• Sunday 22nd July 2018

Us Lawmakers Promise Iranian Opposition Group Tougher Action Against Iran

“I’m willing to help the Azeris, Baluch and Kurds, who are not part of the Persian majority, to create a situation where you have autonomous regions similar to the states of the United States, so that those people’s rights will feel secure as well,” he said.

A bi-partisan group of U.S. lawmakers has told an Iranian opposition group that it will press for tougher U.S. action against Iran’s Islamist rulers, as Tehran awaits word on whether President Donald Trump will follow through on campaign pledges to take a similarly tough stance.

The half-dozen Republican and Democratic House members made the pledges to the Organization of Iranian-American Communities (OIAC) on Tuesday. OIAC, which is allied to exiled Iranian dissident movement Mujahedin-e Khalq or MEK, had invited the lawmakers to speak at a gathering in Washington’s Rayburn House Office Building, as part of the group’s years-long efforts to lobby Congress.

OIAC says it advocates for a “democratic, secular and non-nuclear government” in Iran. MEK, which leads the France-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), seeks to “overthrow” what it calls the “religious dictatorship” ruling Iran. In a statement to the gathering, OIAC political director Majid Sadeghpour said his group looks forward to working with President Trump and Congress to shape a “successful policy” toward Iran, which he called “arguably the greatest threat to U.S. national security.”

Trump has yet to outline his Iran policy since taking office on January 20. But as a candidate, he strongly criticized then-President Barack Obama for joining world powers in reaching a nuclear deal with Iran a deal in which Tehran agreed to stop activities that Western powers feared could be used to develop nuclear weapons, in return for relief from international sanctions. Trump said the 2015 agreement would not work, calling it a “disaster” and pledging to either dismantle or renegotiate it.

Republican House members Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Dana Rohrabacher prepare to speak to the Organization of Iranian-American Communities (OIAC), an Iranian opposition group, at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, Jan. 24, 2017.
Republican House members Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Dana Rohrabacher prepare to speak to the Organization of Iranian-American Communities (OIAC), an Iranian opposition group, at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, Jan. 24, 2017.
Speaking to the OIAC gathering, Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called for expanding an existing set of U.S. sanctions against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) sanctions that are not part of the nuclear deal. “It is time that we put the tools that we have created to use, broadening our sanctions so that they include IRGC-controlled businesses and subsidiaries,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “We must target the (Iranian) regime at every turn, not only enforcing the sanctions that have been too long neglected, but expanding their scope whenever and wherever possible.”

As part of the nuclear deal’s sanctions relief, Iran has been able to sign agreements to buy Western passenger planes for its aging commercial airline industry. Those agreements include state-run Iran Air’s $16 billion purchase of 80 aircraft from U.S. plane-maker Boeing a deal announced in December.

Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman has co-sponsored new legislation that could complicate Iran Air’s efforts to secure the Boeing aircraft. The bill would require the Trump administration to report on any signs of Iran using commercial aircraft for “illicit military or other activities” violating the sanctions relief.

In an interview with VOA on the sidelines of the OIAC gathering, Sherman accused Iran of using “supposedly civilian aircraft” to support war crimes in Syria’s conflict an accusation Tehran has denied.

“We need an ironclad system that makes sure (any newly-acquired planes with American technology) are not used for military or terrorist purposes (by Iran),” Sherman said. He also said U.S. banks should not loan Iran any money to pay for new planes, citing the billions of dollars of sanctions relief it already has received.


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