A group representing over 140 Republican representatives called on Wednesday for US Congress to implement its toughest sanctions yet on Iran, whose “rogue regime” remains “extremely dangerous.”
The Republican Study Committee, a caucus for 147 conservative House representatives, put forth a detailed proposal outlining policy suggestions related to Iran, Russia, China, and other countries it deemed pose a threat to the US.
The proposal, authored by 13 members of the caucus, recommends Congress put in place new measures to respond to “strategic threats” China and Russia, as well as Iran in order to stop its “support of terrorism, destabilizing behavior in the region, development of ballistic missiles, and nuclear program.”
The report calls for Congress to “expand sanctions on Iran” and enhance President Donald Trump’s "maximum pressure" campaign, specifically calling on Congress to impose sanctions on several Iranian officials and industries.
Sanctions should be placed on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, by the US Treasury under Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) authorities, the report recommends.
Hajizadeh is an IRGC aerospace force commander who oversaw Iran’s recent military satellite launch in April. He provides “extensive support for Iran’s ballistic missile ambitions” as his unit is “tasked with overseeing Iran’s ballistic missile arsenal,” according to the report.
The Iranian military’s “centerpiece” is its collection of approximately 3,000 ballistic missiles of various ranges, US Central Command (CENTCOM) chief General Kenneth McKenzie told Al Arabiya English in November.
Iran’s ballistic missile arsenal is the largest in the Middle East region, according to US officials, and Iran transfers some of these weapons to Iraq, Yemen, and reportedly even Lebanon and Syria, according to Behnam Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
While US Congress has already imposed sanctions on Iran’s energy, shipping and shipbuilding sectors, these should be expanded to include its petrochemical, financial and automotive sectors, the report says.
“Tightening the noose on Iran’s non-oil sectors would increase Iran’s macroeconomic contraction and could create further financial and political instability,” the report states, adding that the funds from these industries contribute to the Iranian regime.
The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) should also be sanctioned by Congress.
“In addition to spreading disinformation and regime propaganda, IRIB regularly aired forced confessions by political prisoners who were victims of torture,” according to the report.
The state television network is already in financial trouble and announced Wednesday it expects to shut down its foreign language channels due to “debt accumulation.”
The report also advocates for Congress to urge the Trump administration to trigger snapback sanctions against Iran, which would reinstate UN sanctions on Iran for its violations against the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Iran’s regional influence
Iran’s role in the Middle East, “especially its malign behavior in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen,” poses a direct threat to the US and its Gulf allies such as Saudi Arabia, according to the report.
To counter Iran’s regional role, Congress should require the US State Department to designate a number of Iranian-backed proxy militias in Iraq and Syria as Foreign Terror Organizations, the report recommends, as well as blocking US funding to Iraq’s Ministry of Interior and federal police until Congress can ensure the money is meeting its intended use.
The proposal calls on Congress to pass legislation known as the Iraq Human Rights and Accountability Act, intended to support Iraqi pro-democracy protesters.
In October 2019 protests broke out across Iraq, to which police responded with lethal force. Over 600 people died during the largely peaceful protests between October to January, according to Amnesty International.
Meanwhile Lebanon, Congress should cut off security assistance funding to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), according to the report. The caucus’ recommendation of withholding funding to the LAF has been rejected at the highest levels of US leadership.
Top US General McKenzie told Al Arabiya English in November that CENTCOM supports “continued assistance” to the LAF, albeit their “record is not perfect.”
“We think the LAF needs to be the military element of the government of Lebanon. I would certainly support continuous support to the LAF,” said McKenzie.
The report claims the US funding of the LAF “has been largely counterproductive” and that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) “noted Hezbollah’s ‘increasing influence’ over the LAF.”
To pressure Lebanese Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy, the caucus recommends Congress expands its sanctions on the group and its sympathizers such as sanctioning Hezbollah supporters in Lebanon’s new cabinet.