Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Ilhan Omar (MN) are among a group of Democratic lawmakers calling on the Trump administration to end sanctions on Iran during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I led a letter with [Rep. Ocasio-Cortez] and [Sen. Bernie Sanders] demanding this Administration end sanctions against Iran during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Omar tweeted Tuesday. “These sanctions aren’t changing the behavior of the Iranian government, but directly punishing innocent civilians.”
Ocasio-Cortez also took to Twitter to publicize her role in pushing for the easing of sanctions on Iran by retweeted a post from the author of a report on the letter: “[Ocasio-Cortez], [Sanders], [Omar], and [Sen. Elizabeth Warren] & co want to suspend sanctions on Iran that make it hard to import meds, PPE & respirators despite one of the world’s biggest COVID-19 outbreaks and Trump’s claims of having made enough humanitarian concessions,” reads the tweet from Huffington Post foreign affairs reporter Akbar Shahid Ahmed.
These sanctions aren’t changing the behavior of the Iranian government, but directly punishing innocent civilians. https://t.co/odymQAN3cn
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) March 31, 2020
Exclu: @AOC @BernieSanders @IlhanMN @ewarren & co want to suspend sanctions on Iran that make it hard to import meds, PPE & respirators despite one of the world's biggest COVID-19 outbreaks and Trump's claims of having made enough humanitarian concessions.https://t.co/S42tATdyLX
— Akbar Shahid Ahmed (@AkbarSAhmed) March 31, 2020
As reported by the HuffPost on Tuesday, Omar, Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders are among over two-dozen Democratic lawmakers who signed a letter sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Tuesday demanding the administration “suspend sweeping U.S. sanctions on Iran that are hindering the country’s response to its massive coronavirus outbreak.”
“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 reads.
“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,” the Democratic lawmakers assert.
As a precedent for such an action, the letter notes that President George W. Bush’s administration “eased sanctions” and “delivered aid” to Iran after the 2003 earthquake near Bam.
Among the sanctions relief they are demanding are “those that encompass major sectors of the Iranian economy, including those impacting civilian industries, Iran’s banking sector and exports of oil.” The easing of sanctions should last “for at least as long as health experts believe the crisis will continue,” the lawmakers insist.
HuffPost cites some of the alarming COVID-19 statistics coming out of Iran, including more 2,750 deaths in connection to the virus and more than 40,000 infections.
Along with Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, and Sanders, former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) signed the letter.
During the course of his presidency, Trump has withdrawn from the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal and ramped up pressure on Iran by placing increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, which is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.
While HuffPost notes that the sanctions “restrict Iran’s ability to earn foreign currency by selling oil abroad and to trade with international firms, limiting its imports of medicine and materials it needs to produce drugs domestically,” and have damaged the country’s ability to gain access to specialized medical equipment, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has turned down U.S. offers of aid.
“The U.S. preserved loopholes for food and medical trade with Iran and acknowledged its need by offering aid, American officials have noted, but Iran’s Supreme Leader rejected the offer,” HuffPost reports. “Last month, Trump authorized a new channel for humanitarian exports to the country that allows companies to seek approval for deals from the U.S. and Swiss governments without fear of incurring American penalties.”
Despite Trump opening the new channels, “producers of vital supplies are still nervous about fines, as American authorities continue to target violators of the sanctions and impose new ones, and are reluctant to deal with byzantine U.S. regulations that cover broad swathes of the Iranian economy, from banks to parts of the military,” HuffPost notes.