US should do much more to facilitate humanitarian assistance to Iran: Fitzpatrick

TEHRAN, Mar. 21 (MNA) – Mark Fitzpatrick, Associate Fellow of International Institute for Strategic Studies says that the United States should do much more to facilitate the humanitarian assistance Iran needs to address its current public health crisis.

“In addition to the Swiss channel, the US should support the INSTEX barter payment mechanism put in place last year by the European Union. The US should also allow Iran to receive emergency support from the IMF,” Fitzpatrick told the MNA in an exclusive interview.

Following is the full text of the interview:

While the outbreak of the coronavirus may necessitate the suspension of US sanctions, the US has imposed new sanctions on Iran. Why has the US now imposed new sanctions?

The Trump Administration is determined to accelerate its campaign of maximum pressure until Iran changes policies of concern to the United States such as support for groups that employ terrorist tactics.  In addition, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained that additional sanctions introduced on March 18 were a response to recent rocket attacks by Iran-affiliated militia on a base in Taji, Iraq, that killed two US service members.  There is a debate in the United States about the maximum pressure policy at a time when fighting the coronavirus should be a shared global imperative.  For example, former Obama Administration Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes tweeted today: "It is a moral abomination that the United States is continuing to enforce sanctions on Iran while its people die because of a virus that threatens all humanity." I agree.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has sent letters to leaders in several countries on the state of the fight against the coronavirus, saying US sanctions have prevented Iran from confronting the coronavirus. How much does the Trump team think about these issues in the new sanctions?

The Trump administration believes that by approving the Swiss financial channel for humanitarian trade last month, it has helped enable Iran to procure the overseas medical supplies that it needs. US officials also note that they have offered humanitarian assistance to Iran that has been refused.  They also believe that if funds are freed up for Iran on humanitarian grounds the Iranian government cannot be trusted to use the money for public health but will instead divert it to the IRGC and to foreign militia groups.  I do not believe that these arguments are valid reasons not to assist the Iranian people at a time of need. It is time to overcome distrust.

US sanctions have hampered the possibility of humanitarian trade with Iran because of the inability to transfer money. Isn't facilitating humanitarian trade with Iran a humanitarian necessity when the coronavirus kills many innocents?

I believe that the United States should do much more to facilitate the humanitarian assistance Iran needs to address its current public health crisis.  In addition to the Swiss channel, the US should support the INSTEX barter payment mechanism put in place last year by the European Union. The US should also allow Iran to receive emergency support from the IMF.  Concurrently, I hope that as a humanitarian gesture, Iran will release US citizens including Siamak and Baquer Namazi who are being detained on specious grounds.

Interview by Javad Heirannia

News Code 156935

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