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December 1, 2023

The House is Playing Dangerous Games with Humanitarian Waivers and Hostage Diplomacy by passing H.R.5961

Washington, DC – Ryan Costello, Policy Director with the National Iranian American Council, issued the following statement on the House of Representatives passing H.R. 5961, or ‘‘No Funds for Iranian Terrorism Act,” a provision that would force the U.S. to renege on the September prisoner swap with Iran and undermine opportunities to address humanitarian shortages in Iran:

“At a time when the U.S. is engaging in high stakes and complex diplomatic undertakings across the region, the House of Representatives is seeking to insert itself as a spoiler to undercut U.S. diplomacy and provoke mistrust with regional actors like Qatar who have been essential to securing the release of hostages – both in Iran and Gaza. 

“The stakes of this political theater are significant: if the U.S. again reneges on a deal with Iran and brokered with Qatar, it will make it infinitely harder to negotiate anything with Iran ever again and undermine our word with key interlocutors: on hostages, on preventing war, and on nuclear nonproliferation. 

“Critically, this legislation also seeks to impose restrictions on the purchase of purely humanitarian goods, reinforcing rising negative perceptions regarding the U.S. government’s position towards humanitarian suffering that has been exacerbated by the horrors unfolding in Gaza. Iranians have long-suffered food and medicine shortages caused by sanctions that have imposed a de facto blockage on Iran’s economy, with recent estimates indicating shortages of over 170 essential medicines and over-inflated costs of basic foods. Policymakers should be seeking to find ways to ameliorate this crisis, not intensify the medical shortages as is risked by this bill.

“This is a reckless bill that was made demonstrably worse by amendment, including a provision that would remove key waivers in core Iran sanctions. As a result, we look forward to making sure it is dead on arrival in the Senate. It’s past time for the House to quit its cynical political games with vital national security efforts and humanitarian exemptions.”

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