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

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in Ambassador's Circle
“We can choose to alleviate suffering. We can choose to work together for peace. We can make these changes—and we must.” These words of our remarkable former President Jimmy Carter form the foundation of a center striving for a better world. In 1982, former President Carter and wife, Rosalynn founded a non-profit organization “committed to advancing human rights” named, “The Carter Center.” In partnership with Emory University, the Atlanta-based organization has made great strides in improving the human condition worldwide. Here are three noteworthy initiatives of the Carter Center:

  1. In promoting global health, the Carter Center led a coalition poised to bring an end to Guinea Worm Disease. Also known as dracunculiasis, this disease was found in 3.5 million people in 1986. In that year, the Carter Center came to the fore and led a campaign to prevent this preventable infection in countries throughout Africa. In the years that followed, the Carter Center has been able to drastically reduce the prevalence of the disease through water filtration programs, water treatment programs, and programs educating the public about dracunculiasis. Today, Guinea Worm Disease is on the brink of eradication, with only 542 reported cases in 2012.
  2. In promoting democracy, the Carter Center has played an extensive role in overseeing elections in countries globally. Since its founding, the center has monitored over 90 elections in some 37 countries. In each election, the center plays a role in evaluating a given country’s electoral laws, overseeing voter registration, and assessing the fairness of campaigns. In 2005, the center became involved in drafting a document outlining the standards for election observers in countries around the world. Known as the Declaration of Principles for International Observation, this document has been embraced by organizations internationally
  3. Among the Carter Center’s most innovative programs is its Conflict Resolution Program. The center aims to improve dialogue and negotiations as a means of producing real solutions tailored to each given nation. In Liberia, for example, a country that endured lawlessness for years, the center is working to “reestablish the rule of law.” The center spearheaded a campaign promoting and strengthening legal institutions in the country, as well as creating constructive partnerships between citizens and their government.

Learn more at

– Lina Saud

Sources: Carter Center, CDC