Lawmakers Ask Trump To Suspend Sanctions To Help Iran Fight Coronavirus

Akbar Shahid Ahmed

The Trump administration should suspend sweeping U.S. sanctions on Iran that are hindering the country’s response to its massive coronavirus outbreak, more than 30 lawmakers said in a letter to top officials on Tuesday.

The sanctions could be costing lives in Iran, which is enduring one of the largest flare-ups of the pandemic in the world. Thus far, more than 2,750 Iranians have succumbed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and more than 40,000 have been infected, according to tracking by Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University. At least 50 Iranian medics have died.

Amind the crisis, U.S. sanctions are reducing Tehran’s access to protective gear for health care workers and equipment like respirators, United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned last week. 

The congressional letter, shared with HuffPost ahead of its public release, is addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Notable signatories include Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

“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 says.

Under a “maximum pressure” campaign that President Donald Trump began nearly two years ago, he has placed increasing sanctions on the Islamic Republic after withdrawing the U.S. from a 2015 international agreement that promised Iran access to global markets in exchange for limits on its nuclear development. Such strict measures are not appropriate amid a pandemic, lawmakers argue. 

U.S. 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....

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