WASHINGTON – In light of the increasingly dire situation in Iran as the country combats the COVID-19 pandemic, NIAC Action and 25 other organizations – including J Street, Truman National Security Project, MoveOn, Win Without War and Ploughshares Fund – in calling on President Trump, Sec. Mnuchin, and Sec. Pompeo to loosen the administration’s crippling sanctions regime on Iran for 120 days in order to aid the Iranian people’s fight against the virus.
The combined groups, representing millions of Americans, signals a strong desire for the administration to reevaluate their Iran policy in the wake of the pandemic. NIAC Action Executive Director Jamal Abdi released the following statement accompanying the letter:
“The Trump administration’s current unwillingness to significantly ease sanctions on Iran during this time of crisis is like rubbing salt into a gaping wound. With hospitals overrun and Iranian doctors struggling to procure necessary equipment, the U.S. must be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
“As COVID-19 rips through country after country, Iran’s experience has been particularly devastating. While advanced medical systems across Western Europe seem to be collapsing under the weight of patients infected with the virus, Iranians have had to contend with both their own government’s negligence and crushing sanctions that slow the response and punish ordinary Iranians.
“Humanitarian assistance shouldn’t come with strings attached, and we are all at risk from the pandemic regardless of nationality. We call on the administration to ease its sanctions policy so that all resources are available to fight the pandemic in this dark hour for the Iranian people.”
The text of the letter is below:
March 20, 2020
Dear President Trump, Sec. Mnuchin and Sec. Pompeo
Containing the deadly COVID-19 pandemic will require a global effort with nations deploying all available resources at their disposal. Iran has become an epicenter for the outbreak, with 1,433 deaths and nearly 20,000 infected. To help stem the continued spread of the virus inside Iran and beyond, we urge you to issue a time-bound suspension of those U.S. sanctions that make it harder for ordinary Iranians to secure basic goods and services to weather the crisis. Doing so would not just serve U.S. interests in helping contain the further spread of the virus, but would also be a powerful humanitarian gesture to the more than 80 million Iranians suffering under the pandemic.
We appreciate that some limited steps have already been taken, including licensing humanitarian trade with the Central Bank of Iran and encouraging foreign banks and governments to establish humanitarian channels with Iran. Yet, sanctions have harmed the public health sector in Iran by slowing or entirely blocking the sale of medicine, respirators, and hygienic supplies needed to mitigate the epidemic, and broad sectoral sanctions continue to negatively impact ordinary Iranians by shuttering civilian-owned businesses and decimating the value of the rial, making it harder to procure food, medicine, and other basic needs.
As a result, we recommend suspending many of the sanctions imposed by your administration since May 2018 for a period of at least 120 days, including those sanctions affecting Iran’s financial and oil sectors and its civilian industries. Doing so would offer significant relief for the Iranian people at a critical time.
COVID-19 is a shared threat, requiring global solutions. Easing sanctions is one simple step that can be taken to serve the interests of the Iranian people and public health across the globe.
American Friends Service Committee
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
Council for a Livable World
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Defending Rights & Dissent
Demand Progress Education Fund
Foreign Policy for America
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project
Just Foreign Policy
Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)
National Iranian American Council Action (NIAC Action)
Peace Corps Iran Association
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Truman Center for National Security
Win Without War
Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND)