Democratic presidential front runner Joe Biden called Thursday for the United States to ease sanctions on Iran to reduce suffering as the Islamic republic reels from the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden said the United States should set up a dedicated channel for banks and other companies to operate in Iran and issue licenses for the sale of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
The former vice president also called for guarantees to aid groups that they will not be penalized for operating in Iran – and said Tehran should reciprocate by freeing detained Americans.
Biden said that President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign on Iran, which includes sweeping sanctions, had "badly backfired" by encouraging aggression from the clerical regime.
"It makes no sense, in a global health crisis, to compound that failure with cruelty by inhibiting access to needed humanitarian assistance," Biden said in a statement.
"Artificially limiting the flow of international humanitarian assistance to pursue a political point will not only allow the Iranian government to deflect responsibility for its own botched response, it will increase the threat this virus poses to the American people, now and in the future," he said.
His appeal came a day after his rival for the nomination, Bernie Sanders, led left-leaning lawmakers in calling for a lifting of U.S. sanctions on Iran, where more than 3,100 people have died from COVID-19.
The Trump administration has proposed U.S. aid to Iran while the Islamic country rejected it amid "vicious" sanctions.
With the sanction issue, the conflict of the two sides has been escalated as the U.S. military activities across Iraq and the Gulf have increased over recent days.
On Wednesday, Trump alleged that "Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops or assets in Iraq."
However, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday rejected U.S. claims, saying that Iran has no plan of an attack on U.S. troops in Iraq.
Chief of Staff of Iranian Armed Forces Mohammad Baqeri also slammed on the same day that Iran will respond severely if the United States does anything to undermine security of his country.
"If (the U.S.) takes the smallest step against the security of our country, they will be faced with the most severe reaction," Baqeri was quoted as saying by Press TV.