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Amid Nuclear Talks, 40 Groups Urge Biden to Lift Sanctions on Covid-Ravaged Iran

"By prioritizing humanitarian relief for Iran and other sanctioned states, President Biden can follow through on his campaign commitment and demonstrate that the U.S. can be a force for global good."

Members of the women-led peace group CodePink protest in 2020 outside the United States Treasury Department against U.S. sanctions on Iran during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Medea Benjamin/CodePink)

Members of the women-led peace group CodePink protest in 2020 outside the United States Treasury Department against U.S. sanctions on Iran during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Medea Benjamin/CodePink) 

As diplomats continue negotiations in Vienna aimed at the United States returning to the Iran nuclear deal, over 40 faith-based, human rights, and civil society groups on Wednesday published an open letter urging the Biden administration to lift "unconscionable" sanctions against the Iranian people as they endure the dual crises of the economic embargo and coronavirus pandemic.

"The suffering of people in Iran has been compounded by U.S. sanctions, which have impoverished the population and obstructed the flow of critical medicine and humanitarian goods into Iran."
—letter

The letter (pdf)—whose signatories include the American Friends Service Committee, CodePink, MoveOn, MPower Change, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), and Veterans for Peace—implores President Joe Biden "to follow through on his call for urgently needed humanitarian relief to Iran amid the devastating toll of the Covid-19 pandemic."

"The suffering of people in Iran has been compounded by U.S. sanctions, which have impoverished the population and obstructed the flow of critical medicine and humanitarian goods into Iran," it states. 

Noting that more than 60,000 Iranians have died of Covid-19—as well as the possibility of a death toll that's actually two or three times higher—the letter asserts that Biden "must take a different approach" from that of former President Donald Trump, whose administration "chose to escalate sanctions rather than relieve them," despite widespread international calls for relief. 

"Covid-19 is a shared threat, and the U.S. needs to treat it like one," the letter says. "By prioritizing humanitarian relief for Iran and other sanctioned states, Biden can follow through on his campaign commitment and demonstrate that the U.S. can be a force for global good."

NIAC president Jamal Abdi said in a statement that "the biggest concern we hear from our members right now is the impact of sanctions on their loved ones in Iran."

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"Our family and friends find it increasingly difficult to secure and afford critical medicine like insulin and cancer treatments, and are struggling with mass unemployment and inflation," said Abdi. "Biden knows that urgent steps are needed to ease sanctions on ordinary Iranians. Many members of the Iranian American community are counting on him to live up to his campaign commitment and ensure sanctions do not block humanitarian trade with Iran."

"Biden knows that urgent steps are needed to ease sanctions on ordinary Iranians. Many members of the Iranian American community are counting on him to live up to his campaign commitment and ensure sanctions do not block humanitarian trade with Iran."
—Jamal Abdi, NIAC

The Wall Street Journal reports the Biden administration has signaled a willingness to ease some sanctions against Iran—including those targeting the country's oil and financial sectors—as nuclear talks continue in the Austrian capital.

Iranian diplomats sounded optimistic notes as they seek a path for American reentry into the landmark 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—commonly referred to as the Iranian nuclear deal—from which Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018.

"We are on the right track and some progress has been made, but this does not mean that the talks in Vienna have reached the final stage," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said at a press conference in Tehran on Monday.

Meanwhile, The Hill reports former U.S. Secretary of State and presumptive 2024 Republican presidential candidate Mike Pompeo was on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday as a "private citizen" to support GOP lawmakers seeking to keep the United States out of the JCPOA.

The former top Trump official was heckled outside the Capitol by protesters who called him a "Republican war hog" and shouted "Peace with Iran" and "Pompeo go home!"

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