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Iranian dissidents are urging the international community not to give their government $5 billion in International Monetary Fund aid in response to the coronavirus outbreak, saying it would only serve to fund a “machinery of suppression” in Iran.
“Not even a penny should be given to the regime,” Ali Safavi, who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said during a webinar for reporters. “$5 billion must be prevented from getting to the regime because the mullahs would use this money … to basically oil their machinery of suppression within Iran and export of terrorism to the region.”
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The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that the Trump administration is planning on blocking the $5 billion request amid concerns that the anti-American regime still has billion-dollar accounts available to it.
Senior officials told the Journal that the loan would allow Tehran to divert the money to its economy – which has been stunted by 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.
That reported stance has brought opposition from Democrats in Congress.
“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,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wrote in a letter 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.”
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.
But the NCRI, an umbrella of Iranian resistance groups opposed to the regime, backed the position reportedly held by the administration.
“Iran’s wealth is much more than many other countries. Therefore, our country’s persistent problem has been the rule of kings and clerics and not shortages,” the NCRI’s President-elect Maryam Rajavi said in a speech on Sunday. “This regime itself can afford to pay the wages of workers and salaries of government employees for at least the duration of the lockdown period and provide the people with free equipment and medications needed to fight the coronavirus to enable them to get through this period.”
FEINSTEIN URGES TRUMP TO REVERSE PLAN TO BLOCK IRAN REQUEST FOR $5B IN IMF AID, CLAIMS IT IS IN OUR ‘NATIONAL INTEREST’
The group also released a report that outlines four agencies under Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that control tens of billions of dollars in assets — and as much as 60 percent of the country’s wealth. One of those agencies, the Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam, controls $95 billion in wealth by itself, the group said.
Meanwhile, the regime has continued destabilizing activities in the region. Trump recently warned that the Iranians had been planning an attack on U.S. forces in Iraq.
“The problems facing the Iranian people have nothing to do with lack of resources. Even reports in Iran’s state-controlled media make it clear that if Khamenei were to allocate to coronavirus relief just 10% of the assets he controls, then all…the Iranian people’s urgent needs could be met,” the report concludes.
“The decision not to do so is profoundly political. In choosing between preserving his regime and saving people’s lives, Khamenei has chosen the former,” it says.
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Iran is one of the countries hardest hit by the crisis, and the regime has been dogged by accusations that it covered up when the virus came to the country and the nature of the response. While official figures say about 5,800 people have died in Iran from the virus, the NCRI believes the figure could be as high as 36,000.
President Trump slapped a travel ban on the regime in the early days of the crisis, and has resisted calls so far to loosen sanctions placed on the country in the wake of the U.S. departure from the Iranian nuclear deal.
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