US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Abu Dhabi on Thursday said the United States wanted 'free and fair elections' in Afghanistan, adding: 'We're going to do everything we can to support them.' Photo: AFP

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has left open the possibility of sanctions relief for Iran as it combats a devastating Covid-19 outbreak.

Asked on Tuesday whether the global nature of the disease could at “any point” prompt the Trump administration to offer sanctions relief, Pompeo said: “We re-evaluate all of our policy, including our sanctions policy, constantly.

“If we conclude that it’s in the best interests of the American people to alter any of those policies, we’ll certainly do that,” he said.

The statement came as three key European allies announced their debut transaction with Tehran through a special-purpose trade vehicle, and in circumvention of US sanctions.

“France, Germany and the United Kingdom confirm that INSTEX has successfully concluded its first transaction, facilitating the export of medical goods from Europe to Iran. INSTEX and its Iranian counterpart STFI will work on more transactions and enhancing the mechanism,” the German foreign office tweeted Tuesday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has long pushed for the European signatories to the Obama-era nuclear deal to do more to challenge US sanctions.

Supreme Leader Ayatolla Khamenei, however, has long urged Iran’s officials to look East, specifically to China, India and Russia, for reliable and powerful allies.

Well into the Covid-19 outbreak, but before it was declared a global pandemic, flights continued between Iran and multiple Chinese cities.

Iran has recorded nearly 45,000 cases of the novel coronavirus and more than 2,800 deaths.

Though the US insists that humanitarian goods are except from its sanctions, most international companies will not risk any kind of trade with Iran.

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, influential Washington proponents of the maximum pressure campaign, have urged Pompeo to steer the course.

“The Iranian people know that this is the wrong time to give sanctions relief to this regime,” said Mark Dubowitz, the think tank’s CEO in a Friday video.

Alison Tahmizian Meuse

Alison T Meuse is the Asia Times Middle East editor and correspondent.