Certain especially vulnerable groups, such as Iran’s cancer patients, are bearing the brunt of the burden caused by the new U.S.-imposed sanctions, as the cost of the average cancer treatment has now doubled and the supply of crucial medication has dwindled to new, troubling lows.
TEHRAN, IRAN – The recent imposition of crippling sanctions against Iran by the United States government has made life increasingly difficult for everyday Iranians, as essential supplies are becoming more difficult to come by with each passing day. However, certain vulnerable groups, such as Iran’s cancer patients, are bearing the brunt of the burden caused by the sanctions, as the cost of the average cancer treatment has now doubled and the supply of crucial medication has dwindled to new, troubling lows.
Since U.S. sanctions were re-imposed on Iran following the U.S.’ unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – better known as the Iran nuclear deal — Iran’s cancer patients have been hit particularly hard, as sanctions have made it harder to buy life-saving medication and essential medical equipment. For instance, Ali Shokri – a cancer patient living in Tehran – told Ruptly that the cost of his chemotherapy sessions jumped from 10 million Rial ($240) to 20 million Rial ($475) following the imposition of U.S. sanctions.
In addition to the high cost of the treatment, certain essential medications are harder to find and in some cases must be bought from other countries, such as Turkey, at exorbitant rates. This was confirmed by Marjan Shirazi, the wife of a cancer patient living in Tehran, who stated that the drugs her husband needs to stay alive are “more expensive and rarer,” adding that the U.S.-imposed sanctions are “directed on [the Iranian] people.”
Sanctions have also blocked the imports of vital medical equipment, as many manufacturers of such equipment are often linked to American citizens or businesses in some way, such as having American board members or using American businesses as part of their chain of production. A recent article published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet detailed how Iran’s ability to conduct cancer research has also been severely stunted by sanctions, as have the country’s cancer prevention programs.
In addition, the newest sanctions that target Iranian banks have made it even more difficult, and sometimes impossible, to import medical equipment and medications, as money held in Iranian banks is now more difficult to transfer to foreign banks.
The dangerous effects that U.S. sanctions are having on Iranian cancer patients prompted the President of Iran’s Academy of Medical Sciences, Seyyed Alireza Marandi, to write a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres earlier this month about the increasingly precarious situation. Marandi wrote that U.S. sanctions have “put in danger the lives of many patients from small children to the elderly who are in urgent need of medicine and medical equipment.”
When will the lives of children, and women and men across the globe be protected from the criminal behavior of the United States? Until when should cancer, organ transplant and other patients fear death because they are deliberately denied medicine and medical equipment?”
However, even if Marandi’s plea prompts Guterres to act, it seems unlikely that the UN will be able to convince the Trump administration to roll back any of the draconian sanctions it has imposed on Iran over the past several months.
Indeed, in early October, the UN’s highest court – the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – ruled that the U.S. must lift sanctions on Iran that affect the import of humanitarian goods and products as well as services linked to civilian aviation. This included the export of medicine and medical devices to Iran. The court found that U.S. sanctions in these areas violated the 1955 Treaty of Amity between Iran and the United States. The U.S. responded by withdrawing from the 1955 treaty in order to avoid complying with the court’s legally binding ruling.
Sanctions old and new: a darkening of motive
This is not the first time that sanctions have placed on Iranian cancer patients in dire straits. Prior to the JCPOA being put into effect, UN sanctions targeting Iran’s nuclear programs drastically reduced the country’s ability to acquire the radioactive isotopes used in chemotherapy, as the nuclear fuel rods used to produce those isotopes domestically were alleged to be part of Iran’s “secret” ambition to develop a nuclear bomb.
Those sanctions forced Iran to import ready-made isotopes for chemotherapy treatments from Turkey and other countries and at nearly double the going rate for the isotopes. Studies examining Iran’s radiotherapy infrastructure during this time found that sanctions greatly exacerbated the gap between Iran’s radiotherapy facilities and international standards, and that restrictions on the isotope Cobalt-60 had endangered many Iranian cancer patients.
Both U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies agreed at the time that Iran had completely dismantled its nuclear weapons program in 2003, years before the sanctions were imposed. Thus, those sanctions were aimed at adversely affecting Iranian civilians as a means of pressuring the Iranian government into negotiations with the West.
Now, however, the current sanctions on Iran – unilaterally imposed by the U.S. after its withdrawal from the JCPOA – are targeting Iranian civilians not to pressure Iran’s government to the negotiating table but to overthrow it.
Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, hinted as much when he told BBC Persia last week that Iran’s “leadership has to make a decision that they want their people to eat,” essentially admitting that the U.S. was waging economic war against Iran’s civilians in order to force Iran’s government to “fall in line.” As director of the CIA, Pompeo had publicly called for the U.S. government to take action to “change Iranian behavior, and, ultimately, the Iranian regime.”
In addition, top Trump officials, such as John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani have made it clear that regime change in Iran is the ultimate goal of the Trump administration’s aggressive Iran policy. Indeed, Bolton told an audience of a controversial Iranian exile group last year that there would be regime change in Iran before 2019. More recently, in May, Giuliani told an audience of the same group that Trump was “committed to regime change” in Iran and led a “regime change” chant in tandem with the audience.
Yet, as this report has shown, the sanctions disproportionately affect Iran’s most vulnerable citizens, particularly its ill, who have essentially become collateral in the Trump administration’s aggressive policy aimed at regime change in Tehran.