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Lift Crippling Sanctions against Iran As It Fights Coronavirus

In the Middle East, coronavirus cases have now been identified in Israel/Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE, Iraq, Lebanon, Omar, and Egypt. If Iran is not able to stem the crisis, the virus will continue to spread throughout the Middle East and beyond.

By the time the coronavirus hit Iran on February 19, the country’s economy, including its healthcare system, had already been devastated by U.S. sanctions. Under the Obama administration, the Iranian economy was given a boost when the Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2015 and the nuclear-related sanctions were lifted. By February 2016, Iran was shipping oil to Europe for the first time in three years. In 2017, foreign direct investment increased by nearly 50% and Iran’s imports expanded by nearly 40% over 2015-2017.

The reimposition of sanctions after the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018 has had a devastating impact on the economy and on the lives of ordinary Iranians. The Iranian currency, the rial, lost 80 percent of its value. Food prices doubled, rents soared, and so did unemployment. The decimation of Iran's economy, reducing the sale of oil from a high of 2.5 million barrels a day in early 2018 to about 250,000 barrels today, has left the government with scant resources to cover the enormous costs of dealing with direct medical treatment for patients suffering from the coronavirus, as well as supporting workers who are losing their jobs and helping businesses going bankrupt.

Humanitarian aid—food and medicine—was supposed to be exempt from sanctions. But that hasn’t been the case. Shipping and insurance companies have been unwilling to risk doing business with Iran, and banks have not been able or willing to process payments. This is especially true after September 20, 2019, when the Trump administration sanctioned Iran’s Central Bank, severely restricting the last remaining Iranian financial institution that could engage in foreign exchange transactions involving humanitarian imports.

Now it the time to step up and do the right thing and demonstrate the US government will not put politics before a worldwide catastrophe that continues to claim lives.

President Trump and Congress, Do the Right thing and Lift sanctions against Iran which are preventing them from responding adequately to this world health crisis.

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