U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the top Democrat on the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, has teamed up with a prominent Texas Republican to offer a proposal giving the Trump administration more power to sanction the Iranian regime’s leadership if it continues to take aim at protesters.
This week, Deutch and U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, unveiled the “Iran Human Rights and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act” which gives the White House “the tools necessary to hold Iranian government officials responsible for human rights violations, corruption, and censorship" and “holds the Iranian regime accountable for taking American citizens and permanent residents hostage by ensuring that those responsible pay an extreme price.”
The bill has the backing of U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY, the top Democrat on the committee.
McCaul made the case for why the bill was needed on Tuesday.
“Demonstrators throughout Iran protesting the oppressive, corrupt regime in demand of reform and respect for basic human rights illustrates the peoples’ discontent has reached a boiling point,” McCaul said. “These protests should serve as a stark reminder to the ayatollahs that Iranian citizens are tired of government officials using the country’s financial resources to fund terrorist organizations abroad while inflation skyrockets at home. Let me be clear, the United States is a friend of the Iranian people. As such, this legislation heeds the public outcry in Iran. They deserve a free, prosperous, and democratic society in which they again have a voice in the direction of their country.”
“The world is watching as Iranians in cities across the country demand basic human rights from their government,” Deutch said. “But this radical Iranian regime has long made it its mission to repress its people as well as destabilize the region by financing terrorism and developing dangerous ballistic missiles.”
Deutch pointed to Bob Levinson, a Florida resident who has been missing in Iran for more than a decade. Levinson worked for the FBI and DEA went missing in 2007 during a private investigation case in Iran involving cigarette smuggling. Back in 2013, the Associated Press ran a story insisting Levinson worked for the CIA.
“The far reaches of this Iranian threat hits us in South Florida, where we continue to demand the release of my constituent Bob Levinson who has been held hostage for nearly 11 years,” Deutch said. “The United States follows words with actions, and this bill will rightfully punish Iranian officials involved in the kidnapping of American citizens and egregious human rights abuses against its own people.”
While there is no Senate counterpart yet, the bill has to make four stops in the House with appearances scheduled before the House Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, Financial Services and the Ways and Means Committees.