Amid Coronavirus Outbreak, Trump-Aligned Pressure Group Pushes to Stop Medicine Sales to Iran

With a novel strain of coronavirus rapidly spreading around the world, Iran has been hit particularly hard, with 107 deaths and 3,515 infections recorded so far. Yet the pressure group, United Against Nuclear Iran, is carrying on with its campaign targeting medical trade with Iran despite the Trump administration’s special financial channels for humanitarian goods and medicine to reach the beleaguered country.

“U.S. sanctions have had a long-term impact on Iran’s ability to freely import medical supplies,” said Tyler Cullis, an attorney specializing in sanctions law at Ferrari & Associates. He pointed to “outside groups” that seek to bolster the Treasury Department’s investigatory heft and provide information on companies doing trade with Iran. “In tandem with U.S. sanctions,” Cullis said, “these groups have sought to impose reputational costs on companies that engage in lawful and legitimate trade with Iran, including humanitarian trade.”

The medical and humanitarian trade are carved out of crippling sanctions against Iran through special licenses issued by the Treasury Department. But companies must apply for the licenses then carry out the trade — something United Against Nuclear Iran, known as UANI, seeks to discourage.

“Their efforts are not insignificant,” Cullis said. “It is, after all, not an altogether lucrative enterprise selling medical supplies to Iran, so the name-and-shame operations of outside groups have a significant impact on the cost-benefit analysis associated with doing business with Iran.”

Joshua Silberberg, a spokesperson for UANI, declined to respond to questions about the group’s effort to name and shame companies doing medical trade with Iran. “UANI has a long history of expressing support and solidarity with the Iranian people,” he said, pointing to a statement applauding the finalization of the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement, an agreement arranged by the U.S. and Swiss governments.

UANI says it aims to persuade “the regime in Tehran to desist from its quest for nuclear weapons, while striving not to punish the Iranian people.” (The U.S. intelligence community does not believe that Iran has any desire or plans to build nuclear weapons.) UANI’s efforts, however, have extended beyond sanctions into pressuring companies that do legal trade with Iran, often under the Treasury Department’s humanitarian exemptions to sanctions — including medical-related trades that would presumably aid in combating a massive public health crisis like this  coronavirus outbreak.

UANI operates an “Iran Business Registry” that provides an online database of companies it believes are conducting business in or with Iran — a name-and-shame strategy to increase Iran’s economic isolation. The pressure campaign has targeted multiple medical companies with Treasury Department licenses to conduct trade with Iran. Nine pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical-device corporations, all with special licenses, are listed on UANI’s business registry. Companies urged by UANI to “end their Iran business” include BayerMerckPfizerGenzymeAirSepMedradBecton, Dickinson & CompanyEli Lilly, and Abbott Laboratories.

The legal channels for humanitarian trade are widely reported to be failing to provide a sufficient flow of medicine and other humanitarian goods.

UANI’s efforts are particularly notable in light of the group’s close ties to the Trump administration; Iran’s regional adversaries Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel; and the Republican Party’s biggest donors, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.

Senior UANI adviser John Bolton worked for UANI both before and after his stint in the Trump administration as national security adviser. UANI’s umbrella group, Counter Extremism Project United Inc, paid Bolton $240,000 between 2016 and 2017. Bolton’s appointment as national security adviser was quickly followed by Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran.

Besides Bolton, the Trump administration twice sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to UANI’s annual conference, held during the United Nations General Assembly. Pompeo used the occasions to promote outlandish claims about Europe purportedly financing Iranian terrorism and to present the administration’s “maximum pressure” strategy to UANI’s audience, which included senior diplomats and intelligence officials from the Persian Gulf and Israel.

The group’s last summit, held in September, featured U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who is now Trump’s acting director of national intelligence, as well as a who’s who of the Trump administration’s hawkish Middle East partners, including top diplomats from Persian Gulf monarchies and Israel. (UANI and its affiliated organizations have a number of links to Gulf monarchies, including a 2014 email from a UANI advisory board member soliciting “support” from the United Arab Emirates.)

UANI’s top funder, billionaire Thomas Kaplan — an investor whose companies have looked to profit from “political unrest” in the Middle East — was also in attendance at the summit.

Finally, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson’s financial support for UANI closely tracks the Republican megadonors’ hawkish views toward Iran. In 2013, Sheldon Adelson told an audience at Yeshiva University that Obama should launch a nuclear strike on Iran and threaten that Iran will be “wiped out” if it doesn’t dismantle its nuclear program. The Adelsons were Trump’s biggest funders in the 2016 election and the GOP’s biggest funders in the 2018 cycle. They are expected to contribute at least $100 million to Trump’s reelection efforts and Republican congressional candidates in the 2020 cycle.

While the Trump administration’s extreme financial pressure against Iran is coinciding with the coronavirus outbreak, Tyler Cullis, the sanctions lawyer, was careful to note that issues with ensuring a robust trade of medical and humanitarian supplies to Iran began under previous administrations. “While those problems have been exacerbated under the Trump administration,” Cullis said, “their origination takes place more than a decade ago when prior administrations first started imposing enormous sanctions pressure on Iran’s financial sector.”

Source: Responsible Statecraft

  1. Séamus Ó Néill says

    Well, amoral America was, in mid-February, unable to pay the interest on its massive debts, it’s officially bankrupt. The imbeciles running that cesspit have not yet realised the consequences but they’ll be far reaching and web like when they take hold. Yes the CIA makes $trillions in its drug and arms trade, but they’re now a separate demonic empire, well beyond the control of mainland America and would be loathe to assist…… they’ve their own agenda. A lot of things, in combination, like oil price collapsing, corona virus, an absence of Chinese goods etc, etc, will create panic in an already unstable country….the fireworks are about to fly !

  2. michael houston says

    a disgusting little man……missing totally what he expresses to believe…..

  3. CHUCKMAN says

    Just plain sick. And Pompeo claims to always have a Bible open on his desk.

    The words of Jesus couldn’t be clearer.

    But it’s probably open to some ancient horror like Leviticus.

    Related, readers might enjoy this, just posted.

  4. stevek9 says

    There is no treatment anyway, and if one is developed it will probably come from China (since they created the virus and accidentally released it). I’m sure they would supply Iran.

    1. XRGRSF says

      If that’s the case why does Israel already have a WooHooFlu vaccine ready to go?

    2. CHUCKMAN says

      Sorry, but we don’t know that.

      See Philip Giraldi’s fine article on who created coronavirus.

  5. Ger says

    Brings back memories of Madeline Albright ….. “I think killing 500,000 Iraqi kids was worth it’. If there is a hell,…may she and her ilk go to hell with all past and present warmongers.

  6. cechas vodobenikov says

    no surprise—in Riesman’s famous examination of the amerikan national character he described them as “mean and bitter”

  7. XRGRSF says

    Why would Iran buy a vaccine from the U$, a nation that can in no way be trusted, when the vaccine will be more rapidly available from other sources?

  8. Vera Gottlieb says

    And the US really believes it is totally immune??? Just wait until the chicken come home to roost…

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