Senator Urges Trump to Shift Iran Policy Amid Pandemic
EghtesadOnline: Democratic US Senator Chris Murphy warned on Monday that the Trump administration could be partially responsible for “the death of innocent people” if it continues its current policies toward Iran.
The novel coronavirus disease, also known as COVID-19, hit Iran at a time when US-Iranian tensions were at an all-time high. The Trump administration initially relaxed its “super maximum economic pressure” campaign to allow for humanitarian trade but has refused to budge any further, claiming that the current exemptions are enough. Murphy disagreed, according to Financial Tribune.
He had penned a March 26 letter, signed by 10 other Democratic senators, asking the Trump administration to ensure that Iran and Venezuela can import medical supplies and other humanitarian goods to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Murphy said in a recent conference call, “Right now, our sanctions do not allow for that,” National Interest reported.
“If this epidemic continues to grow and spread in Iran it will … result in the death of innocent people, partially as a result of US policy that does not accrue to the national security benefit of our country,” he said.
“This virus doesn’t respect borders. It’s just good public health policy to help even our adversaries beat back this scourge.”
The US senator noted that the pressure campaign “has thus far only resulted in Iran restarting their nuclear program, shooting at US troops and revving up their proxies in places like Iraq that put our soldiers in greater jeopardy than ever before.”
The Trump administration has repeatedly insisted that its sanctions campaign does not prevent Iran from buying humanitarian goods and that it is ready to donate aid directly, if needed.
“The United States maintains broad authorizations that allow for the sale of food, agricultural commodities, medicine and medical devices by US persons, or from the United States to Iran,” the US State Department wrote in an April 6 factsheet.
US President Donald Trump told reporters on April 2 that “if [the Iranians] need help with respect to the virus, we have the greatest medical professionals in the world. We’d love to send them over.”
Suppliers Wary of Penalties
But the Murphy letter confirmed that “medical suppliers and relief organizations simply steer clear of doing business in Iran and Venezuela in fear of accidentally getting caught in the web of US sanctions”.
Venezuela has reported that 189 people have become infected with the coronavirus and nine people have died from the disease. Iran has reported over 75,000 cases and 4,700 deaths.
Iranian authorities have also warned that a lack of revenue is preventing them from shutting down the country, leading the Rouhani administration to reopen the economy despite dire warnings from health professionals.
“We also recognize in that letter that it’s not just about medical equipment,” Murphy said. “I am certainly open to broader measures that would put Iran in a position to be able to turn a corner on this virus.”
Iran has asked the International Monetary Fund for a $5 billion emergency loan to deal with the pandemic. The US government has the largest number of votes on the global lender’s executive board, giving it the power to veto Iran’s request.
Representative Ilhan Omar and Senator Dianne Feinstein have called on the Trump administration to allow the loan to move forward, but the US State Department has vowed to oppose it.
“I have not done a detailed review of the IMF proposal, but I am attempting to lead the charge in opening up new pathways of support for Iran’s effort to beat the virus,” Murphy said. “Remember, if we don’t beat it there, we don’t beat it here.”