House lawmakers sharpen message on Iran by asking Europe to cut ties

Congress sharpens its stance against Iran’s government as nuclear talks fail

John Bowden
Washington DC
Wednesday 08 February 2023 23:37 GMT
Demonstrators protest Iran in Atlanta

House lawmakers joined together once again on Wednesday to unveil a resolution in support of Iranian protesters, but this time did so in a way that signaled a serious sharpening of the US Congress’ tone towards the government in Tehran.

A resolution unveiled the morning after Joe Biden addressed a joint session of the House and Senate for his State of the Union would once again declare the US Congress’ support for a democratic government in Iran while also including language implicitly calling on the US’s European allies to cut ties with Tehran by closing consulates and calling diplomats back to their home country.

The call for such aggressive action is significant for one reason: The bipartisan nature of the event, where the legislation was released. According to a source familiar with its crafting, the new House resolution has more original cosponsors than any previous Iran-related resolution to pass the lower chamber.

Though it has no practical effects, the legislation signals one thing: The US Congress is quickly approaching a consensus, at least between the conservative right and moderate Democratic left, on the issue of Iran. Progressives seem almost totally absent from the conversation: There have been few, if any, public calls from the left wing of the Democratic Party for a renewed effort to return Iran to compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement signed under Barack Obama’s administration.

Calls for an alternative to the maximum pressure campaign employed by the Trump administration and continued, to some extent, by the Biden administration are few and far between. And even some of the House and Senate’s most prominent progressives are derided as downright disinterested on issues of Iran policy by some advocates who find themselves partnering with the right and conservative Democrats out of necessity.

“Our parties are divided on many issues – but not on this one. On this issue, we stand united,” Republican Congressman Tom McClintock, the resolution’s lead sponsor, said on Tuesday.

He continued: “The lamentable anniversary of the Iranian revolution is upon us in two days. Let this be the last anniversary of this corrupt, backward and illegitimate regime. Let the next anniversary be one of liberation, deliverance and thanksgiving – an anniversary that will mark a new Iran, restoring its rightful place among the just, free, enlightened prosperous and happy nations of the world.”

Wednesday’s announcement marks the second House resolution aimed at supporting Iranian protesters — and, by extension, delegitimising Tehran’s government — that the 118th Congress has pursued in less than two months. Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, was an invited guest at the event and addressed the lawmakers attending.

“I am confident that this revolution will success because it is being led by those willing to pay the price,” she said. “[The protestors] only look to the future, a democratic republic based on the separation of religion and state, gender equality, and a non-nuclear Iran.”

Protests have continued for months across Iran following the death last year of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, in police custody. She was detained and severely beaten after being accused of improperly wearing a head covering.

In addition to frequent condemnations of the Iranian government and statements of support for the demonstrations, the Biden administration has also responded with a number of rounds of sanctions targeting security officials responsible for crackdowns against protesters.

Officials in the White House including Mr Biden have said that talks centred around resuming the 2015 nuclear accord are stalled, but it remains unclear what the administration’s new strategy is for preventing Iran’s government from developing a deliverable nuclear weapon.

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