U.S. Senators Bob Menendez, Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, Ben Cardin, Tom Cotton, and Bob Casey led a group of more than a dozen senators in introducing bipartisan legislation to hold Iran accountable on March 23, according to a press release from Senator Menendez.
The legislation expands sanctions for ballistic missile development, support for terrorism, transfers of conventional weapons to and from Iran, and other acts deemed “illicit”.
“The spirit of bipartisanship of this important legislation underscores our strong belief that the United States must speak with one voice on the issue of holding Iran accountable for its continued nefarious actions across the world as the leading state sponsor of terrorism,” said Menendez.
He also noted that the legislation was “carefully crafted not to impede with the United States’ ability to live up to its commitments under the JCPOA…Iran’s leaders must understand once and for all, that unless they change course their situation will only get worse.”
This is not the first time that Menendez has attempted legislation to sanction Iran. As one of the few Democratic senators to oppose the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, Menendez also introduced legislation regarding sanctions in 2016. He has been a fierce critic of Iran, and despite not being on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, continues to be a leading voice on this issue.
“The United States must reserve the right to hold Iran accountable for its actions…We must speak to Iran in the language they understand: There will be consequences,” said Menendez in an interview in 2016. “Iran is a supporter of international terrorism, continues to develop its ballistic missile capabilities, actively seeks to destabilize friendly governments, has conducted cyberattacks against the United States and our allies, continues human rights abuses, and does so with impunity.”
The legislation introduced this year is meant to provide the U.S. with a wide-ranging approach to Iran, including real life consequences, according to the sponsoring senators.
“This legislation demonstrates the strong bipartisan support in Congress for a comprehensive approach to holding Iran accountable by targeting all aspects of the regime’s destabilizing actions,” said Corker. “These steps will allow us to regain the initiative on Iran and pushback forcefully against this threat to our security and that of our allies.”
A few of the key provisions of the bill include:
- New Mandatory Ballistic Missile Sanctions: Imposes mandatory sanctions on person involved with Iran’s ballistic missile program and those that transact with them.
- New Terrorism Sanctions: Applies terrorism sanctions to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and codifies individuals who are currently sanctioned due to Iranian support for terrorism.
- Enforcement of Arms Embargo: Requires the president to block the property of any person or entity involved in specific activities related to the supply, sale, or transfer of prohibited arms and related material to or from Iran.
“The president has said he’s putting Iran on notice, and passing this bill would be an unmistakable sign of resolve,” said Cotton. “We will not tolerate Iran’s pursuit of supremacy in the Middle East or its sponsorship of terrorism, and we will make the regime in Tehran pay a steep price for its dangerous behavior.”
Other senators point to the fact that Iran must be held accountable for its destabilizing behavior throughout the region and its global impact.
“Under this bipartisan approach, our nation can enforce existing sanctions on Iran and apply new sanctions should the Iranian regime continue its support for terrorism, development of ballistic missiles and violations of human rights,” said Casey.
Critics of the 2015 nuclear agreement point out that it doesn’t address the human rights abuses in Iran, including the oppression of women, minorities, and religious groups outside of Islam. The UN Human Rights Council has also noted the high number of executions in Iran, often for drug or other non-violent offenses.
These human rights violations remain a key issue for many in the international community, including the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) who works to share information from inside Iran with the world. They also advocate for a regime change, including a 10-point plan for creating a democratic Iran.