A bipartisan coalition in Congress is pressuring the Biden administration to sanction nearly all of Iran’s parliament amid the government’s crackdown on anti-regime protesters.
Out of 290 members of Iran’s parliament, 227 should be sanctioned for providing the legal framework for Tehran’s security forces to murder, torture, and imprison dissidents who have been protesting across Iran for months, according to a group of 26 representatives and senators from both parties.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran lacks democratic legitimacy, and the members of its parliament are not true democratic representatives of the Iranian people," the lawmakers, led by Rep. Claudia Tenney (R., N.Y.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to the State and Treasury Departments. "We urge you to take further actions—and encourage international partners to join us—to impose much clearer costs on the Iranian regime for the execution of protesters."
The letter is a sign that lawmakers from both parties are frustrated with the Biden administration’s response to the anti-regime protest movement, which began in September of last year and threatens to topple Iran’s clerical ruling regime. While the Biden administration has issued sanctions in response to the protest movement, it also has kept the door open to diplomacy with Tehran over the 2015 nuclear deal.
"We strongly encourage the Departments of State and the Treasury to levy further sanctions against Iranian officials and institutions involved in this brutal campaign of intimidation and extermination," the lawmakers wrote.
Iran’s parliament, known as the Majles, has been instrumental in the Iranian government’s crackdown on protesters. In November, as the protest movement gained steam, 227 members of parliament "signed an open statement calling for the Iranian government and judiciary to ‘show no leniency’ toward protesters and compared them to ISIS terrorists," according to the lawmakers’ letter.
Members of the Majles are appointed and strictly controlled by Iran’s ruling regime, led by Ali Khamenei. They are installed in the parliament to forward and support policies that strengthen Khamenei’s grip on power.
Since the protests erupted last year following the murder of a young woman at the hands of Iran’s morality police, the regime has killed at least 519 protesters, according to figures cited by the lawmakers in their letter. More than 19,000 have been arrested and at least 109 of those have been sentenced to death "in grossly unfair trials." Four Iranians have been executed on "trumped up charges" and reports indicate "that further executions are imminent," the lawmakers warned.
The lawmakers note that in March 2022 the Biden administration sanctioned members of Russia’s Duma, that country’s parliament, and said the same pressure should be applied to Iran.
Sanctions should also extend to Majles members’ families "who may seek to study, work, or acquire property in the United States," according to the letter. These types of sanctions could be easily approved by the Biden administration under existing authorities granted by the Global Magnitsky Act, 2016 legislation that targets human rights abusers worldwide.
Congress also stands ready to grant additional authorizations that may be needed to sanction Iranian regime officials and their family members. The lawmakers ask the Biden administration to "immediately consult with Congress on any legislative remedy to ensure that the Executive Branch has all necessary legal tools to sanction these members of the Iranian regime and impose costs on their family."