FPI / April 14, 2020
Commentary by Christopher W. Holton, Center for Security Policy
By all accounts, Iran is having a very tough time with the Wuhan virus.
There are reports that the Iranian regime has mishandled the virus and concealed information about its spread in Iran. There are also accounts that some mullahs have encouraged people to exercise dangerous practices at religious gatherings, and these may have contributed to the spread of the virus in Iran.
It’s never a good thing when civilians are sick and dying. Everyone should sympathize with the Iranian people. Heavens knows, they’ve been through a lot over the years, largely due to the oppression of the Islamic theocracy that rules Iran according to sharia.
That having been said, it is an absolutely terrible idea to provide the Iranian regime with large amounts of cash just because they say they need it to fight the pandemic.
The Iranians are seeking $5 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Trump administration has wisely moved to block any such transfer. For that, Senator Diane Feinstein of California, ranking minority member on the Senate Judiciary Committee and former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has criticized the president and called for him to lift the block on the $5 billion. Meanwhile, presidential candidate Joe Biden has called for the easing of sanctions on Iran.
Biden and Feinstein are wrong and misguided for a variety of reasons.
The obvious reasons are that Iran is the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism, a serial proliferator of nuclear technology in violation of international agreements and a major producer and proliferator of ballistic missiles, some of which have been used to attack U.S. troops in Iraq.
Reinforcing these obvious reasons are Iran’s recent and current behavior. Iran continues to be a rogue nation. A country in desperate need of help should be on their best behavior, even if their past behavior has been atrocious. Iran can’t even say that their current behavior is acceptable.
In early April U.S. intelligence uncovered evidence of an Iranian plot to attack U.S. forces in Iraq. Given that the Iranians have been beset with the Wuhan virus since January, it appears that the regime is still focused on waging jihad and not on saving the lives of sick Iranians.
Feinstein naively maintains that the IMF can oversee Iran’s use of funds it transfers to them. What she must be missing, or perhaps ignoring, is the fact that money is the most fungible of commodities. Giving the Ayatollahs $5 billion to fight the Wuhan virus could free up other funds for their proven nefarious purposes, such as working on nuclear technology and supplying terrorist organizations like Hezbollah with weaponry.
Iran has continued its support for Jihadist terrorism in Iraq and Yemen throughout the pandemic. Moreover, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization announced just last week that they were producing 60 “advanced centrifuges” daily to enrich uranium. In other words, in the midst of the pandemic, the Ayatollahs have ramped up their nuclear program.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International reported that Iranian internal security forces had killed 36 people who protested the regime’s mishandling of the pandemic. And the US State Department reported that Iranian funding for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG) had recently been increased by 1/3. The IRGC has been designated by the U.S. as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Joe Biden’s call to ease sanctions on Iran due to the pandemic is particularly perplexing and wrong-headed. U.S. sanctions have never included medical supplies. Offers of U.S. humanitarian aid were rebuffed by the regime. The Iranians even refused help from Doctors Without Borders.
In other words, the Ayatollahs want $5 billion in cash, not medical help. The Trump administration is right to deny them that cash and to resist bogus, politically-motivated calls from the Left in the United States to ease sanctions on Iran.
Helping the rogue regime in Teheran to work on nuclear technology and supply jihadist terrorists around the world with weaponry will not do a single thing to help the poor, beleaguered people of Iran who are suffering from their rulers’ mismanagement of the response to the pandemic.
Until Iran chooses to take its place alongside the civilized nations of the world, they shouldn’t get a single dollar.
Christopher Holton is Vice President for Outreach at the Center for Security Policy.