam. Separatist sentiments among the Uyghur population and their strong Muslim identity have made them a problematic minority for the government’s vision of a
united, nonreligious China in Beijing. The spread of COVID-19 as well as the mass detention and forced labor of the Uyghur peoples illustrate the importance of properly enacting the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act.

A History of Tension

The Uyghur peoples have a history of independence. In the 1940s, the Xinjiang region was independent for a short time. The Uyghur language, religion and culture are completely different from those of the Han Chinese. Since Xi Jinping became the General Secretary of China’s communist party, religious persecution against Muslims, Christians and other spiritual groups has increased. Ethnic tensions have intensified, as the Uyghurs are often painted as thugs, Chinese separatists and religious extremists.

Multiple Uyghur-led, anti-government acts of violence in 2014 initiated Jinping’s harsh crackdown on the ethnic minority group. This meant the mass detention of Uyghurs in re-education facilities, an effective and wide-ranging surveillance system and forced labor. The Chinese government states that these measures are part of its fight against religious extremism and terrorism. In 2017, Jinping claimed that “Xinjiang is in an active period of terrorist activities, intense struggle against separatism and painful intervention to treat this.”

Uyghur Detention Facilities

The Chinese government has indefinitely detained an estimated 1 million Uyghurs in so-called re-education camps since 2014. The objective of these camps is to turn the Muslim Uyghurs into loyal citizens of the Chinese nation. Re-education includes forcing detainees to learn Mandarin and attempting to strip them of their Islamic faith. 

Many Uyghurs in these camps must work in factories and other forms of labor against their will. Some global companies rely on products produced in Xinjiang. In 2012, Volkswagen came under heavy criticism for its decision to open a factory in the region’s capital, but the German car manufacturer is far from the only company to do business in Xinjiang. Uyghur forced labor is also critical to the supply chains of global brands such as Adidas and H&M.

The Perfect Environment for COVID-19 Transmission

Recent spikes in COVID-19 cases throughout Xinjiang, China have many human rights activists concerned that a massive outbreak could happen in the dense re-education camps and factories. Governments throughout the world have released inmates from tightly packed prisons to prevent COVID-19 transmission on a grand scale, but such a move by the Chinese government seems unlikely. Chinese nationalist hardliners may view an outbreak in these re-education facilities positively, based on their current treatment and detention of Uyghur Muslims. However, the United States can do something about this blatant violation of human rights through the aggressive application and enforcement of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act.

The Reasons the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act is Important

Economic pressure from the U.S. government could help release many Uyghur people from detention centers, a measure that is especially important with a deadly outbreak of COVID-19 in the region. The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act gives Congress the authority to impose strategic sanctions and export restrictions on products produced in Xinjiang.  

The bill can encourage companies like Volkswagen to stop production in the area via sanctions, cutting off their access to the valuable U.S. market. This bill would thereby apply pressure on the Chinese government to change its policy of mass detention and forced labor of Uyghur Muslims. President Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act into law, giving himself the power to send Congress a list of “foreign individuals and entities” responsible for abusing the Uyghurs.

The U.S. has already sanctioned multiple Chinese companies over their actions in Xinjiang, but no sanctions have been levied on Western businesses that rely on forced Uyghur labor for their production or supply chains. Congress and President Trump have to power to more broadly and aggressively enact the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act in order to institute real change in Xinjiang and avert the worsening of a human rights crisis.

 – Marcus Lawniczak
Photo: Flickr