House Republicans and Democrats are teaming up to sanction Iran’s supreme leader and other top regime figures for human rights crimes, according to congressional sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.
Foreign policy leaders from both parties are galvanizing behind a piece of legislation, dubbed the Mahsa Amini Act after the 22-year-old Iranian woman who was killed by the regime’s morality police for improperly wearing her head covering. The bill would “impose sanctions on the supreme leader of Iran and the president of Iran and their respective offices for human rights abuses and support for terrorism.”
The bipartisan support for the bill signals that leaders in both parties want the United States to take a tougher line on the Iranian regime as it murders and imprisons dissidents who are protesting to take down the hardline government. While the Biden administration has enacted several salvos of sanctions on Iranian human rights abusers, it has stopped short of targeting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Ebrahim Raisi, and other senior figures responsible for running the regime’s violent crackdown on protesters.
The Mahsa Amini Act was introduced in the previous Congress, but it failed to garner support from any Democrat. This time around, with Republicans in control of the House, Democratic foreign policy leaders are lending their support to the bill. This shift highlights growing frustration over the U.S. response to the Iranian protests, which are dragging into their fifth month, according to congressional sources tracking the situation. The bill was reintroduced on Friday, according to congressional sources.
Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), the bill’s author, told the Free Beacon that the Biden administration has been too slow to sanction Iranian leaders for their human rights crimes. Banks cited a Free Beacon report showing that European countries have begun to outpace the United States when it comes to sanctioning Iranian leaders for their response to the protests.
“Regular Iranians like Mahsa Amini are being murdered and persecuted by the Iranian regime, but the Biden administration is still trying to cozy up to Iran’s senior officials so [Biden] can cut an even more disastrous nuclear deal,” Banks said. “Even European leaders have done more than the White House to hold Iran accountable for its human rights abuses. This is worse than Obama’s lead-from-behind diplomacy. Two years from now, Congress will be ready to work with a reasonable administration to hold Iran accountable.”
In addition to Banks, the bill is backed by Republican representatives Mike Gallagher (Wis.), Claudia Tenney (N.Y.), Mike Waltz (Fla.), Doug Lamborn (Colo.), and several others. On the Democratic side, Reps. Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), Eric Swalwell (Calif.), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) have signed on as supporters.
Already, the new House appears eager to take a more active role in supporting the Iranian protesters. Earlier this week, by a vote of 420 to 1, House lawmakers passed a resolution “commending the bravery, courage, and resolve of the women and men of Iran demonstrating.” The measure includes provisions that call for a complete accounting of the Iranian regime’s crimes and calls on “the Biden administration to respond to the protests” with sanctions and other measures.
Like the House, the Senate introduced on Thursday a broadly bipartisan resolution expressing support for the Iranian protestors. The Senate measure “urges the Biden administration to strengthen international efforts to impose additional sanctions on officials and entities responsible for the violent suppression of demonstrations,” according to Sen. Ed Markey’s (D., Mass.) office, again demonstrating that Democrats also want the United States to be more aggressive. However, it is unclear if President Joe Biden would sign new sanctions legislation as he walks a diplomatic tightrope in hopes of still negotiating with the hardline Iranian regime.
One senior congressional aide who spoke to the Free Beacon said Democrats are becoming increasingly focused on ensuring the Biden administration takes a tough stance against the Iranian regime, even as the administration attempts to keep alive diplomacy centered on the 2015 nuclear deal.
“There’s widespread and bipartisan concern among foreign-policy-minded members [of Congress] about the Biden administration’s appeasement of Iran, just like there was when Obama negotiated his failed nuclear deal,” the source said.