As the international community works towards reviving the JCPOA, sanctions relief will provide much-needed humanitarian relief for the Iranian people. Iran has been one of the countries hit the hardest from the COVID-19 pandemic, and civilian suffering has only been increased by American sanctions levied by the Trump administration after withdrawal from the JCPOA and continued, thus far, by the Biden administration. Sanctions have not had the desired political effect and only serve to harm Iranians from all walks of life. In light of Israel's recent attack on Iranian nuclear facilities and news that Iran is increasing its uranium enrichment, we urge a new approach for U.S. engagement on Iran - one that places Iranian civilians front and center and emphasizes multilateral nuclear negotiations.
Among 44 diverse organizations, we sent the following letter, organized by NIAC Action to urge sanctions relief:
Dear Secretaries Blinken, Yellen and Raimondo,
We, the undersigned grassroots organizations representing millions of Americans and international human rights organizations, call on President Joe Biden to follow through on his call for urgently-needed humanitarian relief to Iran amid the devastating toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. The suffering of people in Iran has been compounded by U.S. sanctions, which have impoverished the population and obstructed the flow of critical medicine and humanitarian goods into Iran. As then-candidate Biden stated last year, “[i]n the midst of this deadly pandemic that respects no borders, the United States should take steps to offer what relief we can to those nations hardest hit by this virus — including Iran.”
We commend President Biden for making the defeat of the pandemic his top priority, and for announcing a review of how sanctions have inhibited humanitarian trade amid the COVID-19 pandemic on Day 2 of his administration. While the President has taken sorely needed steps to inoculate tens of millions and provide economic relief here at home, the administration’s sanctions review is still ongoing.
Iran has been one of the worst-affected countries by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 60,000 Iranians have succumbed to the disease, according to official statistics, while investigations by BBC Persian estimate the real number as twice or three times as high. Despite international calls for relief last year, the prior administration chose to escalate sanctions rather than ease them, helping to impoverish ordinary people in Iran in their hour of need.
President Biden must take a different approach. Last year, Biden rightly called on the Trump administration to streamline “channels for banking and public health assistance from other countries in response to the health emergency in Iran.”
Now that he is in office, there are plenty of opportunities for the administration to deliver that relief. In addition to the President’s own suggestions, the U.S. should grant Iran access to its restricted assets abroad in order to purchase food and medical supplies.
Such urgent humanitarian steps cannot be tied to our broader disputes with the Iranian government. As Biden himself said, “Whatever our profound differences with the Iranian government, we should support the Iranian people.”
COVID-19 is a shared threat, and the U.S. needs to treat it like one. By prioritizing humanitarian relief for Iran and other sanctioned states, President Biden can follow through on his campaign commitment and demonstrate that the U.S. can be a force for global good.
American Friends Service, Committee Brooklyn for Peace Charity & Security Network, Coalition for Peace Action, CODEPINK, Coloradans for Middle East Diplomacy & Peace, Council for a Livable World, Demand Progress Education Fund, Foreign Policy for America, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Historians for Peace and Democracy, Imagine Water Works, Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project, Interfaith Peace Network of WNY, Iowa Peace Network, J Street, Justice is Global, MADRE, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Miaan Group, MoveOn, MPower Change, Muslim ARC, National Iranian American Council, New York Progressive Action Network (NYPAN), No Sanctions on Iran Coalition, NYPAN Greene, Peace Action, Peace Corps Iran Association, People's Health Movement - USA, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Presbyterian Church (USA), Office of Public Witness, Progressive East End Reformers Project, South Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, ReThinking Foreign Policy, United for Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace, Western New York Peace Center, Win Without War, Women's Action for New Directions, Women’s March, Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation