American aid groups are being shut out of Iraq by U.S. sanctions, says IRC

News and Press Release
Originally published
President Bush Could Fix Problem with Stroke of a Pen
The International Rescue Committee said today that U.S. government regulations are throwing roadblocks in the path of American aid organizations trying to provide humanitarian assistance inside the borders of Iraq.

"We are effectively being shut out of central and southern Iraq, and the rules are still restrictive for Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq," said George Rupp, president of the International Rescue Committee.

"Even in the middle of a looming humanitarian crisis," he said, "aid organizations are subject to rules that rival the IRS Code in complexity and that require licenses and permissions from separate government agencies that take days or even weeks to obtain. The amount of red tape is completely counterproductive. "

"The rules continue in force, and the U.S. government has given no indication that they will be promptly lifted," Rupp said.

The government has partially lifted the restrictions as they apply to privately funded aid for northern Iraq, but the remaining rules are complicated and difficult to navigate.

UN agencies say there may be massive refugee flows toward or into Iran, and U.S. sanctions bar humanitarian operations there as well.

"President Bush can resolve the problem with the stroke of a pen," Rupp said. "We urge him to do so immediately. The lives and well-being of innocent civilians are at stake."