Iran Lobby Cannot Stop Sanctions on Iranian Regime
The House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 which included several provisions aimed at monitoring and curbing some of the excesses of the Iranian regime and while these do not go far enough to actually halt some of the worst atrocities committed by the regime, they do serve as a reminder that the mullahs are under even more scrutiny.
The House-passed bill includes provisions to restrict the use of commercial aircraft by Iran for military or illicit purposes, as well as reporting requirements for the Obama administration to notify Congress within 48 hours of any new ballistic missile launch and detail what steps would be taken in response.
The bill also called for closer cooperation with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the group of nations in the Persian Gulf threatened by the regime, in developing an integrated ballistic missile defense system.
Additional amendments were incorporated authorizing assistance and training to countries in the Gulf to deter and counter illicit Iranian smuggling activity, such as the regime’s shipments to Yemen, as well as various reporting requirements on Iran-Russian cooperation and activity at Iranian seaports and foreign airports, including the importation of new weapons and coordination of military activities.
The measures fall short of what Iranian dissident groups and human rights activists have called for in confronting the worst excesses of the regime, but even these modest steps help keep the ball moving in the right direction in holding the regime accountable.
Predictably the Iran lobby decried these efforts and characterized them as attempts to “kill the nuclear agreement.” Unfortunately, they fail to say that the deal is dead already since Iranian regime has consistently violated the letter and spirit of the deal in every way imaginable.
Ryan Costello of the National Iranian American Council penned his own editorial that did little to discuss in any meaningful way the fact the American public consistently puts terrorism and extremism overseas at the top of their concerns and how this has been fueling Congress to act and presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump articulate policies in how they would curb the Iranian regime.
Costello tries to put the best face on the House action, hoping for better results in the Senate’s version.
“While many of the Iran provisions may become law, they also may be stripped out as the Senate and House must agree on a final text before it is sent to the President. The Senate will take up its own version of the NDAA next week,” Costello writes.
Given the even stronger stance against the Iranian regime taken by Senators such as Tom Cotton (R-AK), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-TN), Costello’s hopes seem to be a bit fanciful.
The provisions placed in the House bill were not flight so fancy though. They are grounded in the facts coming out of the Iranian regime.
Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has documented numerous Mahan Air flights over the past several months using global flight trackers which show the Iranian regime-owned airline making stops in Syrian cities like Damascus and Latakia and also flying to Baghdad from the Iranian cities Tehran and Abadan, a Revolutionary Guard Corps logistical hub.
The regime is using these commercial airliners to ferry fighters and weapons to Syria, but this is nothing new for Mahan Air, which has been sanctioned by the U.S. for support of terrorism. Mahan Air operates regular flights from Tehran to Dusseldorf and Munich. But now German politicians are seeking to ban the airline for its alleged ties to Iran’s regime.
With a fleet of over 50 aircraft, Mahan Air has been making secret trips to Syria since August 2015 and has been delivering weapons and fighters from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon to support and reinforce Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s forces, Germany’s Bild newspaper reported.
This explains why the House included the provisions aimed at preventing new aircraft purchased from Boeing to be used by the regime for military or illicit purposes.
The escalation of the Iranian regime’s involvement in the Syrian war, the mounting casualties it is taking amongst its forces there and the widening use of Afghan refugees as cannon fodder have forced these moves to hold the regime more accountable.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran, a leading Iranian dissident group, reported that steep losses suffered by one province in Iran, Mazandaran, in the Syrian war prompted calls to stop sending its young men to fight and die in what is increasingly an unpopular war among Iranians.
The NCRI issued a statement saying, “The ever-increasing presence and unprecedented casualties of the Iranian regime’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and mercenary militias in Syria demonstrate well that the main issue and the source of the crisis in Syria are the criminal ruling mullahs in Iran who have tied the fate of their regime to that of Syria and despite consecutive losses and coffins arriving in various cities of Iran dispatch even more IRGC and mercenaries to Syria, which for them has become such a lethal quagmire.”
In another sign of deep discontent in Iran, Afghan refugees who have left Iran are reporting of terrible human rights violations being perpetrated against the three million Afghan refugees living in Iran; of which only an estimated 950,000 are United Nations-registered, as Iranian authorities have not provided all Afghan refugees with an opportunity to legally claim asylum.
Those born in the country are afforded UN-recognized refugee status, but they hold only a fraction of the rights granted to Iranian citizens. Many live without residency documents and are forced to exist off the grid, making their living from the black market.
These refugees are easy prey to the mullahs who seek to exploit them by sending them to fight in Syria, often times threatening their families with expulsion if they do not fight.
“For Afghans, there is no chance for a future in Iran,” said Jawad Jafari, an Afghan who fled Iran to Germany with his wife in an interview with Al-Jazeera. “For the Iranian government, it wasn’t enough that we are Muslims like them. I had to pay bribes to work, and the police were always harassing me.”
“We were both born in Iran, but neither of us has documents,” his wife Masoomi explains. “We don’t want our children to face the same problems and racist treatment.”
Even though Costello tries to spin a positive, the House bill reflects the mounting interest in putting a halt to the Iranian regime.
By Michael Tomlinson