The Washington Post:

By Editorial Board

IRAN, LIKE the United States, is fighting a so-far failing war against the novel coronavirus, which according to expert studies could kill millions in both countries if it is not contained. Yet neither the Trump administration nor the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has let this unprecedented emergency distract them from their war against each other. Iranian-backed militias in Iraq have repeatedly launched rockets against U.S. targets this month, even as tens of thousands of covid-19 cases swamped medical facilities inside Iran.

The United States has responded by bombing the militias’ weapons storage sites and by continuing to escalate sanctions on the stricken Iranian economy; last week, several companies involved in marketing Iranian petrochemicals were targeted. This week, Mr. Khamenei and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo devoted themselves to overheated verbal broadsides: The Iranian ruler blamed U.S. sanctions for impeding the fight against the epidemic, which he hinted had been created by the United States, while Mr. Pompeo claimed Tehran was lying about the extent of infections and stealing money intended for medical supplies.

There is a certain crude logic to the attacks in Iraq: Iranian hard-liners have plausible hopes of forcing a U.S. withdrawal from the country and handing the regime a strategic victory to balance the losses inflicted by U.S. sanctions. But the strategy behind U.S. policy is harder to discern. At a time of an extraordinary humanitarian crisis, the Trump administration is stepping up “maximum pressure” measures that increase hardship for a nation of 80 million. To what end?

Neither the collapse nor the capitulation of the regime seems a likely result. Instead, the United States is being blamed by ordinary Iranians as well as other nations for making it more difficult for authorities to combat the epidemic. That includes allies: Britain is among those that have asked for an easing of sanctions.

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