House Congressional Briefing/Reception
Iran Policy: New Administration, Challenges & Options
Bi-partisan Members of Congress and OIAC
Call for Review of U.S. Iran Policy
Washington, DC; January 26, 2017 – A day after the U.S. Senate confirmed Rex Tillerson as the next U.S. Secretary of State, Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC) hosted a Congressional briefing to offer its recommendations for the new administration on U.S. policy approach towards Iran.
Before a packed House briefing room and members of the media, senior bipartisan members of Congress called for urgent U.S. government action to hold Iran accountable for its egregious human rights violations, its support for international terrorism, and for pursing a nuclear weapons program. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the most senior Republican woman in the House of Representatives reminded the audience that, “We’ve got a new administration taking office and this is a great time to review our policy toward Iran and considering the last administration’s mistakes, there are many policy areas that are in desperate need of repair.”
Representative Elliot Engle (D-NY), Foreign Affairs Committee’s Ranking Member called Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a “horribly evil” entity and added, “We are all united in this; democrats, republicans; we’re all united because we won’t stop until we see a free Iran and we won’t stop till we’re able to walk down the streets of Tehran arm in arm in a new democratic Iran.”
In his remarks, Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said that the United States needs, “to work forward and walk forward and aggressively to help the pro-democracy movement in Iran, not just punishing the mullahs when they do something wrong, but helping those who would replace the mullahs.” Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) noted that Iranian regime’s supreme leader is at war with mankind but is, “first at war with his own people – your families, your friends in Iran, anyone who speaks against the ayatollah and the mullahs, anyone who speaks in favor of liberty, anyone who disagrees with what’s taking place in Iran.”
Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) referenced legislations he has introduced and added, “I recently introduced with my good friend, Judge [Ted] Poe, the HR-478 and the title of the bill says it all: To Require the Imposition of Sanctions Against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Period. We ought to pass the bill, but I’m hoping the Trump administration will act before even Congress passes the bill.”
“And that is why” Mr. Sherman added, “I join with Peter Roskam (R-IL) in introducing the bill to require the president to report on the use by the government of Iran of supposedly civilian aircraft and that is why I have opposed any American financing for planes. I’m dedicated to American jobs, but the jobs we want are not the jobs of providing a airlift arm to the Revolutionary Guard Corps. I’ve seen this in the history of foreign affairs, when you loan billions of dollars to a country, you don’t control them. They exercise control for you, over you. I’ve seen the power of Goldman Sachs used sometimes for good, sometimes for harm. I don’t want to see a Goldman Sachs lobbyist or a Citibank lobbyist saying, “Congressman, we got to get our money paid. Don’t do anything that Tehran doesn’t agree with.” I got enough pro-Islamic Republic lobbyists in this town. I don’t want the financial sector involved on that side as well.”
Other prominent House members also provided significant context & the need for urgent reassessment of U.S. Iran policy. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) said in her remarks, “I want to make sure that you know that I believe in #FreeIran… We must make sure that we again have a free Iran with no war, no aggression, no appeasement.” Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) similarly said of Iranian government behavior, “Human rights, violations of U.N., and the stockpiling of nuclear materials – all of these are violations,”
OIAC Political Director, Dr. Majid Sadeghpour presented the organizations’ recommendations on U.S. Iran policy for the new administration by welcoming congressional measures to sanction the IRGC, which he said controls most of Iran’s economy. Diminishing IRGC influence & reach, he noted, “would weaken this prominent pillar of Iran’s religious dictatorship.”
OIAC reiterates facts, proven valid through experiences of the past 3 & 1/2 decades, that no amount of engagement, monetary incentive, or political goodwill gesture will change the nature of the Iranian theocracy. Iran’s religious dictatorship has for nearly 4 decades relied on 3 pillars to preserve its reign on power:
- Internal suppression of dissent
- Drive to obtain nuclear weapons
- Support for and exportation of Islamic fundamentalism/terrorism
The destructive influence of Islamic fundamentalism, godfathered by the establishment in Tehran, will not be mitigated until and unless a democratic, secular, and non-nuclear republic democratically replaces that regime.
Accordingly, as bipartisan members of congress have repeatedly noted, a viable U.S. policy towards Iran must quickly & comprehensively address Iranian regime and IRGC’s function in these areas. As OIAC leadership noted at the briefing, in shaping foreign policy towards Iran, we call on President Trump’s Administration to engage the Iranian people and their well-organized opposition movement. We concur with the noted congressional dispositions and believe that the United States should establish a dialogue with the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and support the 10-point plan for a free Iran as articulated by NCRI President-Elect, Madam Maryam Rajavi.
Our members have a range of political and party affiliations but are unified in the belief that democracy and human rights in Iran are imperative to the national security of America and peace in the Middle East and beyond. In this honorable endeavor, we welcome congressional and executive branch engagement and will support their decisive decision-making regarding Iran.
OIAC Policy Statement
Dr. Majid Sadeghpour delivered the following at today’s briefing.
Organization of Iranian-American Communities-US (OIACUS), as the largest, most active and enduring grass root organization of Iranian-Americans welcomes the 115th Congress as well as 45th President of the United States Donald Trump to Washington, DC. We look forward to the opportunity to work with the United States Congress and the new President to shape a successful policy towards arguably the greatest threat to U.S. national security – the regime in Iran.
Iran’s domestic and foreign policies have and continue to be focused on establishing and preserving a theocratic empire which poses a direct threat to the people of Iran, the United States, and world peace.
