The US House of Representatives has voted 410-3 for a bill that hardens the sanctions against the Supreme Leader and the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Mahsa Amini Human Rights and Security Accountability Act (MAHSA) requires the President to report to Congress every year whether those officials should remain under current sanctions.
Ali Khamenei and Ebrahim Raisi were first sanctioned by President Donald Trump by an executive order in 2019. The Mahsa Act would make it much more difficult to lift those sanctions for the current and future administrations.
The resolution will have to pass the Senate to become law. The Senate is controlled by Democrats, who may not be as eager as the majority Republicans in the lower chamber to consider the bill.
The Mahsa Act was first introduced in January 2023, a few months after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, was killed in hijab police custody in Tehran, triggering months of widespread protest which challenged the Islamic Republic like never before.
Referring to the regime’s human rights abuses following the protests, Rep Michael McCaul, the Chairman of House Committee on Foreign Affairs, called out the international community for “failing to compel” the oppressors of the Iranian people “to stop this abuse”.
“We have many sanction laws designed to address Iran’s regime’s human rights violations,” McCaul said, “however, it is clear that many officials and institutions in Iran have not yet been sanctioned for their role in these abuses.”
McCaul also attacked the Biden administration for its “political agenda” in dealing with Iran’s government and said: “We must not sell off the Iranian people to reach a bad nuclear deal.”
Young Iranian American activists who had worked hard for months to ensure support for MAHSA Act were jubilant on social media, and more confident about advocating a tougher US stance toward the Islamic Republic.
The rift between the House and the Biden administration over Iran policy has become clearer in recent weeks: first over Robert Malley, US Special Envoy on Iran, whose security clearance has been revoked and is currently the subject of a FBI investigation, and then the prisoner swap deal that would release $6 billion of Iran’s assets frozen in South Korea.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has signed off a sanction waiver to allow international banks to transfer the funds. He had done so last week, AP reported, whereas the Congress was informed of the measure only on Monday (September 11).
Earlier on Tuesday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) lambasted the US government for its secret deal with the Islamic Republic and said: “The Biden administration must keep their deal secret because if they disclosed it, the law requires them to come to Congress and defend it, and this appeasement is utterly indefensible.”
Jim Risch (R-ID), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned that the prisoner swap deal “creates dangerous incentives to capture Americans abroad”. He pointed out that striking such a deal “is tone deaf on the anniversary of Mahsa Amini death."
September 16 marks one year since the killing of Mahsa Amini.
The bill bearing her name was not the only Iran-related bill to pass the House on Tuesday. The Representatives also voted to target Iran’s production and exports of missiles and drones by sanctioning those involved in such programs. The last of the bills was specifically designed to condemn the Islamic Republic’s persecution of the Baha’i minority.
All three bills passed almost unanimously, indicating an increasingly united front against Iran’s rulers in the US House of Representatives.