There were two recent developments in the U.S. Senate advancing the cause of a democratic and free Iran. The first was a Senate briefing on the prospect of change in Iran, during which four Senators, including three Democrats, called for fundamental change in Iran while expressing support for the Iranian peoples’ uprising for freedom and democracy.
The second development was the filing of a Senate Resolution introduced by four Democratic Senators that condemns the Iranian regime’s serious human rights abuses against the Iranian people, as well as its pervasive corruption, and destabilizing activities abroad.
Below are details on the two developments.
Bipartisan Senate Briefing:
On March 12, 2020, the Iranian American communities of Maryland and Texas, sponsored a policy briefing in the U.S. Senate to examine the uprising of the Iranian people, prospects for change, and implications for U.S. policy. The speakers called for holding the regime accountable for gross human rights violations, international terrorism, and its failures to openly work with the international community during the current Coronavirus outbreak.
Senator Ben Cardin
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), called the issue of human rights in Iran, a non-partisan issue. Addressing the Iranian Americans in attendance, the Senator stated, “We recognize that the Persian people are so committed to the right values universally. And that’s why the current regime in Iran is so tragic. It does not represent the people of Iran.” Mr. Cardin said, “it is well past time for this regime to end…We saw an attempt at elections in February that were neither free nor fair. It was an attempt to try to give some legitimacy to this regime that doesn’t deserve any legitimacy. We saw legitimate protests in November of last year on the policies of the government. And we saw the brutal repression by the government in preventing those individuals from exercising their God-given rights.”
In his statement, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), SFRC member, noted, “I believe one day Iran will be free, without the Ayatollah in power.” He added, “In the Senate, I have been a strong advocate for applying a maximum pressure campaign against the Iranian regime, to hold them accountable for their human rights abuses and once and for all end their reign of terror.” Senator Cruz also “called upon President Trump to invoke snapback sanctions under the Iran deal and urged President Trump to order our diplomats to invoke the United Nations snapback to restore international sanctions and restrictions on Iran.”
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), SFRC member, praised the bravery and determination of the Iranian people, “The human rights struggle in Iran is immense, but the Iranian people have not been deterred. They continue to fight for a better future for their country. And now the people of Iran have taken to the streets to demonstrate in large numbers that they believe in freedom, in human rights for all, and in a government that answers to the people… That’s why I’m joining my colleague, Senator Cardin, on his resolution (S.Res.539) supporting the Iranian people as they take to the streets.”
Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, highlighted the many nefarious actions of the Iranian regime and said it “is very difficult with the current regime…It’s not just what this regime does around in the region, but for decades they have been directly responsible for mass executions of political prisoners, they violently suppressed peaceful protests, they have sham elections … As Americans, we believe that everybody should have the opportunity to stand up for liberty and to have those kinds of basic freedoms.”
Former Senator Joe Lieberman reminded those in attendance that the Iranian people are dying in large numbers from the Corona virus because, “The Iranian regime hid the news about corona virus.” The regime’s incompetence and dishonesty has contributed to the further spread of the virus globally. Senator Lieberman went on to state:“Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, who spoke very clearly to the people of Iran in the campaign leading up to the elections, and pleaded with people not to vote because a vote would be a vote in favor of the Ayatollah, the Supreme Leader, of Rouhani and the clerical regime, and I think the people in Iran heard Mrs. Rajavi’s voice, and that’s one of the reasons they didn’t come out to vote.”
Regarding policy on Iran, Senator Lieberman added, “You can love President Trump for some things … He’s enacted this campaign of maximum economic pressure, which really is having an effect on all those changes occurring in Iran, and encouraging the people of Iran to assert themselves courageously for their own freedom and their economic opportunity… really since this regime in Tehran will not change, we have to support a change of the regime in Iran by the people of Iran to finally exercise their own self-government.”
Senator Lieberman urged that we “not listen to people who say regime change will lead to chaos as it did in Syria or Libya or Yemen. Part of why it won’t lead to chaos is that Iran is the one who caused a lot of the chaos in those other countries. And part of the reason is that there is an alternative in Iran that’s ready to govern. And that is the National Council of Resistance in Iran, President Elect Mrs. Maryam Rajavi.”
Former Senator Kelly Ayotte called on the U.S. to push for reinstatement of U.N. snapback sanctions on the Iranian regime under U.N. Resolution 2231. “If the world does not push back,” Mrs. Ayotte said, “the arms embargo on Iran will be lifted and that means Iran can purchase tanks, purchase missiles from China and Russia.” Senator Ayotte also praised the Iranian protesters, “In the last few months, we’ve seen the Iranian people stand up for their rights, and we stand with them. They’ve taken to the streets. We’ve heard their chants: ’Death to Khomeini. Death to the murderer and his rule. His rule is null and void.’ And we agree.” She added, “This is a time where we have an opportunity to come together, to continue the maximum pressure campaign, to make sure that people have the right to regime change in Iran, and that they can live in freedom and prosperity.”
Ambassador Mitchell Reiss highlighted three key takeaways from the event: First, the Iranian people have unequivocally rejected the clerical regime. Second, “there is a credible and capable alternative led by the NCRI that best describes the hopes and aspirations of the Iranian people.” Lastly, he called on the U.S. to lead efforts to maintain comprehensive pressure on the regime.
Senate Resolution filed:
Introduced by Senator Cardin, S.Res.539 “fully supports efforts by the people of Iran to promote the establishment of basic freedoms that build the foundation for the emergence of a freely elected and transparent republic.”
This timely resolution sends a clear, strong message to the people of Iran that the U.S. Senate stands solidly with them and their nationwide uprising against the religious dictatorship and for a free Iran.
The resolution is co-sponsored by Senators Shaheen, Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV). The resolution coincides with the criminal incompetence and malign indifference of the mullahs in handling the nationwide outbreak of coronavirus, which has caused over 5,500 deaths in Iran so far.
The resolution notes that the regime's security forces responded to “legitimate protests against an oppressive, corrupt regime…. with lethal force, killing hundreds of demonstrators and arresting thousands more.” It adds that “reports indicate that Iranian Government authorities have, in many instances, refused to return victims’ bodies to their families and that security forces have removed bodies from morgues and transferred them to unknown locations.”
Condemning the 1988 Massacre, the resolution rebukes the regime for “carrying out the barbaric mass executions of thousands of political prisoners—including teenagers and pregnant women—by hanging and firing squad for refusing to renounce their political affiliations and, in some cases, for possessing or distributing political reading material.”
The legislation points out, “the Iranian regime was implicated in a terrorist plot targeting gatherings of Iranian dissidents in Paris in June 2018 and in Albania in March 2018.” In January, Albania expelled two other agents operating under the cover of “diplomats.” The resolution also notes the conviction of two of the regime’s intelligence agents in the U.S. who were “acting on behalf of the Iranian regime to conduct covert surveillance in the United States against officials of the Iranian opposition for a target package, which, according to the Department of Justice complaint, may have included ‘apprehension, recruitment, cyber exploitation, or capture/kill operations.”
The resolution underscores that the regime’s implementation during the November 2019 uprising of “a near-total shutdown of internet services, stopping nearly all means of online communications for people inside Iran” was intended “to prevent the sharing of images and videos of deadly violence being used by security forces.” The resolution “encourages the United States Government to do everything in its power to ensure the Iranian people have free and uninterrupted access to the internet.”
The resolution takes note of the unprecedented boycott of the sham February 2020 parliamentary elections, partly because of “anger over crackdowns on protesters,” and that “the majority of the Iranian people chose not to vote, making turnout the lowest in Iran’s post-1979 history.”