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The U.S. Is Wrong to Block Iran’s Loan

Iran President Rouhani and U.S. President Trump. Drop of Light/Shutterstock and Office of President of Russia.   

Iran has been seeking a loan from the International Monetary Fund for the first time in almost sixty years to help them fight the pandemic. The U.S. is expected to block the loan:

The U.S. plans to block Iran’s requested $5 billion emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund for funding Tehran says it needs to fight its coronavirus crisis.

Advocates for sanctions relief have also been calling for the IMF to approve this loan request in recognition that Iran needs all the resources it can get to get the pandemic under control. Hadi Ghaemi, an Iranian human rights activist, mentioned it in his appeal for sanctions relief last month:

Time is of the essence. The U.S. government should immediately suspend all sanctions that affect the delivery of humanitarian goods to Iran, including banking sanctions on Iran, and vote yes on the $5 billion emergency funding Iran has requested from the International Monetary Fund.

The official excuse for blocking the loan is that the administration assumes that Iran doesn’t need the loan and granting the loan will allow them to divert other funds to support for proxies. This is a very tired excuse, and one that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Iran’s government has every incentive to bring the outbreak under control. The assumption that they will use the loan as an opportunity to send more money to their proxies relies on a cartoonish, ideological view of the country. Iran hawks assume that Iran wants to exploit the pandemic to engage in more “adventurism” because that is what they have been hoping to do. Iran hawks think that this is their best chance to bring about regime change, and they are willing to let the pandemic consume many thousands of innocent lives to that end.

It would be possible to approve the loan while getting assurances from Iran on how the money would be used, and that could then be monitored to verify that the loan was used for its intended purpose:

Brian O’Toole, a former senior Treasury Department official in the Obama administration, said that the U.S. should promise not to veto an Iranian loan from the IMF “to purchase humanitarian goods, assuming sufficient oversight to prevent diversion.”

There are ways to make this loan work in a way that benefits the Iranian people first and foremost, but the administration evidently isn’t interested in exploring them.

Opposition to the IMF loan is consistent with the administration’s ghoulish opposition to sanctions relief, and it makes a mockery of U.S. offers of assistance. When presented with an opportunity to sign off on something that Iran is specifically requesting that would aid them in a pandemic, the Trump administration refuses to get out of the way. The administration doesn’t even have to do anything in this case to allow Iran to get some help. All they have to do is not oppose it, but even that is too much to expect from them.

The Iranian government has handled the outbreak incompetently in the first few months, but they have also been hampered by lack of resources and equipment caused by sanctions. Our Iran policy has contributed significantly to the Iranian people’s suffering, and allowing this loan to go through is an opportunity to repair some of that damage. Of course, the U.S. should lift sanctions as well, but until that happens it should not block this loan. The Iranian people will remember that our government refused to lift a finger for them when they needed help in an emergency.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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