April 26, 2017 - On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, teamed up with U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, to bring a resolution “condemning Iran’s human rights violations, particularly its persecution of its Baha’i minority, and urging the administration to impose sanctions against the Iranian regime for its human rights abuses.” The two members of the Florida delegation have often worked closely on international issues and Deutch was one of the leading Democrats who opposed then President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.
“Iran’s despicable human rights record is only getting worse as its compromised elections approach next month,' Ros-Lehtinen said as she introduced the resolution. 'Despite the propaganda portraying Rouhani as a ‘reformer,’ executions and crackdowns on political opponents and minorities in Iran have increased in recent years. The regime’s repression of its 300,000-plus Baha’i minority is particularly abhorrent as Baha’i men and women face daily harassment, arbitrary arrest, and denial of education and employment. Baha’is are not allowed to assemble or worship freely, Baha’i cemeteries are regularly vandalized, and 90 Baha’is remain in prison for their beliefs. The regime’s human rights practices are indicative of its untrustworthiness and should be an integral component of U.S. security policy toward Iran. I urge the administration to use all available authorities to the fullest extent possible in order to sanction the Iranian regime for its human rights abuses.”
“The Iranian regime perpetrates some of the most egregious human rights abuses against its own people, including denying them freedom of religion, persecuting minorities like the Baha’i, and imprisoning LGBT people,' said Deutch. 'The United States must continue to stand squarely against these violations of basic human rights, including by strictly applying and enforcing existing sanctions and strengthening punishments for offenders. This resolution sends a strong statement to the abusive regime that its treatment of the Baha’i, its unjust repression and persecution of Iranians, and its imprisonment of U.S. and other foreign nationals will be met with a strong response.”
The resolution had the support of other members of the U.S. House including U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY. A similar resolution, introduced by Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida and John Boozman of Arkansas and Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois and Ron Wyden of Oregon, is moving through the Senate.
'For decades the Iranian regime has discriminated against and brutally persecuted members of the Baha'i community,” said Rubio. “Baha'i educators, business owners, and community leaders have been targeted, including the Baha'i Seven who have been unjustly imprisoned since 2008. The lack of religious freedom in Iran for Baha'is and other peaceful religious minorities cannot be ignored.'
Rubio, Ros-Lehtinen and Deutch were not the only members of the Florida delegation focused on Iran this week. On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., paired up with U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., in sending a letter to U.S. Sec. of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling for targeting individuals who help Iran obtain nuclear weapons.
“As the Trump administration reviews its policy toward Iran, we are writing to recommend that you revive law enforcement efforts unwisely abandoned by the Obama administration to target individuals assisting Iran in its pursuit of its nuclear and missile programs in violation of U.S. law,” Royce and Mast wrote. “Iran’s continued belligerence toward the U.S. and our allies is a vital national security threat that demands constant vigilance.
“As you may know, a new Politico report indicates that Obama administration ‘Justice and State Department officials denied or delayed requests from prosecutors and agents to lure some key Iranian fugitives to friendly countries so that they could be arrested.’ Indeed, this echoes Dr. David Albright’s testimony at a recent House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing,” the congressmen added.
“The Obama administration appears to have done serious damage to our national security,” Royce and Mast insisted. “To better understand the impact of the prior administration’s interference in law enforcement investigations, and to ascertain whether there was excessive denial or non-processing of extradition requests and lure memos, we respectfully request that your agencies brief the Committee on law enforcement investigations delayed by the previous administration. At the same time, we hope you will evaluate the feasibility of re-opening any cases that were wrongly hindered. This, along with an administration-wide policy directive to encourage investigations of Iranian commodity trafficking efforts that includes a determined extradition process, should be an important part of a reinvigorated U.S. policy to address Iranian threats.
“We stand ready to support the administration’s efforts to more aggressively investigate, indict, and extradite those involved in supplying Iran’s nuclear, missile, or conventional weapons programs in defiance of U.S. law,” the congressmen wrote in conclusion.