Great to be on with you. And thank you to the organizers for this incredible day of just extraordinary presentations. And your organization is so impressive. So thank you for allowing me to be part of this. I'm going to speak about Iran because it's such a critical issue from both the nuclear perspective, but just a horrific example of how the US can screw with a country for so many decades and create so many needless problems for the people who live there. And so just to frame this, to keep in mind the US overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953, the support for the repressive regime of the Shah that led to the 1979 revolution that was understandably anti-American. And the US has imposed some form of sanctions on Iran ever since then. Let's also frame it the way Iranians see why this focus on Iran in terms of nuclear weapons. First of all, many Iranians say they're not even trying to get nuclear weapons, but then they point to the United States as the largest country that has thousands of nuclear weapons. And then they also point to Israel and say, why doesn't anybody call Israel out on its nuclear weapons, force it to join the nonproliferation treaty, force it to have inspectors, et cetera. And then the other is to recognize that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal that was finally negotiated under Obama's term was not just a negotiation between the US and Iran, but it was also one between England, France, Germany, the European Union as a whole, Russia, China, it was the world community, and ratified, supported by the Security Council at the United Nations.
In the United States, it was a tremendous feat for the Obama administration to move forward on that because there was so much opposition from US allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia, but also so much internal opposition from lobby groups, from hawkish congresspeople who said it wasn't strong enough, it didn't include ballistic missiles, it didn't deal with Iran's maligned activities in the region. And yet from the John Kerry-Obama point of view, this was a significant breakthrough that would lead to discussions with Iran on many other issues.
And I have traveled to Iran several times in our last visit there when we met with the foreign minister, Javad Zarif, and he said precisely that, that they said this was the beginning of talks with the US and the Europeans about all the conflicts in the region and how could they use this as establishing trust so that they could then deal with so many of the other conflicts that need to be unraveled in the Middle East.
In the meantime, we had Trump coming in and withdrawing precipitously from this deal, imposing just horrific sanctions, especially during a time of the pandemic. I remember being in Iran, walking through the marketplace when an elderly man came up and knew that we were Americans, because we had some signs on us, and said, you know, why is your country doing this to us, keeping cancer medicine away from my wife who is dying? What did she do to deserve this? So really, these cruel measures that hurt 80 million people in Iran and then almost bringing us to the brink of war January 2nd of last year with the assassination of General Soleimani. And I don't know about all of you, but I really felt that this was the beginning of an all-out war with Iran.
And the results of Trump doing this have also been to embolden the hard-liners inside Iran. We already see in the last parliamentary elections that it was the hardliners who actually campaigned against the nuclear deal who won the upper hand. And there are June elections coming up in Iran in which somebody will win who is not as open to talking to the United States as the Rouhani government has been. We also have a recent piece of legislation passed by the parliament of Iran that said that if there is not a lifting of the sanctions on the banking and the oil industries, then the Iranians must increase their nuclear activities. This means that there's a very small window between now and the next presidential election in June to make some significant progress. Biden has said that he wants to rejoin the nuclear deal. He has said it throughout the campaign. And during the last hearings of his soon-to-be Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, he reiterated that the administration intends to go into the nuclear deal, but they are already getting tremendous pushback. And you could see even at that hearing where he tried to say, well, we want to strengthen the agreement. We want to talk about the issues in the region. And he talked about the Iran nuclear deal, not as something that they would do immediately, but actually said it was a long way off. We don't have the time for that. The people coming into the administration, several of them are very favorable to the Iran nuclear deal. In fact, the head now of the CIA, William Burns, was somebody who worked on the back channels to get the deal going. But the Biden administration has recently suggested that it wants to bring in Rob Malley, who was in the National Security Council during the Obama administration and is now the president of the International Crisis Group to be the envoy for Iran. And that would mean that he would come in and immediately begin this process, which some are calling compliance for compliance. Iran goes back into complying with the nuclear deal and the US goes back into complying. But in the last couple of days since that suggestion and Rob Malley was made, there's been a tremendous outcry from the right. And we see this in the form of Congresspeople like Tom Cotton. We see it from right-wing Iranian Americans and we see it from a number of right-wing columnists who have been putting out column saying that Robert Malley would be a terrible pick. And the reasons, they say, are that he is anti-Israel because he wants to talk to Hamas, that he hasn't made overtures to the human rights groups in Iran over the years, that he would be too soft basically for these negotiations. They also said that they threw out that when General Soleimani was killed, that he had made a comment saying that wasn't good for diplomacy. Go figure.
So this is happening right now and I think we have to push back. CODEPINK is right now coming up with a petition to support Rob Malley as the Iran envoy. And, of course, we have to support an immediate re-entering into the nuclear deal. Yesterday, there was a piece out by the foreign minister of Iran, Javad Zarif, in Foreign Affairs. It was entitled Iran Wants the Nuclear DealIt Made. Don't Ask Tehran to Meet New Demands. And he also talked in there about how it was thanks to the US invasions and arms sales that the Middle East is the most militarized region in the world. He said that Saudi Arabia, a country of less than 30 million people compared to Iran's 80 million people, is the number one weapons purchaser in the world. And that the tiny country of the United Arab Emirates, which only has 1.5 million citizens, is the number eight importer of weapons in the entire world. And so the US under Biden has to not only go back into the Iran nuclear deal, it has to take measures immediately to ease those sanctions. And there is something that just came out in the statement that the Biden administration made about its global work around covid. One of the paragraphs in there said that it would look at the effect of its sanctions in places like Iran and Venezuela to see what effect they have had on those countries being able to deal with the pandemic and take measures accordingly. So that's a positive thing. The US has to stop blocking the $5 billion IMF loan that Iran has asked for in order to deal with the covid crisis. And going back into the nuclear deal with Iran is really the first step to addressing all of these other crises in the region that have to be dealt with. So I hope we can all be working together to push the Biden administration not to allow the hawks to get the upper hand, for example, to quash the appointment of this Iran envoy and to move ahead quickly. There will be lots of measures to try to stop them in the Senate from these right-wingers. And we have to be ready for those. We have to fight against those and really push for the Biden administration do to do what it promised to do, swiftly rejoin the Iran nuclear deal. Thank you.