Intel: Trump administration vows to expedite review of COVID-19 equipment for Iran

al-monitor A patient with the coronavirus lies in bed in the ICU at Sasan Hospital, Tehran, Iran, March 30, 2020.  Photo by WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Ali Khara via REUTERS.
Bryant Harris

Bryant Harris

@brykharris_ALM

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Coronavirus

Apr 16, 2020

The US Treasury Department vowed today to prioritize and expedite the review of humanitarian license requests to send medical equipment to Iran to treat COVID-19 patients.

Amid mounting criticism that the US sanctions regime has hindered medical trade with Iran, the Treasury Department vowed in a fact sheet today to quickly examine license requests for vital hospital equipment such as oxygen generators, full face respirators, diagnostic medical imaging equipment and “certain decontamination equipment.”

Why it matters: The Donald Trump administration issued a general humanitarian license for medical and agricultural trade with the Iranian Central Bank as the coronavirus pandemic gripped Iran earlier this year — after a counterterrorism designation last year effectively cut off exemptions for humanitarian exchanges.

But human rights groups and sanctions critics have noted that some equipment that Iranian hospitals need to fight the coronavirus requires special licenses. The Treasury Department fact sheet acknowledged that these items require specific licenses “on a case-by-case basis due to concerns about potential end use of these specific items.”

What’s next: The expedited license reviews are unlikely to appease Democrats, who have called on the Trump administration to do more to allow COVID-19 assistance for Iran, which has reported almost 78,000 coronavirus infections and nearly 5,000 deaths so far.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and 10 Senate Democrats called on the Trump administration last month to instead issue “a clear general license authorizing specific medical goods and equipment to facilitate international relief efforts” in lieu of the case-by-case reviews.

Know more: Check out Congressional Correspondent Bryant Harris’ in-depth story from last week for a more holistic overview of the impact US sanctions have had on humanitarian trade with Iran in the age of the coronavirus.

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