RNA - In a letter sent on Tuesday to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, over 30 members of Congress — including Senators Bernie Sanders and Edward J. Markey as well as Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar — urged the Trump administration to step in with humanitarian aid rather than worsening the situation.
“Rather than continue to invoke new sanctions in the Iranian people’s hour of need, we urge you to substantially suspend sanctions on Iran during this global public health emergency in a humanitarian gesture to the Iranian people to better enable them to fight the virus,” the letter read. “Additionally, we encourage the US to find a way to deliver aid directly to the Iranian people to support the Iranian people’s fight against Coronavirus.”
“By targeting an entire economy that supports more than 80 million people, US sanctions make it harder for ordinary Iranians to obtain basic necessities like food and hygienic supplies essential to stemming the pandemic and that are basic to survival,” it added.
The United States reinstated its sanctions against Iran in May 2018 after leaving a United Nations-endorsed nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic and five other countries.
Calls have recently been growing on the international stage for the US to ditch its illegal anti-Iran bans, which have hampered the country’s access to lifesaving medical supplies during the battle against the coronavirus.
Several types of medical equipment essential for fighting the fast-spreading disease are on a list of dual-use data-x-items that require specific US Treasury authorization.
Iran has been among the countries hardest hit by COVID-19, recording over 44,600 infections and 2,898 deaths.
Over the past two weeks, however, the US government has issued three rounds of new sanctions targeting companies doing business with Tehran, defying criticism from the UN as well as several countries, political figures and prominent humanitarian organizations.
‘Pandemic knows no borders’
Elsewhere in their letter, the American lawmakers denounced the fresh punitive measures against Iran as “callous and short-sighted.”
“Sanctions relief that should be considered are those that encompass major sectors of the Iranian economy, including those impacting civilian industries, Iran’s banking sector and exports of oil, and should last for at least as long as health experts believe the crisis will continue,” the letter said.
“Failure to do so risks inhibiting the delivery of key humanitarian goods and putting the Iranian people into further health and economic peril,” it added.
It further stressed that the coronavirus outbreak in Iran threatened the economic and security interests of the US and its allies in the region.
“Pandemics know no borders. Allowing this crisis to become more dire in Iran threatens significant harm not only to the people of Iran but also to people in the United States and around the world,” the letter read.
“Our many disputes with the government of Iran or others should not stand in the way of actions that can materially help innocent people weather a pandemic,” it stated.
US may rethink anti-Iran sanctions: Pompeo
In another development on Tuesday, Pompeo held out the possibility that the Trump administration may consider easing sanctions on Iran and other nations to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Asked if there might come a point at which the US might reevaluate its stance regarding the anti-Iran sanctions, the top US diplomat told a news conference, “We evaluate all of our policies constantly, so the answer is - would we ever rethink? — Of course.”
UN rights expert urges US to lift bans on Iran, others
Also on Tuesday, Hilal Elver, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, called for the lifting of international sanctions against countries ranging from Iran to North Korea and Venezuela to ensure that food supplies reach populations during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The continued imposition of crippling economic sanctions on Syria, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, and, to a lesser degree, Zimbabwe, to name the most prominent instances, severely undermines the ordinary citizens’ fundamental right to sufficient and adequate food,” she said in a statement.
Elver also emphasized that it was a matter of “humanitarian and practical urgency to lift unilateral economic sanctions immediately.”