March 8, 2010

NIAC Applauds Administration’s Correction of Harmful Internet Sanctions

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council applauds today’s Treasury Department decision to reverse harmful policies barring U.S. Internet communication software from being available to Iranians.  Today’s welcome announcement will help ensure that U.S. policies no longer stand in the way of Iranians seeking to have their voices heard, and will enable the people of Iran to access vital tools that facilitate free speech and the free flow of information.

NIAC has sought revisions to US sanctions that harm innocent Iranians since long before the disputed June 2009 Iranian elections, and has worked continuously with the Administration and Congress to fix this harmful policy.  As recently as March 2nd, NIAC sent a letter to OFAC discussing the urgent need for this general license to be issued swiftly.

“This decision is the right way for the U.S. stand with the Iranian people,” said Jamal Abdi, NIAC Policy Director.  “By removing barriers that prevent Iranians from communicating freely and accessing information online, the U.S. is taking concrete action to help the Iranian people.”

NIAC commends Representative Jim Moran (D-VA), who introduced the Iranian Digital Empowerment Act (IDEA), H.R. 4301, legislation which would make today’s Administration decision law.  Congress should pass this legislation as quickly as possible to ensure that the law is corrected in line with the new regulations promulgated today.

The general license issued today is an important first step towards eliminating U.S. sanctions that unintentionally punish innocent Iranians at their greatest moment of need. NIAC urges the Administration and Congress to continue to evaluate existing policies to determine which sanctions can be further refined, reversed, or eliminated so that U.S. policy does not continue to punish innocent Iranians. 

As a next step, Congress should pass the Stand With the Iranian People Act (SWIPA), H.R. 4303, introduced by Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN), which would correct U.S. policy that prevents U.S. humanitarian relief and charitable organizations from working in Iran.

Additionally, as the Administration and Congress pursue new Iran sanctions, NIAC urges that they avoid recreating the very problems that today’s White House decision has begun to correct.  Any new sanctions should be squarely targeted at Iranian government officials and human rights abusers, not the Iranian people. 

“The U.S. government’s left hand is often unaware of what the right hand is doing,” said Abdi.  “It is vital that Congress and the White House work together so that when harmful policies are corrected today, Congress doesn’t pass a new round of burdens on Iranians that need to be corrected tomorrow.”




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