Tehran, Iran CNN  — 

Ali only had two hours to save his baby’s life. He careened through traffic and sped along highways to an east Tehran government pharmacy. When he saw some 800 people queued outside the facility, he dropped to his knees. Like him, they were waiting to obtain state-funded medications.

“I cried and screamed, begging people to let me get through,” Ali – whom we have not fully identified for security reasons – recalls.

Eventually, he skipped the line and returned with the medicine in time for his one-year-old daughter, Dory, to recover.

The incident happened just as Iran’s landmark nuclear deal with six world powers led by the US was being signed in 2015. It was a moment when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had promised Iranians an easier life, free of medicinal and food shortages, and where desperate scenes such as Ali’s outside the pharmacy would become a thing of the past.

Iran was halting its nuclear program in exchange for international sanctions relief, appearing to turn the page on a 36-year history of diplomatic and economic isolation.

But dreams of a new reality for Iran screeched to a halt in May 2018 when President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal. Despite repeated certifications that Iran was sticking to its end of the bargain, Trump unleashed several rounds of stinging sanctions on the country.