Ahead of plans to lift Tehran’s partial lockdown today, Iranian authorities have introduced severe COVID-19 restrictions on 43 cities due to the rise coronavirus infections.
Iran’s deadly second and third COVID-19 waves have largely been a result of the country’s rushed re-opening policies, driven by the government’s inability to provide citizens with economic relief. Following the imposition of US sanctions in 2018, Tehran has lost a significant portion of its oil exports – which used to account for about half of government revenues – and has seen a serious reduction in its supply of foreign exchange, driving inflation to record levels.
These crippling sanctions have incrementally intensified since 2018 due to Iran’s expansion of its nuclear capabilities. Most recently, after failing to invoke the UN to extend its Iran arms embargo that expired in mid-October, the Trump administration retaliated by sanctioning 18 Iranian banks just weeks ahead of November’s elections.
Expect this latest move to exacerbate the COVID-19-induced humanitarian situation in Iran by introducing additional barriers to access much-needed medical supplies. Additionally, expect these developments to further embolden Iran’s hardliners, thereby making it more unlikely for a possible Biden presidency to draw the Iranians back into the Obama era nuclear deal.
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Esra is an analyst on the Current Developments division and a member of The Daily Brief’s research team. She specialises in political and security issues with a particular focus on the Middle East and North Africa.