Update March 31, 2020 1:55 p.m.:
On Tuesday, a spokesman for Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) told PJ Media that Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Omar, Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) did not withdraw the letter.
PJ Media asked Jeremy Slevin, senior communications director for Omar, whether the representatives had decided to pull the letter. “No,” Slevin responded. “The letter circulated for signatures at the end of last week and is scheduled to be sent today.”
PJ Media confirmed with the American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Rubin that the entire letter had been published on the National American-Iranian Coalition (NIAC) website. The National Interest‘s Matthew Petti published a statement from NIAC admitting that the letter had been posted prematurely.
“NIAC told me today: ‘The letter was mistakenly posted early…There were still offices negotiating minor changes to the text. The final letter should be released today,'” Petti tweeted.
NIAC told me today: "The letter was mistakenly posted early…There were still offices negotiating minor changes to the text. The final letter should be released today."
Did you reach out to them or AOC before insinuating that they took down the letter out of embarrassment? https://t.co/zLdE2Q2DXc
— Matthew Petti (@matthew_petti) March 31, 2020
It appears the letter is forthcoming, although Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statements should still embarrass these legislators who are calling for the U.S. to drop Iran sanctions amid the coronavirus crisis.
Last week, as House Democrats were pushing a Christmas wish-list bill and obstructing the bipartisan Senate package providing key relief to a coronavirus-stricken economy, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sent a March 23 letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanding the U.S. drop sanctions on Iran. Yet by Monday, the letter had been scrubbed from the internet after Pompeo tweeted a video exposing the Iran regime’s effort to pressure the U.S. to drop sanctions.
“Startling revelation by [Iran]’s President [Hassan Rouhani] that the regime’s concerted effort to lift U.S. sanctions isn’t about fighting the pandemic. It’s about cash for the regime’s leaders,” Pompeo tweeted.
Startling revelation by #Iran's President @HassanRouhani that the regime's concerted effort to lift U.S. sanctions isn’t about fighting the pandemic. It's about cash for the regime’s leaders. pic.twitter.com/gyDFkgdYGI
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) March 28, 2020
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiated a concerted effort to influence public opinion and say ’No’ to sanctions. Our efforts are aimed at bringing back our money seized in other countries,” Rouhani says in the video.
This video may be particularly embarrassing for AOC, Bernie, Omar, and others. Many of these members of Congress have connections to the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), an organization ostensibly dedicated to Persian heritage in America but which has long been accused of working with the Islamic Republic’s government. A lawsuit unearthed correspondence between NIAC and Mohammad Javad Zarif, then Iran’s permanent representative to the U.N. NIAC has also long supported the Iran Nuclear Deal and opposed sanctions on the Iran regime. Many former NIAC staff now work for Democrats in Congress.
Indeed, it appears AOC, Omar, and the other 7 members of Congress who sent the letter worked with NIAC in drafting it. The National Interest‘s Matthew Petti and the American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Rubin linked to NIAC’s website in citing the letter. The link to the letter appears to be broken, and the NIAC website gives visitors an error message: “Oops! That page can’t be found.”
While AOC, Omar, and Sanders are prolific tweeters, none of them have tweeted about Iran since March 20, days before the letter reportedly dropped on March 23. On March 20, Omar insisted that “keeping in place economic sanctions on Iran right now is just supervillain-level cruelty,” due to the coronavirus outbreak in the Islamic Republic. Yet she seems unwilling to have tweeted her big official letter asking the U.S. to suspend sanctions.
The National Interest quoted from the letter substantially. AOC, Bernie, Omar, and the rest asked Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to “substantially suspend sanctions on Iran in a humanitarian gesture to the Iranian people” amid the coronavirus pandemic. The letter specifically asks Pompeo and Mnuchin to lift sanctions on “major sectors of the Iranian economy, including those impacting civilian industries, Iran’s banking sector, and exports of oil.”
“Pandemics know no borders,” the letter argues. “Allowing this crisis to become more dire in Iran threatens significant harm not only to the people of Iran but also to people in the United States and around the world.”
“The Iranian government has made numerous errors in their handling of the crisis, including by failing to act swiftly or take sufficient quarantine measures,” the congressmen admit. “However, sweeping U.S. sanctions have also harmed Iran’s public health sector by limiting their ability to import medical devices and medicine manufactured in the West.”
Iran is indeed in a dire situation with the coronavirus, far worse than it is letting on. While the country has reported 41,495 confirmed cases and 2,757 deaths, the true number of deaths is likely closer to 11,900, if not higher. Yet the Islamic Republic has offered to help the U.S. in this pandemic while spreading disinformation to disparage President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus.
The Iran regime has also launched a full-court press to pressure countries to drop sanctions, as Pompeo exposed last week. Perhaps this revelation explains why AOC, Bernie, Omar, and NIAC rushed to scrub the sanctions letter from the internet. None of them responded to PJ Media’s requests for comment about the letter’s mysterious disappearance.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.