Democrat and Republican officials came together on Capitol Hill to push the incoming Trump Administration to impose new sanctions on Iran.
U.S. Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) were among those who condemned Iran at an event organized by the Organization of Iranian-American Communities-US and held on Dec. 8 at the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.
“The oppression goes on,” Senator McCain said, “The military buildup goes on. There are numerous occasions where the Iranians have either stretched or broken the agreement that was made.”
Another featured speaker was former Democratic Sen. Joseph Liberman of Connecticut who spoke to AMI after making his formal remarks. “The Iranian revolutionary guard equipped Shia militias in Iraq who killed hundreds of Americans,” said Lieberman. “ One very bold act President Trump could take is to issue an executive order putting sanctions on the entire revolutionary guard. This would let them know we know what they are doing and that we will hold them accountable."
Lieberman, who supported Hillary Clinton, said he believes the new administration will take a tougher line on Iran, despite seeking friendly relations with Russia, Iran’s ally in Syria.
“It's possible that President Trump could make better U.S.-Russia relations conditional on Russia separating from Iran," Lieberman said. "Both Russia and Iran challenge the U.S. in different ways but, the threat and challenge from Iran is much greater.”
The luncheon took place in the Kennedy Caucus Room which was decorated with holiday lights. Decades earlier the room had been used for the congressional hearing surrounding the Iran-Contra affair. A few hundred Iranian dissidents, journalists, diplomats, congressional staffers, and politicians filled the room. A Persian lunch of kebab and grilled tomato was served, though Lieberman opted instead for a salad and a baked potato gingerly wrapped in tin foil.
Lieberman wasn’t the only Democrat politician at the meeting to see eye-to-eye with Trump on new sanctions against Iran.
Senator Menendez used his remarks at the luncheon to discuss the Countering Iran Threat Act which was introduced to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Bob Corker (R-Tennessee). “I hope we can build upon that in the next Congress, because if we do, we can deter Iranian aggression.”
The proposed the bill, if passed, would extend the Iran Sanctions Act and place Iran under new sanctions. The new sanctions would target Iran's ballistic missile development, support for terrorism and violations of Iranian civil liberties. Entities targeted under the sanctions would not have access to U.S. financial institutions.
Some analysts have noted that since the signing of the Iranian Nuclear Agreement last year Iran has violated the spirit of the agreement with hostile actions around the Middle East.
In an article published by the Gatestone Institute, Majid Rafizadeh, a Harvard University scholar, noted that Iranian officials are now considering building naval bases in Syria or possibly Yemen. “From the perspective of Iranian moderates, reformists, and hardliners, the US is not a superpower anymore; but a weak actor in the Middle East and on the global stage.”