Pompeo: US has offered to help Iran fight coronavirus
The United States has offered to help Iran with its outbreak of the novel coronavirus, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.
“We have made offers to the Islamic Republic of Iran to help, and we’ve made it clear to others around the world and in the region that assistance, humanitarian assistance to push back against the coronavirus in Iran is something the United States of America fully supports,” Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In a statement after the hearing, Pompeo added that the offer of support “to the Iranian people” has been “formally conveyed to Iran through the government of Switzerland.”
Pompeo was testifying at a committee hearing that was called to discuss the administration’s Iran strategy after the early January drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and brought Washington and Tehran to the brink of war.
The hearing was almost immediately testy as Democrats, who hammered Pompeo for not appearing until almost two months after the Soleimani strike, instead used their questions to ask about coronavirus — the disease causing fears of a pandemic as it spreads around the globe.
When Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) used the first question of the hearing to ask about coronavirus, Pompeo responded, “Just so you know, we agreed that I would come here to talk about Iran. The first question today is not about Iran.”
“We’ll make it about Iran,” Cicilline interjected, before asking about the administration’s communications with Iran about coronavirus.
Iran has reported the highest number of deaths from the coronavirus outside of China, where the virus originated.
More than 200 people in Iran, including the deputy health minister and the vice president, have tested positive for coronavirus. Of the 245 cases, 26 people have died.
Earlier this week, Pompeo accused Iran, as well as China, of suppressing information about the spread of coronavirus.
“All nations, including Iran, should tell the truth about the coronavirus and cooperate with international aid organizations,” Pompeo said at a press briefing.
Asked at Friday’s hearing whether Iran is capable of fighting the coronavirus, Pompeo again accused the country of covering up information.
“Their health care infrastructure is not robust, and to date their willingness to share information about what’s really going on inside the Islamic Republic of Iran has not been robust,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo pushed back on the idea that U.S. sanctions are hampering the ability to send medical supplies to Iran, despite reports that the sanctions hurt Iranians’ access to medical equipment.
“The predicate of your question is not accurate,” Pompeo said when asked if the administration would waive sanctions to help fight coronavirus in Iran. “There has been continuously an avenue for the movement of medical and humanitarian goods inside the Islamic Republic of Iran. They have not been sanctioned at any time, before the advent of coronavirus or concurrently.”
Despite Pompeo’s comments, the Treasury Department on Thursday issued a license to allow humanitarian aid to go to Iran through a Swiss channel.
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