FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, June 17, 2021
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | [email protected]
NIAC Policy Director Ryan Costello issued the following statement following the Treasury Department’s issuance of new general licensing involving humanitarian trade with Iran to combat the COVID-19 pandemic:
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“We applaud the Biden administration’s issuance of a new General License and guidance expanding and clarifying exemptions for humanitarian trade with Iran—including trade in vaccines and testing equipment and financial transactions involving the Central Bank of Iran. This is an important and much needed first step that is long overdue. The people of Iran were one of the first and hardest hit by COVID-19, a situation exacerbated by ideological posturing and mendacity by the Iranian government and U.S. sanctions that made lockdowns and access to vital testing and medical goods far more difficult. Rather than expand U.S. assistance amid this public health disaster, the Trump administration amplified sanctions and continued its campaign to narrow channels for humanitarian trade. As then-candidate Biden indicated last year, the U.S. should help the Iranian people regardless of our differences with the Iranian government.
“There is still much to do beyond these initial actions to ensure sanctions are not undermining the battle against Covid and contributing to broader humanitarian challenges in Iran. Critically, the U.S. needs to ensure that Iran has access to and can transfer its assets in order to purchase humanitarian goods, including vaccines, through numerous financial channels. While some vaccine purchases have already been facilitated via COVAX, the vast majority of Iranians have not been inoculated, a situation exacerbated by the Supreme Leader’s outrageous and damaging ban on certain Western vaccines.
“This new General License follows President Biden’s meeting with the Swiss earlier this week, who underscored the importance of making their humanitarian channel work better by speeding up approvals. Hopefully that meeting and the announcement today is a signal of renewed urgency on the part of the Biden administration to follow through and ensure that sanctions are not inhibiting the efforts of the Iranian people to defeat COVID-19.”