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Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has urged President Trump to reverse a reported plan to block an Iranian request to the IMF for $5 billion in aid to fight the coronavirus crisis — saying it is in the U.S. national interest to accede to the request.
“I am disappointed to see reports that your administration intends to block Iran from receiving $5 billion in humanitarian aid from the IMF to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” Feinstein wrote in a letter dated Thursday to President Trump. “Providing these funds to Iran would help it respond more effectively to the disease and mitigate the risk of further destabilization in the region.”
The administration plans to block the request for an emergency loan, amid concerns that the anti-American regime still has billion-dollar accounts available to it, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Senior officials told the Journal that the loan would allow Tehran to divert the money to its economy — which has been stunted by the sanctions imposed as part of the U.S. maximum pressure campaign — or to finance extremist militant groups in the Middle East.
Iranian “officials have a long history of diverting funds allocated for humanitarian goods into their own pockets and to their terrorist proxies,” one of the administration officials told the outlet.
Iran has been one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic — sending its already shaky government reeling as it faces accusations that it has been hiding what it knew about the crisis, and how early it hit the country.
The U.S. has been turning the screws on Iran’s hardline regime for years since it left the Iran nuclear deal in 2018. The U.S. has imposed waves of sanctions on officials, the financial sector and oil exports since then as part of an effort to curb Tehran’s support for proxy terror groups, its nuclear program and its attacks on U.S. forces.
Trump said this month that Iran has been “planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq” and warned the regime would pay a “very heavy price” if they attacked U.S. assets.
But Feinstein expressed concern that Iran’s inability to control the spread of the disease could have a knock-on effect in the region as immigrants to the country flee to home countries, such as Afghanistan where there are U.S. and coalition forces.
She argued that the U.S. should make its support “contingent upon IMF oversight on how Iran spreads the funds” to assuage concerns about the money being used for other purposes.
“It is in our national interest, and in the interest of international security, to help Iran contain this disease,” she said.
Her letter came a week after presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called on the Trump administration to loosen sanctions on Iran.
The former vice president said that it’s “bad enough that the Trump administration abandoned the Iran nuclear deal in favor of a ‘maximum pressure’ strategy that has badly backfired, encouraging Iran to become even more aggressive and restart its nuclear program.”
Biden said that “it makes no sense, in a global health crisis, to compound that failure with cruelty by inhibiting access to needed humanitarian assistance. Whatever our profound differences with the Iranian government, we should support the Iranian people.”
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.