The upcoming week will pose some serious questions to the Biden Administration as moves to examine its failings in dealing with one of the most malign regimes continue.
The US House of Representatives is also expected to put the final stamp on the bipartisan Mahsa Amini Human Rights and Security Accountability (MAHSA) Act after it was submitted in June, seeking more sanctions on Iran’s leadership.
Named after Kurdish-Iranian Mahsa Amini, whose death in morality police custody in September 2022 led to the boldest revolt against the clerical regime since its establishment in 1979, the Act won unanimous approval at the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee in April, before Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) introduced the bipartisan legislation to the Senate in June.
Essentially similar and a companion to the one passed in the House committee, the MAHSA Act will potentially commit the administration to report to Congress within 90 days of the date of the enactment and periodically thereafter, making determinations about whether certain existing sanctions apply to specific people and impose the applicable sanctions.
The bipartisan bicameral move requires the executive branch to impose applicable sanctions on Ali Khamenei, his office and his appointees, as well as President Ebrahim Raisi and his cabinet officials, foundations and other entities affiliated with the Supreme Leader under section 105(c) of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, section 7031 (c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2021, and Executive Orders 13876, 13553, 13224, and 13818.
“The Supreme Leader is an institution of the Islamic Republic of Iran … that 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,” reads a paragraph of the MAHSA Act.
It follows moves earlier this year when Democratic and Republican leaders on the House Foreign Affairs Committee introduced a bill to target Iran’s production and exports of missiles and drones, with an eye toward the soon-to-expire United Nations restrictions on Iran’s missile program.
The Fight and Combat Rampant Iranian Missile Exports (Fight CRIME) Act levies additional sanctions on Iran and asks the administration to outline a strategy to prevent the UN restrictions from expiring.
Demands for harsher actions against the regime continue to blight the administration which has been dogged by allegations of its being too soft as it tightropes between negotiating to revive the JCPOA nuclear deal while Iran continues to forge ahead with acts against the US in the likes of Syria and Iraq. Since the Biden administration came to power, over 80 attacks have been made on US facilities and personnel overseas by Iran, with just five retaliatory attacks from the US.
On top of this, is the controversy surrounding suspended US envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, who is under investigation for alleged leaking of confidential information to Iran.
Just this week, FBI Director Christopher Wray highlighted what the FBI sees as some of the leading foreign and domestic threats to the United States in an hour long program at Washington, D.C.'s International Spy Museum.
Among those mentioned was the Iranian plot to assassinate former National Security Adviser John Bolton in 2021 in retaliation for the US drone strike that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani. Bolton is one of a list of targets from the Trump administration with threats to their life from the regime. Wray also brought up a cyber attack by Tehran on Boston's Children's Hospital last year and its covert influence campaign on the 2020 US presidential election.
"That's all on top of constantly trying to evade international sanctions and being the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism," Wray said, "So if that's not enough to convince people that this is a serious threat, I don't know what is."
Former US representative to Iran, Elliott Abrams, this week called on a total travel ban for Iranian citizens going to Iran for the high risk of kidnapping, following the $6 billion deal exchanging five US citizens for freeing up frozen funds in South Korea. It is an issue which has created huge divisions in Washington and allegations that the Biden administration has opened the door for yet further hostage diplomacy.
Next Wednesday, the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability is holding a hearing on Iran titled "A Dangerous Strategy: Examining the Biden Administration’s Failures on Iran”.
Gabriel Noronha, former US representative to Iran said it was a much needed step. “Next week's hearing on Iran is only the second during the Biden Administration and the first in 15 months. This despite Iran's nuclear program advancing, ~10 Americans living under assassination threat, failed negotiations, and the US envoy for Iran under security investigation.”
He said while Congress' attention is justly focused on China as the paramount threat to the United States, on Russia given its war against Ukraine, and on the withdrawal from Afghanistan, “it has taken its eye off the ball when it comes to Iran”, which he claims is now the US’ “number two threat”.
Jason Brodsky, Policy Director from United Against A Nuclear Iran welcomed the initiatives saying, "we're making progress. After the House had not held even one Iran-focused hearing since 2020, there are now two in one week next week".