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Reps. Grijalva, Lee, and Omar Send Letter to U.S. Treasury, Urge Humanitarian Relief on Iranian Sanctions

WASHINGTON— Today, Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Ilhan Omar (MN-05) led 14 Members of Congress in a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin expressing deep concern on the impact that U.S. sanctions are having on access to medicine in Iran—particularly for individuals suffering from chronic, advanced, or rare diseases. The lawmakers urged the Trump Administration to adjust its sanctions campaign to ensure that lifesaving medicines and medical devices can reach the Iranian people.

“The Trump Administration’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign on the Iranian government is resulting in horrific consequences on everyday Iranians—including those with life-threatening illness,” said Rep. Grijalva. “Instead of a blanket policy that punishes all Iranians, the United States should adjust the sanctions campaign to ensure that lifesaving medicine can reach some of Iran’s most vulnerable citizens.”

In their letter, the lawmakers wrote in part:

“We strongly urge the Administration to conduct a sweeping review of its sanctions campaign against Iran and identify and implement the necessary adjustments required to fulfill responsibilities under international law, as ordered by the ICJ in October 2018, to protect the Iranian people’s right to health. While the efficacy of sanctions is questionable, we also urge the OFAC to expand the list of medical supplies that international suppliers are eligible to trade with Iran, especially for cancer and other chronic, advanced, or rare diseases. Considering the ongoing protests in Iran, and the Iranian government’s shutdown of internet services, we also see a clear need to expand General License D-1 so that the United States is not taking any actions that help the Iranian government block outside communications.”

“The Trump Administration’s sanctions on Iran and their “maximum pressure” campaign are directly hurting the most vulnerable groups in Iranian society. Despite promises to stand by the Iranian people, they are preventing essential medications and humanitarian supplies from reaching those who need them the most,” said Rep. Lee.

“The sanctions put in place by this Administration against Iran are nothing less than economic warfare. After years of improving relations between the United States and Iran, the sanctions have devastated that country’s middle class, increased hostility toward the United States, and led to humanitarian catastrophe. One dire effect has been an entirely preventable shortage of life-saving medicine. This Administration must answer for their attacks on Iranians’ basic human right to affordable medicine,” said Rep. Omar.

Human Rights Watch, NIAC Action and the Friends Committee on National Legislation were among the organizations that supported the letter. Other supportive organizations included the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Just Foreign Policy, and Win Without War. 

“The Trump Administration is applying draconian sanctions on Iran without considering the harm they are causing Iran’s own citizens -- including the difficulty sick Iranian men, women, and children are having in accessing life-saving medicine and medical equipment that are in short supply,” said Andrea Prasow, Acting Washington Director at Human Rights Watch. “The US Treasury Department needs to listen and incorporate the serious concerns experts have raised regarding how the current US application of sanctions are hurting the very Iranian people whose rights the US claims to support.”

“The Administration’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, followed by inhumane “maximum pressure sanctions”, have created instability in the Middle East, put us on a war footing with Iran, and caused untold human suffering for Iranian people, who now don’t have access to many critical life saving medicines. These unilateral sanctions are a maximum failure and have done little to advance peace, national security, and human rights. The American people want a restrained foreign policy and the onus is on Congress to take unauthorized war with Iran off the table, create exemptions for critical medicines the Iranian people need, and to find a pathway for diplomacy,” said Hassan El-Tayyab, Legislative Representative for Middle East Policy at Friends Committee on National Legislation.

"Even as the Iranian people contend with brutal repression from their own government, they are being simultaneously squeezed by crushing U.S. sanctions that have led to shortages of life-saving medicine. We are grateful to Reps. Grijalva, Omar and Lee and all the signers of the letter for highlighting the devastating consequences of Trump's maximum pressure campaign. Moreover, we urge the administration to halt its targeting of humanitarian trade and respond in good faith to the legislators' inquiry," said Ryan Costello, Policy Director, NIAC Action.

Click here to read the full letter.

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