Sen. Johnson's Landmark Statement on Iran Sanctions

May 22, 2012

SUCCESS: Expression of Support for Humanitarian Exception to Iran Sanctions

FCNL is opposed to all broad, indiscriminate sanctions against Iran, including the Senate's latest sanctions package (S. 2101) passed by Congress on Monday, May 21st, despite objections to additional sanctions from the U.S. business community and Iranian human rights activists. However, we are encouraged that the Senate declared that this bill does not authorize the use of force, and that one of the leading proponents of this legislation has clarified that it is the intent of U.S. policy to support approved, humanitarian trade, and called on the administration to take additional steps to clarify this policy.

FCNL has worked with a wide coalition of organizations that take a variety of stances on Iran sanctions, including agricultural and industry groups calling for humanitarian exceptions to be maintained in any Iran sanctions legislation. These advocacy efforts prevented further erosion of what is left for protections in place for humanitarian trade to Iran.

In a landmark statement, Senator Tim Johnson (SD), Chair of the Senate Banking Committee, clarified that "it is not and has not been the intent of U.S. policy to harm the Iranian people" by prohibiting licensed humanitarian trade. Senator Johnson called on the administration to emphasize that law-abiding banks facilitating these humanitarian transactions will not be punished:

"The practical financing difficulties arising today between banks and those engaging in licensed humanitarian trade can best be addressed by U.S. government officials, who should do more to make it clear that no U.S. sanctions will be imposed against third-country banks that facilitate OFAC-licensed or exempted humanitarian trade. The Administration must make that clear in public statements, in private meetings with foreign financial institutions, and elsewhere as appropriate."

Senator Johnson went on to express strong support for the humanitarian exemptions in the current Iran sanctions regime:

"Misinterpretation of U.S. law by foreign financial institutions should no longer deny the people of Iran the benefit of OFAC-approved humanitarian trade."

Read the full statement in the congressional record (p.2).

Will Administration Take the Next Step?

The next step is for the Administration to take Senator Johnson's lead in making a clear public statement that it is not the intent of U.S. policy to harm the Iranian people by prohibiting licensed humanitarian trade, and that companies that facilitate humanitarian trade or transactions should not be punished.

FCNL calls for robust, sustained diplomacy, and an end to all indiscriminate sanctions against Iran. However, even the simple step of speaking out for a humanitarian exception to the U.S. sanctions regime would make a profound difference in the lives of ordinary Iranians, and improve prospects for a diplomatic resolution to the conflict over Iran's nuclear program, and other crises in U.S-Iranian relations.

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