FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, February 27, 2020
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | [email protected]
Ryan Costello, Policy Director for the National Iranian American Council, issued the following statement on the Treasury Department’s decision to exempt humanitarian trade involving the Central Bank of Iran amid the Coronavirus outbreak and pressure from Congress and outside groups:
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“The public health sector in Iran has been under severe stress for months in large part due to crushing economic sanctions that have limited humanitarian trade in medical devices and medicine manufactured in the West. Amid the outbreak of Coronavirus in Iran, which has been exacerbated both by the Iranian government’s bungled response and sanctions, it is vital that urgent steps are taken to respond to the shared threat.
“The decision announced today from the Treasury Department to license humanitarian trade involving the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) is an important reversal, and one that NIAC called for again on Tuesday along with other key steps to support the response to Coronavirus. Lawmakers, former officials and experts have warned since September that the decision to target the CBI with terror authorities put all humanitarian trade with Iran at risk by removing key humanitarian exceptions. The announcement today is a partial reversal of that decision, reflecting both the lack of wisdom in targeting humanitarian trade in the first place and the urgent need for an effective international response to the spread of Coronavirus in Iran.
“We appreciate that this first step has been taken, and urge additional action. The Treasury Department should consider issuing public guidance on how U.S. persons can contribute to humanitarian efforts to relieve the impact of coronavirus in Iran, and should engage in proactive efforts to ensure that there exist effective financial channels by which to effectuate payment for humanitarian goods. While Treasury’s licensing of humanitarian transactions involving CBI is an important reversal, it only leads us back to the status quo that existed prior to the Trump administration’s reckless move. This status quo saw the Iranian people without access to lifesaving medicines as humanitarian exporters experienced continued problems finding banks willing to facilitate the trade.
“Lastly, the Trump administration should enlist the United States in efforts to directly provide any necessary medical devices and medicine helpful in treating the outbreak of coronavirus in Iran. Besides exhibiting care and concern for the Iranian people and the impact the outbreak is having on their lives, the situation in Iran will be one that affects us as well. The United States should be a leader in resolving this global outbreak.”