Sunday, August 12, 2012

Post #311 - An Appeal

This comes from the National Iranian American Council, with my notes in brackets:

Yesterday, earthquakes struck Tabriz and Ahar [in northwestern Iran] and, according to reports from Iran, killed at least 250 people and injured over 2,000. [These numbers may change as responders sift through the rubble.]

NIAC is reaching out directly to humanitarian organizations to determine what is the state of humanitarian relief efforts and how best Americans can support these efforts.  We will keep you updated regarding what channels are available to provide financial and humanitarian support in the wake of this disaster. Given current U.S. sanctions on Iran, there are serious concerns that humanitarian relief will be hindered. 

NIAC is in direct contact with officials in the White House, Treasury Department, and State Department and is urging for a general license to be issued to exempt relief efforts from current U.S. sanctions.  Officials have provided assurances that the U.S. Government is actively looking into and preparing for the most appropriate response.

In 2003, following the earthquake in Bam, the Bush Administration issued a general license [for a limited time] to enable relief organizations to provide services in Iran.  NIAC strongly supports a similar and hopefully more robust effort by the Obama  Administration today.  The Obama Administration should take all steps necessary to ensure that relief efforts are not obstructed due to the dispute between the U.S. and Iranian governments. 

The Bam Citadel, largely destroyed in the earthquake.

Earthquake victims numbered in the thousands.

Given that sanctions have dramatically escalated since 2003, restrictions on humanitarian relief are even greater today.  Therefore, more robust steps by the U.S. government may be necessary to allow humanitarian transactions--particularly financial transactions to support relief work.

Under current U.S. sanctions it is legal to donate food and medicine directly to Iran under an existing humanitarian exemption.  Efforts to send these goods have been obstructed due to confusion about the law and over enforcement of the sanctions.  Banks, drug companies, and reportedly even the U.S. Postal Service have been unwilling to facilitate and send such items.  However, in our discussions with Treasury it has been made explicit that such transactions are indeed legal and we are urging Treasury to take additional steps necessary to ensure private and public entities are not blocking legal transactions.

Further information regarding how relief efforts can be supported, how direct relief can be sent to Iran, and what steps the U.S. Government is taking in this regard will be made available as soon as possible.

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