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75 Democrats urge outgoing Trump to be flexible on sanctions

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo, taken on March 25, 2020, shows the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, the US. (By AFP)

Seventy five Democratic lawmakers have written a letter to lame-duck US President Donald Trump urging him to show flexibility over the sanctions on Iran as well as some other countries in order to ease the flow of coronavirus assistance around the world.

The letter was sent to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week, after the Trump administration announced it was planning to unveil stepped-up sanctions against Iran and a number of other countries.

In the letter, US Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Senator Elizabeth Warren, along with 73 other House and Senate Democrats, called on the Trump administration to issue a worldwide temporary general license that would cover testing kits, respirators, and personal protective equipment needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has laid bare the ways in which our broad application of sanctions is undermining public health systems, imposing sweeping economic penalties that restrict commerce in the material and equipment necessary to respond to the coronavirus and harming ordinary people,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Blocking or slowing the flow of medical resources neither enables an effective outbreak response around the world, nor does it serve our national security interests,” they said.

The Trump administration, in coordination with the Israeli regime and other US allies in West Asia, is pushing a plan to impose a long string of new sanctions on Iran in the 10 weeks left until Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

The US, under Trump, unleashed a so-called maximum pressure campaign against Iran in 2018, when it unilaterally left a multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Since then, the Trump administration has been imposing tough sanctions on the country.

President-elect Biden has called on Trump to issue special licenses to allow medical and humanitarian aid to be sent to Iran and to create dedicated channels for banks and service firms to allow Iranians access to life-saving medical treatment.

“It is bad enough that the Trump administration abandoned the Iran nuclear deal in favor of a ‘maximum pressure’ strategy that has badly backfired, encouraging Iran to become even more aggressive and restart its nuclear program,” he wrote in a Medium post in April.

“It makes no sense, in a global health crisis, to compound that failure with cruelty by inhibiting access to needed humanitarian assistance,” Biden added.

The US president-elect has also previously said he would return the United States to the Iran nuclear deal as a starting point for follow-on negotiations.

On Monday, Biden called for the immediate passage of the HEROES Act, a coronavirus relief package that was approved by the House earlier this year that includes 10 billion dollars in foreign coronavirus assistance.

The incoming Biden administration would likely be able to quickly write exemptions to allow coronavirus aid to be sent around the world, but the next few months are critical.

The pandemic is raging globally, and the Trump administration is seeking to use its final weeks in office to box in the next administration.

Biden has already accused Trump of a massive screw-up in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

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