NIAC Urges Treasury to Remove Impediments to Iran Flood Relief Aid

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

WASHINGTON D.C. — NIAC President Jamal Abdi issued the following statement on the need for the Treasury Department to take steps to ensure that humanitarian relief efforts for victims of Iranian flooding is not impeded by U.S. sanctions:

“Amid disastrous flooding that has devastated tens of thousands in Iran, we urge the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to take clear steps to ensure that sanctions no longer block assistance to victims of Iranian flooding in their hour of need.

“Over the past two weeks, devastating floods have struck large parts of Iran, killing at least 45 people, displacing tens of thousands, and cutting off many areas of the country from relief efforts. It is clear that many Iranians need assistance right now, and that recovery will take a tremendous amount of time.

“However, amid the massive scale of the unfolding crisis, reports indicate that U.S. sanctions are impeding the flow of relief to the Iranian Red Crescent. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ‘challenges caused by unilateral sanctions will affect the UN response and the accountability of UN to deliver the appropriate support.’

“The announcement that the U.S. is ready to assist the Iranian Red Crescent in overcoming sanctions complications and contribute to relief efforts is a welcome step that should be followed through on. While criticism of the Iranian government’s handling of these issues is warranted, right now is the time to ensure humanitarian relief is not blocked by US sanctions – not score political points at the expense of the Iranian people.

“If the administration is serious about addressing the crisis, there are several additional steps that the Treasury Department should take, including a public clarification or “comfort letter” indicating that all humanitarian relief efforts and associated services connected to the ongoing floods will be exempt from U.S. sanctions. Furthermore, OFAC should expand the scope of its current humanitarian licenses to allow U.S. persons to donate directly to Iranian non-government organizations engaged in relief efforts related to the ongoing flooding. Finally, OFAC should take steps to license financial institutions to engage in humanitarian transactions with Iranian banks.

“It is imperative that the United States demonstrate that it stands with the Iranian people at this critical time, especially given that this natural disaster comes in the backdrop of crushing U.S. sanctions. Failure to take steps to respond risks both impeding relief efforts on the ground and giving the impression that the U.S. will seek to exploit the tragedy afflicting the Iranian people to further its own geopolitical goals.”

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