- The Washington Times - Friday, September 30, 2022

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are condemning the Iranian regime after the death of Mahsa Amini while in the custody of Iran‘s religious “morality police” earlier this month for allegedly wearing her headscarf too loosely in violation of the Islamic Republic’s dress code.

Large protests have spread to dozens of cities across Iran in the wake of the 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian’s death, and Western governments and private rights groups accuse Tehran of a brutal crackdown in an attempt to quash the country’s largest uprising against the regime in years.

Iran‘s intelligence agency on Friday arrested nine foreigners that Tehran claimed helped fuel the anti-hijab protests of the past two weeks, the state-run news agency IRNA reported, including citizens of Germany, Poland, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Senate Foreign Relations Commitee Chairman Robert Menendez led a bipartisan group of lawmakers from both chambers on Thursday in introducing a resolution to reaffirm the “United States’ support for the Iranian citizens who have taken to the streets in peaceful protest for their fundamental human rights, and condemning the Iranian security forces for their violent response.”

“Iranians must know that we in the U.S. Congress, across the United States and around the world see and honor their bravery and share in their hope for a free Iran that is at peace with its neighbors as well as its own people,” the New Jersey Democrat said.

He said the expressions of defiance against the regime “reflect an honest truth and deeply-held desperation we shouldn’t ignore.”

Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Ted Cruz of Texas and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Democratic Sens. Robert P. Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania and Jacky Rosen of Nevada joined the resolution.

An identical resolution was introduced in the House by the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael T. McCaul of Texas, who was joined by Rep. Tom Malinowski, New Jersey Democrat and Rep. Claudia Tenney, New York Republican.

At least 40 have reportedly been killed in the protests throughout Iran, according to the regime, though outside monitors have said the toll could be far higher. The regime has attempted to stifle information flow within the country through internet blackouts.

Iranian Americans have also taken to the streets in solidarity. Supporters of the National Council of Resistance, a group allied with the exiled Iranian dissident group the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, or MEK, have organized rallies on Capitol Hill in support of the protesters. The group’s president, Maryam Rajavi, talked with several lawmakers about the crisis.

The regime’s crackdown on its own people further complicates already fraught relations between Washington and Tehran amid the Biden administration’s push to reenter the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran.

The administration has been mired in months of stalled negotiations over restoring the 2015 deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle eye the administration’s attempts to restore the deal with skepticism, with those closely allied with President Biden publicly criticizing the attempts to reenter the agreement.

Mr. McCaul, a staunch critic of reviving the deal, said the U.S. must “make clear that it cannot be business as usual with the Iranian regime.”

“We must do all we can to support the Iranian people’s right to self-determination and ensure those responsible for the violent suppression of peaceful protests are held to account,” he said.

Reps. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat and Tom McClintock, California Republican, who co-chair the Congressional Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus, introduced another resolution on Thursday calling on Congress to “recognize the Iranian people’s democratic aspirations and their right to establish a free, secular, and democratic republic in Iran.”

“We condemn the clerical rulers in Tehran for their violent suppression of protesters and demand that the international community holds authorities in the Iranian regime accountable for crimes against their citizens,” the lawmakers wrote.

On Wednesday lawmakers called on Congress to condemn Iran‘s “torture and murder” of Amini and “its crackdown on protesters seeking basic human rights” in addition to supporting the protesters “in their demands for freedom.”

The measure was introduced by Republican Reps. Young Kim of California, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Maria Elvira Salazar of Florida and Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia.

“The United States must show through words and actions that the Iranian people have our full support in their fight for freedom and basic human rights,” Ms. Kim said.

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

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