FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, January 20, 2021
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | [email protected]
Washington D.C. – Ryan Costello, Policy Director with the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), issued the following statement on the Biden administration’s announcement of a review to ensure that existing U.S. sanctions do not unduly hinder responses to the COVID-19 pandemic:
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“We welcome President Biden’s directive to review whether sanctions have inhibited the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a welcome change from the last administration, which sought to escalate punishing sanctions on Iran even as it contended with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the Middle East.
“We appreciate that the Biden administration recognizes the pandemic is a global challenge, and that Iranian citizens are fighting the same deadly virus as Americans. It is critically important that the U.S. not make their task any more difficult than it already is, and take swift action to relieve sanctions and ensure Iranians have the best opportunity to beat back COVID-19.
“While Iran’s government undoubtedly has made many missteps in the crisis, U.S. sanctions on Iran have simultaneously impoverished ordinary Iranians and systematically narrowed humanitarian trade channels between the outside world and Iran, leading to shortages of key medical goods like personal protective equipment, insulin and specialized medicine to treat diseases like cancer.
“There are a number of steps that the Biden team should consider to help Iranians fight back against COVID-19. A new universal general license could make clear that humanitarian trade will not be sanctioned. The administration could free Iran’s frozen assets abroad for the purchase of humanitarian goods, and lift the U.S. hold on Iran’s IMF loan request. Most importantly, the U.S. should move to eliminate any sanctions that have inhibited Iran’s humanitarian trade, several of which were put in place explicitly to limit the Biden administration’s room for diplomatic maneuver.”