NIAC Commends Reps. Grijalva, Omar and Lee for Calling on Trump Administration to Protect Humanitarian Trade with Iran

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, December 17, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

WASHINGTON DC – Jamal Abdi, President of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), released the following statement regarding the letter from Reps. Raul Grijalva, Ilhan Omar and Barbara Lee calling for the Trump administration to protect humanitarian trade with Iran:

“After the Trump administration took two key steps in recent months to restrict humanitarian trade with Iran, this letter comes at a critical time. Even as the Iranian people contend with brutal repression from their own government, they are being simultaneously squeezed by crushing U.S. sanctions that have led to shortages of life-saving medicine. Reps. Grijalva, Omar and Lee and all the signers of the letter deserve tremendous credit for highlighting the devastating consequences of Trump’s maximum pressure campaign and urging steps to ensure that food and life-saving medicine are not blocked by U.S. sanctions. 

“You can’t support the Iranian people by banning them, and you can’t support them by depriving them of food and medicine. The Trump administration needs to halt its deflection on the humanitarian impact of its sanctions, which is well-documented, and work on a real solution. We urge the administration to halt its targeting of humanitarian trade and respond in good faith to the legislators’ inquiry.”

 

NIAC Statement on Increased U.S. Restrictions on Humanitarian Trade with Iran

NIAC President Jamal Abdi issued the following statement on the Treasury Department’s adding new burdens to humanitarian trade with Iran:

“The Trump administration has sounded the death knell for humanitarian trade with Iran. Through its action today, the administration has made clear that the Iranian people are in the cross-hairs of their ongoing economic war against Iran and that the deliberate targeting of food and medicine to the Iranian people is fair game. This is a shameful development—one that makes the United States the equivalent of human rights violators that similarly target humanitarian goods in order to achieve their political objectives. 

“By designating Iran a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the Trump administration has severed what limited remaining ties Iran has to the global financial system. The consequences have long been clear. Foreign banks have warned the U.S. Treasury Department that Iran’s designation under Section 311 will force them to stop processing humanitarian-related transactions in the future. Yet, the Trump administration has accepted, if not deliberately encouraged, those consequences.  

“The Trump administration seeks to save public face for its devastating action by feigning the creation of a ‘humanitarian channel’ by which foreign banks can process transactions. But this humanitarian channel functions more like a sanctions wall, erecting stringent conditions on foreign bank participation in humanitarian trade with Iran. Let’s be clear: There is unlikely to be a single banker in the world that will accept these conditions and participate in the trade. The Trump administration is surely aware of this fact, and its humanitarian channel should be viewed as nothing more than farce. 

“The Trump administration has consistently undertaken action to choke off humanitarian trade with Iran, including by reimposing nuclear sanctions against Iran and designating financial entities vital to humanitarian trade – like Bank Parsian and the Central Bank of Iran – under terrorism authorities. Today’s announcement does nothing to alleviate the real challenges sanctions pose to humanitarian trade, and in fact add new burdens apparently intended to end the provision of life-saving medicine to Iran. Congress and the public need to step up to reverse this brazen and outrageous action.”

Foreign Policy: Iran Nuclear Deal Could Ease the Way for Humanitarian Trade

Financial sanctions against Iran hit the country’s economy hard, forcing Tehran to negotiate rolling back its nuclear program with the West. But they’ve also kept Iranians from buying medicine, paying tuition for students studying abroad, and making other purchases — all activities still allowed.

The trouble is skittish banks. Many financial institutions are so worried about running afoul of U.S. sanctions and incurring huge fines that they’re unwilling to do any business with Iranians.