In the wake of the nuclear agreement (otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA) and associated initiatives, a major foreign policy challenge for the new administration will be to effectively manage the US relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The new administration’s contempt for JCPOA is well stated. This disposition is also shared by most if not all Congressional Republicans, as well as by a surprisingly high number of leaders in the Democratic Party.
In testimony before Congress, the nominees and bi-partisan Senators clearly articulated their belief that “the Iran problem” is not limited to the weaknesses or strengths of the JCPOA in its current form, but also extend to the persistent extraterritorial belligerence of the Iranian regime and its egregious conduct at home (i.e. Iran’s atrocious Human Rights record).
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for example, indicated that he would call for a thorough review of the agreement, leaving open the need to cancel, renegotiate, strengthen, or replace the deal in the long run. Additionally, Secretary of Defense James Mattis described the Iranian regime as the biggest contributor to regional instability and added that American policy in Iraq and Afghanistan should be focused on countering Iran’s “malign influence,” which in his assessment has been growing.
Cabinet members in the administration of the 45th President of the United States have not stated such strong opinions on Iran policy in a vacuum. The wealth of intelligence on the validity of their concerns notwithstanding, 23 prominent former US officials underscored these very policy points and more in a recent bipartisan letter to President Trump.
“It is now clear,” they wrote, “that Iran’s leaders have shown no interest in reciprocating the US overture beyond the terms of the JCPOA which gained them significant rewards. Through their extremely high rate of executions at home, and destructive sectarian warfare in support of the Assad regime in Syria and proxy Shiite militias in Iraq, Iran’s rulers have directly targeted US strategic interests, policies and principles, and those of our allies and friends in the Middle East.”
Experiences of the past 3 & 1/2 decades have demonstrated that no amount of engagement, monetary incentive, or political goodwill gesture will change the nature of the Iranian theocracy. Iran’s religious dictatorship has for nearly 4 decades relied on 3 pillars to preserve its reign on power:
- Internal suppression of dissent
- Drive to obtain nuclear weapons
- Support for and exportation of terrorism
Accordingly, a viable U.S. policy towards Iran must comprehensively address these areas. OIAC believes that an effective and meaningful U.S. Iran policy should, at a minimum, include the following components:
- Support for Human Rights:Iran is a major and persistent violator of human rights of its citizens, particularly women, youths, journalists, religious and ethnic minorities. Some 120,000 dissidents have been executed in Iran in the past 37 years, including nearly 30,000 political prisoners massacred in a span of several months in 1988. The rate of executions has increased dramatically during Hassan Rouhani’s tenure. Indeed, the regime in Tehran is the leading per capita executioner of its own citizens in the world today and as such must be held accountable.
- We therefore welcome bipartisan congressional legislations, which aim to hold Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) accountable for their key role in the ongoing violations of human rights in Iran. IRGC
- We call for the U.S. President to pressure the international community to forward Iran’s rights record dossier to the U.N. Security Council.
- Defeating the Threat of Terrorism/Islamic Extremism:Designated as the most active “state sponsor of terrorism” by the US government since 1984, Tehran continues to use terrorism as a major tool of advancing its foreign policy and destabilizing the Middle East. Iranian regime today remains the predominant supporter of international terror networks and acts as the epicenter of extremist Islamist ideology. The latter is a steadily growing threat to stability in a volatile region and to US national security. It is also as dangerous as its nuclear weapons program and must be dealt with decisively and urgently.
- We appreciate U.S. House and Senate leaders for introducing legislations to designate “Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.” These much needed and long overdue measures are needed to weaken Iran’s terror machine both at home and across the region.
- We call for comprehensive sanctions against the IRGC and its related entities which oversee at least two-third of Iran’s economy and hence its global trade.
- Removing the Nuclear Threat:As you know, another strategic pillar of Iran’s foreign policy, complementing its human rights abuses and sponsorship of terrorism, is its nuclear weapons program. The nuclear deal has pushed back Iran’s nuclear program, albeit temporarily, but has left the program’s infrastructure essentially intact. With the view that only a democratic, secular, and non-nuclear Iran will permanently remove this danger, the focus must now be directed at putting in place an airtight monitoring and verification mechanism to prevent Tehran from cheating, as it has done over the past three decades.
- We therefore support the “distrust and verify” approach – within which the JCPOA is comprehensively reviewed, its enforcement regimen fully implemented and improved.
- Support for a Democratic Future in Iran: The destructive influence of Islamic fundamentalism, godfathered by the establishment in Iran, will not be mitigated until and unless a democratic, secular, and non-nuclear republic democratically replaces that regime. Successive US administrations, both Republican and Democrat, for years tried to engage Iran by offering concessions and ignoring its transgressions in hopes of moderating its behavior. While sidestepping the approximate 80,000,000 freedom loving people in Iran, the policy has naively assumed that Iranian dictators are capable of reform. This policy has clearly failed. While underscoring that a foreign military intervention is also not the answer, we believe the United States should recognize the aspirations of Iranian people for a free and democratic future as the only effective and viable policy.
- In shaping foreign policy towards Iran, OIAC calls on President Trump’s Administration to engage the Iranian people and their well-organized opposition movement.
- As bipartisan U.S. officials noted in their letter to Mr. Trump, the United States must establish a dialogue with the National Council of Resistance of Iran and support the 10-point plan for Iran of tomorrow as articulated by NCRI President-Elect, Madam Maryam Rajavi.
Our members have a range of political and party affiliations but are unified in the belief that democracy and human rights in Iran are imperative to the national security of America and peace in the Middle East and beyond. In this honorable endeavor, we shall welcome congressional and executive branch engagement and will support its decisive decision-making regarding Iran.