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This Bill Would Sanction Iran’s Leaders for Human Rights Crimes. Not a Single Democrat Supports It.

A police motorcycle burns during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic's "morality police", in Tehran, Iran September 19, 2022. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/File Photo
• October 21, 2022 4:00 pm

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As the Iranian regime violently cracks down on growing nationwide protests, lawmakers’ attention is again on the atrocities committed at the hands of the Iranian regime. Yet not a single House Democrat has lent support to legislation that would sanction Iran’s supreme leader and his inner circle for mass human rights crimes, according to senior congressional sources familiar with the matter.

The bill, 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, 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," according to a copy of the measure obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. Amini’s murder last month sparked nationwide anti-regime protests that threaten to topple the hardline Iranian government, which has reacted to the demonstrations with more violence, including beating, imprisoning, and shooting protesters.

The Republican-led bill was circulated to every single Democratic House office, but not a single one has yet to cosponsor the bill, two senior Republican congressional aides told the Free Beacon.

The legislation is part of a larger effort by Republican leaders in Congress to codify a range of sanctions on the Iranian regime for its human rights abuses and support for regional terror groups, including those that have killed Americans. The protests in Iran have been met with a muted response by the Biden administration, which is trying to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. And while many Democrats have issued public statements of support for the Iranian protesters, none have gotten behind Republican efforts to boost sanctions on the hardline regime.

"Democrats spoke out against Obama’s disastrous nuclear deal just a few years ago. Today, standing up to Iran is a completely partisan issue," Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee and one architect of the legislation, told the Free Beacon. "That’s disappointing, but it won’t stop Republicans from doing just that when we’re in the majority."

The legislation was coauthored by Banks with Reps. Michael Waltz (R., Fla.) and Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.). It is sponsored by 19 other Republican lawmakers and is being championed by the Republican Study Committee, Congress’s largest conservative caucus, which is helmed by Banks.

Waltz and other lawmakers who spoke to the Free Beacon about the bill said it is time for the Biden administration to abandon its hope of inking a revamped nuclear deal with Iran. Negotiations have long been at a standstill and the percolating protest movement provides the White House with an opportunity to discredit the hardline regime.

"We’re nearly two years into the Biden administration and it’s clear their appeasement policy towards Iran isn’t working," Waltz said. "The Iran regime continues to export terrorism, repress its people, directly aid Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, and is closer to a nuclear weapon than ever before. We need to stand up for our national security and the people of Iran by reimposing crippling sanctions on the Iran Regime."

The legislation codifies and invokes several executive orders issued by the Trump administration that targeted Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei and his inner circle.

"The supreme leader holds ultimate authority over Iran’s judiciary and security apparatus, including the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, law enforcement forces under the Interior Ministry, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and the Basij, a nationwide volunteer paramilitary group subordinate to the IRGC, all of which have engaged in human rights abuses in Iran," the legislation states. "Additionally, the IRGC, a United States designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, which reports to the supreme leader, continues to perpetrate terrorism around the globe, including attempts to kill and kidnap American citizens on United States soil."

The legislation also expresses "the sense of Congress that the United States shall stand with and support the people of Iran in their demand for fundamental human rights."

The measure includes provisions that would sanction and block the assets of all Iranian officials tied to human rights abuses, including the supreme leader and his inner circle of advisers, as well as Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi.

Rep. Claudia Tenney (R., N.Y.), a cosponsor of the legislation, told the Free Beacon that Congress must not pass up the opportunity to aid protesters by increasing sanctions on the Iranian regime.

"The Iranian regime’s heartless murder of Mahsa Ahmini once again exposed the reality that Iran’s government abuses and subjugates women," Tenney said. "Furthermore, the brutal crackdown on protesters has shown their disdain for basic human rights and underscores the need for a more permanent sanctions regime against the Iranian government."