December 20, 2022

Statement Applauding New Humanitarian Exemptions to Sanctions

Washington, DC – Ryan Costello, Policy Director of the National Iranian American Council, issued the following statement applauding the Biden administration’s publication of new licensing to harmonize and clarify humanitarian exemptions to sanctions, including on Iran. This follows the passage of a UN Security Council Resolution broadening humanitarian exemptions across UN sanctions programs. NIAC has long supported broadening sanctions exemptions and humanitarian relief for the people of Iran, including via letters from civil society organizations and diaspora communities. 

“The Biden administration should be commended for taking action to clarify and broaden its sanctions exemptions across all sanctioned countries, including Iran. Regrettably, broad, nationwide sanctions have harmed innocent civilians by impoverishing them and depriving them of basic medicine and care, while empowering and entrenching corrupt and repressive regimes. This is exactly what we have seen in Iran, where millions of Iranians have fallen out of the middle class while the government’s security forces have only become more brutal as sanctions have deepened. 

“Historically, exemptions on paper do not lead to exemptions in practice, as the private sector prioritizes its bottom line over conducting transactions with even the slightest hint of sanctions risk. As the U.S. deepens its reliance on sanctions, it is all the more important to ensure that exemptions are effective and universal. The administration took an important step toward that end today.

“Iran was one of the first nations hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and, regrettably, both the ineptitude of the Iranian government and overly-broad sanctions inhibited the crisis response. This was a dynamic that then candidate Biden acknowledged and pledged to address on the campaign trail, and we are pleased to see some steps to make good on that commitment today. In prior years, sanctions interfered with disaster response to other humanitarian crises, including the 2003 earthquake in Bam and the disastrous flooding of 2019.

“Like all sanctions exemptions, the true test will be whether they work in practice. Due to the many layers of overlapping sanctions on Iran, including the entirety of Iran’s financial sector, crafting sufficient exemptions is tremendously difficult, and we look forward to working with the Biden administration to support any changes that may be needed.”

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