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The Humanitarian Channel in Qatar to Assist the Iranian People

(September 18, 2023)

The humanitarian channel in Qatar (HC) was established to further facilitate the flow of humanitarian assistance to the people of Iran consistent with the U.S. government’s longstanding support for humanitarian trade. Similar to humanitarian channels established under previous administrations, the HC is designed to support the Iranian people’s access to food, agricultural goods, medicine, and medical devices under stringent due diligence measures that guard against money laundering, misuse, and evasion of U.S. sanctions.

The HC offers a voluntary option for facilitating payments for humanitarian exports to Iran, but parties may continue to avail themselves of existing exceptions and authorizations to conduct humanitarian trade with Iran outside of the channel.  The United States has long maintained broad exceptions and authorizations for the sale of food, agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices to Iran by U.S. and non-U.S. persons.  OFAC’s Guidance on the Sale of Food, Agricultural Commodities, Medicine, and Medical Devices by Non-U.S. Persons to Iran reflects longstanding regulations related to exports of humanitarian goods to Iran.  These exceptions and authorizations are also clearly stated on the Iran Sanctions Program website maintained by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The HC has not and does not allow funds to be released to the Government of Iran or payments to Iranian companies.  In partnership with the Government of Qatar and financial institutions operating the HC — all of which have committed to stringent due diligence measures — the United States will closely monitor the HC and will take appropriate action should Iran attempt to use these funds for purposes other than permitted humanitarian purchases.  The HC does not lift any U.S. sanctions on Iran, and the U.S. government continues to impose sanctions on Iran’s malign activity, including in response to Iran’s weapons proliferation and its support for international terrorism.

How Companies Can Participate

Financial institutions participating in the humanitarian channel in Qatar (HC) have received specific guidance from the U.S. government.  Companies interested in participating in transactions under the HC should coordinate directly with the Qatari International Media Office at [email protected] and should not hesitate to contact the OFAC Compliance Hotline with specific questions.

OFAC’s requirements related to humanitarian trade with Iran have not changed.  Companies interested in participating in transactions pursuant to existing exceptions and authorizations for the conduct of humanitarian trade with Iran may continue to do so outside of the HC.  For example, certain humanitarian transactions involving the Central Bank of Iran and the National Iranian Oil Company are permissible under General License 8A (see also FAQ 823).  OFAC FAQ 828 and our Guidance on the Sale of Food, Agricultural Commodities, Medicine, and Medical Devices by Non-U.S. Persons to Iran reflect OFAC’s longstanding regulations related to exports of humanitarian goods to Iran.  Iranian financial institutions designated under Executive Order (E.O.) 13902 are subject to the exception in E.O. 13902 with respect to conducting or facilitating transactions for the provision (including any sale) of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, or medical devices to Iran.

U.S. persons and their owned or controlled foreign entities must continue to comply with the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 560 (ITSR), when conducting exports of humanitarian goods to Iran.  Certain exports and sales of humanitarian goods to Iran are authorized pursuant to sections 560.530560.532, and 560.533 of the ITSR.

Source: Iran Sanctions, Office of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Department of the Treasury, (September 18, 2023).