People walk past the US Capitol building in Washington, November 15, 2023.

Mahsa Act To Be Incorporated Into White House Aid Bill To Weaken Iran

Thursday, 04/18/2024

The Mahsa Act looks set to be incorporated into a wide scale aid package in Washington on Saturday, aiming to weaken Iran and its allies.

It has been packaged along with a raft of sanctions to crack down on Iran’s missile program, human rights abuses and support to its terror proxies in Palestine. As a measure tightening the grip on Iran, it is dubbed, the “21st Century Peace Through Strength Act”.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul introduced the legislation which he said was a means of confronting Iran and its allies China and Russia through a series of new sanctions as the three continue to destabilize global geopolitics.

“In order to truly confront the generational threat posed by the unholy alliance of Russia, China, and Iran, we need to make substantive policy changes in addition to providing critical security assistance to our partners and investing in our defense industrial base,” he said.

“I’m proud the ’21st Century Peace through Strength Act’ includes the most comprehensive sanctions against Iran Congress has passed in years; the bipartisan, bicameral REPO Act; and protects Americans from the malign influence of the CCP-controlled TikTok. The time to pass this is now – we cannot wait anymore.”

The bills have to pass a full Senate vote and be signed by the President to become law but it has finally overcome the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) hurdle.

The Mahsa pillar will be called the Mahsa Amini Human rights and Security Accountability Act or simply the MAHSA Act, and will see the imposition of sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader’s office, its appointees and anyone affiliated with the office and its work.

It is a huge nod to the impact that the 22-year-old’s death has had globally since September 2022. Killed in morality-police custody after her arrest for not wearing her hijab properly, her tragic death sparked a nationwide uprising in which hundreds of Iranians were murdered in the hands of security forces.

Crackdowns on women defying the hijab continue to worsen, this week the Noor project seeing scores of morality police patrols back on the streets of Tehran.

The MAHSA Act had held back from the committee for a long time after it passed the House and was said to be heavily ‘diluted’ before being sent to the floor for vote.

The bill, titled the Mahsa Amini Human Rights and Security Accountability Act, was first introduced to the US Congress in January 2023, four months after the start of nationwide protests in Iran.

In its original version, the Mahsa Act required the US government to impose applicable sanctions on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, his Office and his appointees, Iran’s president and a number of entities affiliated with Khamenei.

It also required the US President to report to Congress every year whether those officials should remain under existing sanctions, making it much harder for the current and future administrations to unilaterally lift the sanctions.

The new legislation package now includes provisions pulled from multiple pieces of legislation from the House Foreign Affairs Committee Republicans, including giving the executive branch the power to transfer frozen Russian sovereign assets to Ukraine to help Ukraine stay in the war and eventually rebuild.

Mandatory sanctions will be levied against Iran-backed Hamas which on October 7 waged war on Israel, sparking the current region-wide conflict led by Iran and its proxies. That will extend to fellow Iran-backed militias in Palestine, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al-Asqa Martyr’s Brigade, the Lion’s Den, and other Palestinian terrorist groups and their supporters.

There will also be sanctions on ports and refineries that receive and process Iranian oil and measures to further restrict "the export or re-export of US-origin goods and technology to Iran, including those used to manufacture missiles and drones attacking our forces across the Middle East and by Vladimir Putin against Ukraine”, it said.

Since the Gaza war broke out on October 7 alone, over 200 attacks were launched by Iranian proxies against US forces and facilities. Iran continues to work with Russia to manufacture drones for the use in the war on Ukraine.

Anyone involved in activity covered under the UN missile embargo on Iran that lapsed in October 2023 will be sanctioned in addition to anyone involved in the supply, sale, or transfer of, or support for, Iran’s missiles and drones program.

The bill will call to fully enforce human rights sanctions on Iran as human rights abuses continue. Just last year, almost 900 executions took place in a record year for the regime. Minorities continue to be persecuted and the likes of internet freedoms continue to be restricted. According to Freedom House, Iran is one of the least free countries in the world. Over 70 journalists last year alone were arrested for writing dissenting views.

As Iran’s biggest consumer of oil, the law “requires the president to periodically determine whether a Chinese financial institution has engaged in the purchase of petroleum or petroleum products from Iran” in a bid to weaken the mechanisms Iran is using to bypass sanctions.

It will also require the president to “brief Congress on the finances of Iranian leadership and require financial institutions to close accounts connected to these individuals” as economic restrictions remain a key tool to strangle Tehran’s grip.

Amid the war in Gaza, waged by Hamas, killing 1,200 mostly civilians on October 7 and taking 250 more hostage, the bill also aims to disrupt “the ability of Hamas to fund terrorism, and makes it harder for state sponsors of terrorism to abuse International Monetary Fund resources to finance terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah”.

The war in Gaza has brought to light the power of Iran which The Times recently revealed paid £200m ($250m) towards its war effort in addition to training and arming the militias.

Former Iran advisor to the State Department, Gabriel Noronha, said the new bill is “a strong bill that imposes sanctions on anyone involved in Iran's missile/drone program and forces the administration to answer tough questions”.

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