Human rights groups call on Trump administration to end Iran sanctions amid COVID-19 crisis

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Last week, over 25 groups called on the Trump administration to end its sanctions on Iran amid the COVID-19 crisis. The virus has been particularly calamitous for Iran: at the time this piece was written the country had 21,638 confirmed cases and 1,685 people had been killed by it. U.S. sanctions have no doubt worsened the situation, as they’ve weakened Iran’s economy and thus made it more difficult to secure goods.

NIAC Action, J Street, Truman National Security Project, MoveOn and a number of other organizations sent a letter to President Trump, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling for an immediate suspension of the sanctions for at least 120 days.

“To help stem the continued spread of the virus inside Iran and beyond, we urge you to issue a time-bound suspension of those U.S. sanctions that make it harder for ordinary Iranians to secure basic goods and services to weather the crisis,” reads the letter, “Doing so would not just serve U.S. interests in helping contain the further spread of the virus, but would also be a powerful humanitarian gesture to the more than 80 million Iranians suffering under the pandemic.”

Not only has the Trump administration neglected to lift its sanctions on Iran, last week it slapped a new round of them on the country. Pompeo said the new sanctions will target the country’s petrochemical industry “and further Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation.”

Some lawmakers have recently called on the administration to stop the sanctions in response to COVID-19. “A person dies from coronavirus every 10 minutes in Iran 50 become infected every hour,” tweeted Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), “Keeping in place economic sanctions on Iran right now is just supervillain-level cruelty.”

“Iran is facing a catastrophic toll from the coronavirus pandemic,” tweeted Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, “U.S. sanctions should not be contributing to this humanitarian disaster. As a caring nation, we must lift any sanctions hurting Iran’s ability to address this crisis, including financial sanctions.”

China’s government has also pushed the United States to change their policy amid the crisis. “We urge the US to immediately lift unilateral sanction on Iran,” tweeted China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang, “Continued sanction is against humanitarianism and hampers Iran’s epidemic response & delivery of humanitarian aid by the UN and other organizations.”



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