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President Joe Biden in the Oval Office February 16, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: White House/Lawrence Jackson)

'No Time to Waste': Biden Urged to Repair US-Iran Relations With Humanitarian Aid

"We've seen that maximum pressure sanctions don't work and now as we're still reeling from a global pandemic their impacts on everyday people and families in Iran is inexcusable."

Jenna McGuire

Dozens of groups called on U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday to restore diplomatic relations with the Iranian government by assisting with humanitarian efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and rejoining the Iran nuclear deal.

"The U.S. can get a win-win that boosts our diplomats at the negotiating table and saves lives."

In an open letter, 47 organizations led by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) wrote to the president outlining specific actions he should take, which included: ensuring sanctions do not inhibit vaccine procurement, authorizing restricted Iranian assets to be made available for humanitarian purchases, allowing access to public health financing, opening up clear humanitarian channels, and supporting the growing population of Afghan refugees in Iran.

Iran has been one of the worst-hit countries in the Middle East during Covid-19 and according to the signatories, U.S. sanctions have only impeded the pandemic response and exacerbated poverty.

"We've seen that maximum pressure sanctions don't work and now as we're still reeling from a global pandemic their impacts on everyday people and families in Iran is inexcusable," said Sara Haghdoosti, deputy director and senior strategist at Win Without War. "We need to solve this challenge not just because it's the right thing to do but also because it opens more doors on a diplomatic front too."

The letter also implores the Biden administration to rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Former President Donald Trump unilaterally sabotaged the deal in 2018 and implemented devastating economic sanctions on Iran, which further aggravated U.S-Iranian relations.

"Recent suggestions that the U.S. should move on from diplomacy to a 'Plan B,' while hinting at the possibility of military strikes, are deeply concerning," the letter reads. "Doubling down on the failed path of mutual pressure and recrimination will harm U.S. and regional security, weaken global nonproliferation efforts, undercut vital administration priorities like defeating Covid-19 across the globe, and risk a disastrous war."

Negotiations to restore the JCPOA, which have been stalled since June, are expected to resume later this month after Ali Bagheri Kani, Iran's new nuclear negotiator, tweeted last week that he had agreed to restart talks before the end of November after speaking with Enrique Mora, a leading European Union diplomat.

"There is still a window of opportunity for President Biden to restore the Iran nuclear deal and avoid a dangerous escalation to war, but creative solutions are urgently needed," said Jamal Abdi, president of NIAC. "By taking humanitarian steps to allow Iranians to combat Covid-19, the U.S. can get a win-win that boosts our diplomats at the negotiating table and saves lives. There's no time to waste."

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