The Islamic Regime, not Sanctions, Responsible for the Medicine “Shortage” in Iran –
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The Free Iranian Staff
On August 14th, Foreign Policy magazine’s website published an article by Abbas Kebriaeezadeh, a pharmacology professor at Tehran University, repeating the long-standard Khomeinist regime big lie that US sanctions against the Tehran regime are causing shortages of medicine in Iran.
When discussing the manufacturing of medicine or pharmaceutical imports to, Iran, one must keep in mind, the fact that the industry is completely controlled by the regime itself; that institutionalized corruption, at the highest levels of the regime, is how shortages are created and prices driving through the ceiling.
Most pharmaceutical manufacturers are either directly state-owned (that includes the IRGC) or owned by regime official-controlled foundations. All drug imports are conducted by, and require the permission of, the very same. And like all sectors of the Iran’s economy, embezzlement, mismanagement and extortion in the country’s pharmaceutical industry is routinely reported.
A recent report revealed the disappearance of a €1.12 billion fund set aside to pay for imported medicines; not a single drug for which the money was allocated was ever purchased. Regime president Rouhani’s chief of staff, Mahmoud Vaezi, has demanded clarification from the various ministries and corporations to whom the amount was disbursed. And this, is hardly an isolated incident.
In 2014, an Islamic Parliament (Majles) committee investigation revealed that $2 billion that was earmarked for importing medication was instead appropriated by regime officials and used to purchase luxury cars. Officials also took advantage of a special rial-to-dollar exchange rate that was only supposed to be used for importing vital foodstuffs and medicine, in order to furnish themselves with luxury items.
Prior to these disclosures, the former minister of health, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, had repeatedly complained that her ministry rarely received funds annually allotted for drug imports. “I told my colleagues that they must do their best to find the funds to purchase the necessary medicine. We needed around $2.5 billion to buy medicine and medical equipment… but they gave the Health Ministry only $41 million. This made my blood boil…Our medical needs were the eighth priority,” she said. Dastjerdi resigned from her post after disclosing that then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had diverted $20 billion from the healthcare budget to his own personally prioritized projects.
Concurrently, it was reported that officials were hoarding imported medicines, saving them for themselves and not allowing the drugs to reach hospitals and pharmacies. A Reuters report from 2012 confirmed that: “A source inside a government pharmacy in Tehran said that low stocks of vital drugs were being exacerbated by “strategic stockpiling”. Of 20 units of medication, two were available to the public and the rest ‘reserved’ for those who have influence or good connections, said the source.”
Iran’s underground economy, which some estimate to comprise over a third of Iran’s GDP, is controlled largely by the IRGC, just as they do the regular economy. The Revolutionary Guards, which are on the forefront of racketeering, are also known to be selling imported pharmaceuticals on the black market. They are said to have some 60 private ports in Iran, and special private gates at major airports, through which they import goods, including medications.
A 2014 study from the Mackenzie Institute summarized best the IRGC’s primary role in creating Iran’s pharmaceutical shortages: “The regime also controls the importing of medical supplies by manipulating its citizens as well as other well-intentioned nations to enrich themselves and maintain power. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) controls and restricts Iran’s pharmaceutical drug market. The importation of foodstuffs and medical products are not subject to the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran.”
It is worth reiterating that the U.S. sanctions on Iran, do not include medications and foodstuffs. The Treasury Department’s document “Guidance on the Sale of Food, Agricultural Commodities, Medicine, and Medical Devices by Non-U.S. Persons to Iran” states: “the U.S. maintains broad authorizations and exceptions that allow for the sale of food, medicine, and medical devices by U.S. persons or from the United States to Iran. U.S. sanctions laws provide similar allowances for sales of food, agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices to Iran by non-U.S. persons. To further assist non-U.S. persons, including banks and medical suppliers, in fully understanding these allowances, this Guidance underscores that these sales to Iran do not trigger sanctions under U.S. law… The conduct or facilitation of payments for such sales by foreign banks are not subject to U.S. sanctions when the payments originate from accounts of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI).”
This policy has been in force since 2000, when then-president Clinton liberalized some of the sanctions that he had himself imposed in 1995, as part of his efforts to woo Tehran’s then “reformist” president, Mohammad Khatami. No subsequent Congressional legislation or Presidential executive order has ever restricted the transfer of medicine, or food, to Iran. On the contrary, the US government has encouraged and facilitated NGOs and private citizens’ sending of humanitarian aid to Iran during times of natural disaster, aid which the regime has often rejected.
After a horrible earthquake destroyed the city of Bam in 2003, killing 26,000 and leaving another 100,000 homeless, the regime refused to accept relief and aid offers from Israel, and an American charity headed by former Senator Elizabeth Dole. These actions angered many Iranians at the time. Moreover, the regime has gone further than that, and more recently, it has even stolen aid meant for people who are in desperate need of relief during earthquakes and floods.
In late March and April of this year, as massive flooding devastated large parts of Iran, the IRGC commandeered relief supplies send to the flood victims, and instead diverted them to supporting their proxy militias throughout the Middle East.
In September 2018, when US sanctions were first being reapplied, the regime’s official news agency boasted that 97% of pharmaceuticals consumed in Iran were domestically produced, and thus there would not be any shortage of medicine. There probably would not be one today, if Tehran adequately spent the funds it did appropriate for imports, but the Khomeinists are never known to accept blame or admit wrongdoing.
Foreign Policy magazine should be aware of the general situation in Iran and should vet those who submit material for publications. Dr. Kebriaeezadeh, whose hyperbole they published, besides being an academic, is also vice chairman of the Iranian Pharmaceutical Industries Syndicate and chairman of the Baran Chemical and Pharmaceutical Company, as this indicates his proximity to the Khomeinist regime brass. As such, he parrots Tehran’s official line, which is to blame all of their problems on their enemies, while suppressing any information to the contrary that would show them for who they actually are.
Western media outlets should make note of this and be vigilant about their platforms being used as mouthpieces for Tehran’s propaganda.
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