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This Week in Iran Policy (April 17)
April 17, 2020

The very first thing we did when we learned that Iran was being hit in a significant way with this virus was to reach out and offer humanitarian assistance…We wanted to bring technical assistance and all the things that America can bring to help save Iranian lives.”

-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview with Guy Benson, April 8, 2020


  • “Iran’s slick foreign influence campaign to obtain sanctions relief is not intended for the relief or health of the Iranian people but to raise funds for its terror operations.”
  • “Since 2012, the regime has spent over $16 billion to fund its terror proxies abroad while Iranian healthcare services have remained woefully underfunded. This led the Iranian Health Minister to resign in January 2019 in protest of repeated health budget cuts.”
  • “U.S. sanctions are not preventing aid from getting to Iran. The United States maintains broad authorizations that allow for the sale of food, agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices by U.S persons or from the United States to Iran.”
  • “On April 1, 2020, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the U.S. sanctions “have failed to hamper our efforts to fight against the coronavirus.” Iranian documents show their healthcare companies have been able to import testing kits since January.”
  • “Iran refused the United States’ offer of humanitarian assistance and medical supplies to the Iranian people to help address the coronavirus outbreak. On March 23, the Iranian Ministry of Health kicked out a Doctors Without Borders team, which was setting up a treatment facility in Esfahan. However, the regime is still calling for sanctions relief. Clearly, their priority is access to cash, not medicine.”
  • “In late March, President Rouhani inadvertently revealed this during a government cabinet meeting when he applauded the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their “concerted effort to influence public opinion and say ‘no’ to sanctions.” He described that “our efforts are aimed at bringing back our money seized in other countries.””
  • “The Iranian government created a website in early March to coordinate Iranian government propaganda about coronavirus and efforts to end U.S. sanctions. Multiple Iranian diplomatic missions amplified this site’s content encouraging foreign publics to defy U.S. sanctions.”
  • “Iran also possesses sufficient funds on hand to fight against the coronavirus outbreak. Iran controls hundreds of billions of dollars in its National Development Fund as well as Supreme Leader Khamenei’s many hedge funds flush with assets originally confiscated from the Iranian people. These funds can be used for government spending.”
  • “In 2018, Iran withdrew an estimated $2.5 billion from its National Development Fund for increased defense spending. In 2019, Iran withdrew $1.5 billion from the fund for other military expenses.”
  • “On March 9, 2020, five Iranian parliamentarians requested that the government transfer assets from these funds for the coronavirus response, and on March 26, President Rouhani requested that Khamenei approve a one-billion-dollar transfer from the National Development Fund.”
  • “While sitting on the request for coronavirus relief, Iran reportedly transferred $400 million from the fund to pay for government salaries. Khamenei also found the time to intervene in the parliamentary budget process and on March 19 increased funding for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) by 33% over Rouhani’s original budget request.”
  • “Khamenei also more than doubled the funding for the Basij, the regime’s brute squad responsible for killing around 1,500 Iranians in the November 2019 protests.”
  • “For years, the Iranian regime has prioritized its proxies over the Iranian people and stolen money the Iranian people deserve and expect to go towards their healthcare. In July 2019, 1 billion Euros intended for medical supplies “disappeared” and another $170 million dollars allocated for medical goods were instead spent by the regime on tobacco.”
  • “In 2018, an Iranian “humanitarian” company was sanctioned by the United States for masking payments that provided hundreds of millions of dollars to Hizballah and Hamas through the IRGC’s Qods Force.”
  • “After decades of experience, the Iranian people are the first to reject the regime’s excuses. New graffiti in a Tehran suburb reads “The Islamic Republic in Iran is the real coronavirus.” After Khamenei accused the United States of using coronavirus as a biological weapon, the most prominent hashtags used in Iran were #KhameneiVirus and #IslamicRepublicVirus.”
  • “The United States will continue to support the needs and aspirations of the Iranian people, who are the longest suffering victims of the Iranian regime.”
  • Follow the link for the full fact sheet. https://www.state.gov/irans-sanctions-relief-scam/


  • QUESTION: Before I let you go, I want to ask you about this Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels that have conducted what are called dangerous and harassing approaches to several U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, coming as close as 10 yards away. We have some video that we’re showing right now. What can you tell us about what happened here and what the ramifications of this will be?
  • SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ll leave it to the Department of Defense to talk about the details of that, but we have seen this before where the Iranians behaved in ways that were inconsistent with international law. I think the American people know that President Trump is serious about protecting Americans, protecting our military, protecting our Navy. I am very confident that we’ll make decisions that do that. And I’ll leave it to the Department of Defense to talk about the details of how we’re thinking about that at this point.


  • QUESTION: So Senator Dianne Feinstein of California sent a letter to the President saying that he’s wrong; we should be sending $5 billion to Iran to help them in this fight on coronavirus. Is that the job of the United States? Certainly, we’re always the people who want to help. Certainly, we’ve helped people who do indeed hate us. But is there a place for $5 billion to be going to the Iranian regime with no knowledge of whether or not it’s actually going to help people engaged with dealing with coronavirus?
  • SECRETARY POMPEO: No, Senator Feinstein’s got that wrong, and the President has talked about a this too. We offered humanitarian assistance, real humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people, but we’re not about to send cash to the ayatollahs. In the first instance, it won’t get where we’d like it to go. If our mission set is to save lives inside of Iran, to send a bunch of money to the Iranian regime won’t get that money to those people. It’ll be funneled, siphoned off; it’ll be used for corrupt purposes. And so that is the wrong approach to assistance inside of Iran. Unfortunately, too, the Iranian regime has rejected our efforts; moreover, importantly, rejected their own ability. They have money. The ayatollah has got billions of dollars socked away. It is not the case that Iran doesn’t have the capacity, the financial resources, to take care of this problem itself. The United States and the world – this was an IMF loan, I think, that she was referring to – ought not to be creating free cash for the Iranian regime which will be used to fund its proxy wars all across the world, including those in Iraq where American citizens’ lives, American soldiers’ lives, are at risk.


  • QUESTION: Last question. It pertains to Iran. We’re seeing some commentary from I would say some of the usual suspects that it’s cruel of the United States to keep sanctions on Iran while they’re going through a very difficult time with coronavirus. I think they’ve been hit very hard and are being opaque about it. And it just – it sort of amazes me because there has been one example after another of outreach and offering of humanitarian help that would have nothing to do with these sanctions that Iran is rejecting. Why do some Americans keep conflating these two issues?”
  • “SECRETARY POMPEO: I can’t account for that; you’d have to ask them. The very first thing we did when we learned that Iran was being hit in a significant way with this virus was to reach out and offer humanitarian assistance. We did so publicly. You can see my statement and the State Department statements. We did so privately. We made very clear to them there was – there wasn’t a cost to this. We wanted to bring technical assistance and all the things that America can bring to help save Iranian lives. We’ve now facilitated assistance from other countries as well. We want good things for the Iranian people, but this is no reason to try and infuse cash to the Iranian regime. We’ve seen this before. That cash will go into the pockets of the corrupt leaders. That cash won’t go for medicine and food and supplies. If it was going to go to them, Guy, the money that they have already today wouldn’t be being used to transfer missiles around the world and to fund Hizballah.”
  • “QUESTION: Right.
  • “SECRETARY POMPEO: They’ve got money; there are resources there. To suggest that sending cash to Iran right now is going to solve this humanitarian crisis is just a failure of logic. We hope that they’ll accept the humanitarian assistance (inaudible) that the Iranian people so desperately need, and there is no sanction in place today that prevents that from happening.”