A delegation of House Democrats is urging President Barack Obama’s administration to extend an exemption on Iran sanctions—a move that could allow certain groups linked to terrorism to benefit from American philanthropic donations, experts say.
Twelve lawmakers, including Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.), petitioned the Obama administration Thursday to extend a temporary waiver permitting various organizations and individuals to skirt U.S. sanctions on Iran.
The waiver, set to expire Oct. 5, enabled American-based nonprofit groups to expedite the “donation of funds” and shipment of “humanitarian relief” to Iranian charities that are purportedly helping their citizens recover from a deadly earthquake.
Experts warn that the well-intentioned effort to provide the Iranian people relief has actually benefited Iranian charities linked to terrorist activities such as bombings, weapons trafficking, and incitement against Israel.
“Everyone who watches Iran knows the regime uses charities as part of an asymmetrical warfare strategy,” said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser on Iran and Iraq. “Just because Iran describes something as a charity doesn’t mean we should accept their definition.”
“If the Iranians truly wanted help, they would accept American relief workers who could keep a tight eye to ensure that the cash went to the earthquake victims,” said Rubin, noting that Iran’s principal charity, the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee (IKRC), has been cited by the U.S. government for supporting the terror group Hezbollah.
The Obama administration eased its regulatory procedures regarding charitable aid earlier this year after the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) orchestrated an advocacy campaign, the New York Times reported.
NIAC, an Iranian-American advocacy group, has long been accused of being a lobbying front for the Iranian regime, though it denies this charge.