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Congress Considers First-Ever Sanctions on Top Iranian Terror Group

U.S. Capitol
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• December 3, 2020 1:40 pm

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New legislation in Congress would sanction one of Iran's top terror proxy groups operating in Iraq and responsible for deadly attacks that targeted American personnel stationed in Baghdad, according to a copy of the bill exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is spearheading the new sanctions, which would designate for the first time the Iran-funded Badr Organization, a militant group operating in Iraq and tied to Tehran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Badr group was commanded by former Iranian terror leader Qassem Soleimani, who President Donald Trump assassinated with a drone strike in January.

The Badr Organization is responsible for lethal strikes on American embassy officials stationed in Baghdad, including an attack last year that prompted the Trump administration to target Soleimani. The Badr group remains part of Iraq's government and security services, generating concerns that U.S. taxpayer aid to Iraq could be funding the terror organization.

The legislation is likely to garner widespread support from Republicans and Democratic hawks who continue to view Iran's activity in Iraq as a direct threat to America and its diplomacy in the region. The sanctions could complicate the landscape for the incoming Biden administration, which is angling to renew discussions with Iran about its nuclear program. Iranian leaders have said they will not sit down with the incoming administration until American sanctions are rolled back and Tehran is granted cash relief for its ailing economy.

"Badr works directly with Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqi Kataib Hezbollah, [Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq], and many other designated terrorist organizations to push forward its campaign of terror," Wilson told the Free Beacon in a statement. "Unfortunately, Badr has still not been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. It is absolutely necessary if we are to truly have maximum pressure on Iran that Badr is designated as a terrorist organization."

Wilson is hoping the State Department will designate the Badr Organization before the one-year anniversary of its December 2019 attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

In July, Wilson forwarded an amendment to prohibit U.S. taxpayer aid from reaching the Badr group. It continues, however, to play a role in the Iraqi government as part of the country's Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group comprising some 40 militias in the country that work with the government on security matters. These ongoing concerns prompted Wilson's new legislation.

The legislation mandates the U.S. government disclose whether U.S. assistance has "directly or indirectly benefited the Badr Organization." The amendment would also require reports on the Badr group's operations in Iraq, including its role in the attack on the U.S. embassy.

The reports would include an investigation into the Iranian terror group's role in human rights violations in Iraq, which could prompt sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

The Badr group is currently led by Hadi Al-Amiri, a veteran Iraqi militant who keeps close ties with the Iranian government. The State Department identified Al-Amiri as one of the organizers of the 2019 embassy attack.

Published under: Iran, Iraq, Sanctions