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Source: Iranintl

Apr 26, 2023

US House Foreign Affairs Committee Approves MAHSA Act

Author: Iran International Newsroom

US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously advanced on Wednesday the MAHSA Act, aimed at imposing more sanctions on top Iranian officials. 

The bipartisan legislation, introduced by House Armed Services Committee Member Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), is intended to add sanctions on Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi as well as their inner circles for human rights abuses and support for terrorism. 

“The Supreme Leader is an institution of the Islamic Republic of Iran...that holds ultimate authority over Iran’s judiciary and security apparatus, including the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, law enforcement forces under the Interior Ministry, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and the Basij, a nationwide volunteer paramilitary group, subordinate to the IRGC, all of which have engaged in human rights abuses in Iran,” read a paragraph of the MAHSA Act.

Following the unanimous approval at the committee, the MAHSA Act will go to the full House for a vote.

The bill requires the executive branch to impose applicable sanctions on Khamenei, his office and his appointees, as well as President Raisi and his cabinet officials, foundations and other entities affiliated with the Supreme Leader under section 105(c) of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, section 7031 (c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2021, and Executive Orders 13876, 13553, 13224, and 13818.

The MAHSA Act – which has 97 House cosponsors and is supported by the National Union for Democracy in Iran (NUFDI), United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) -- was first introduced during the 117th Congress in January, about four months into pro-democracy and anti-regime protests following the death of 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran's morality police. 

Mahsa Amini

Amini’s tragic death in September 2022 led to the boldest revolt against the clerical regime since its establishment in 1979. More than 500 people have been killed in the nationwide rallies, nearly 20,000 were detained, and four were executed on trumped up charges.

"There is broad opposition in Congress to the Iranian regimes' aggression and internal repression. I hope that today's markup convinced the White House that any attempt to appease the Ayatollah and provide Iran with sanctions relief will be met with unanimous condemnation,” Banks said after the markup session. 

"I will be monitoring technical changes to the bill and I look forward to voting for its final passage on the House floor in the coming months," he added. 

“This bill is intended to hold the most malicious elements of Iran's regime accountable for human rights abuses like the death of Mahsa Amini and the regime's terrorist activity while avoiding collateral damage to ordinary Iranians,” read a statement by Banks. 

During the Wednesday session most of the discussions were focused on the technical details of the MAHSA Act and how it would be implemented. One of the amendments discussed was meant to include a paragraph in the text that mentioned Khamenei and Raisi were already sanctioned by the US. Those who spoke against the amendment were apparently of the opinion that such a wording would weaken the effectiveness of the measure but even the proponents of the amendment admitted during the session that they only seek reassurance that the Act would lead to tangible measures. 

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said the MAHSA Act is designed to force the administration’s hand based on a bipartisan measure to ensure that the US uses all available authorities “to compel the Iranian regime to abandon its brutal abuses by applying relevant sanctions”. “This includes both laws passed by Congress and executive orders issued by this and previous presidents,” he added. 

The text, according to Issa, will also limit the current and future administrations’ ability to classify information about dealings with Iran in order to facilitate full transparency and accountability. “The administration and future administrations cannot hide behind nebulous rationales for secrecy and noncompliance,” he noted. 

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) said, “Every member on this committee understands the evil nature of Iran’s Supreme Leader, a man who leads a corrupt criminal theocracy that endangers the Iranian people as well as the entire international community.”

“The Supreme Leader murders, tortures, and abuses his own people,” he said, adding that “he denies Iranian citizens freedom and democracy; he guides proxy forces meant to destabilize numerous regional countries; he has threatened to wipe Israel off the map; and he is developing a nuclear program that has stockpiled enough highly-enriched uranium for several nuclear warheads; there must be a cost associated with this behavior.”

However, some lobbyists and a few lawmakers sought to dilute the act, describing it as “Islamophobic” or “not leading to any increased sanctions.” NIAC, advocating non-confrontational policies toward the Islamic Republic, said in a statement that “the bill would make it more difficult for a President to lift sanctions on these officials as part of any diplomatic agreement...

This bill does not include a sunset and would target the offices themselves, rather than individuals. As a result, it would remain in effect indefinitely and be applied to any future Supreme Leader or President of Iran until its repeal."

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