US Midterms Seen Maintaining Congress' Bipartisan Support for Iran's People; Impact on Biden Policy Unclear
By Michael Lipin, Payam Yazdian, Hooman Bakhtiar November 09, 2022
The U.S. midterm elections are likely to result in a continuity of bipartisan congressional support for the Iranian people's aspirations for freedom from Islamist rule, but the impact on President Joe Biden's Iran policy is unclear, according to some Iranian American observers.
Majid Sadeghpour, policy director for the Organization of Iranian American Communities, told VOA that he foresees a bipartisan group in Congress continuing to side with Iran's seven-week-long uprising in which Iranians have protested mostly peacefully in universities, factories and streets against their ruling Shiite clerics.
"We see no distinction here between Republicans and Democrats. Bipartisan members of Congress are standing on the right side of history, and we expect this to be the case in the new Congress, as well," Sadeghpour said, pointing to supportive statements made by U.S. lawmakers of both parties this year.
OIAC is allied to exiled Iranian dissident movement Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), which leads the France-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and advocates the "overthrow of religious dictatorship" in Iran.
Islamist clerics have led Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution. The nationwide protests triggered by the September 16 death in police custody of an Iranian woman arrested for allegedly not covering her hair strictly enough have posed one of the greatest challenges to their rule so far. Rights groups say the clerics' brutal crackdown on the protests has killed several hundred people and led to thousands of arrests.
In an email to VOA, Ryan Costello, policy director for the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), said that with the next Congress taking office in January, the NIAC community "hopes lawmakers will swiftly condemn the Iranian government's crackdown and encourage productive steps in response from the Biden administration."
NIAC supports the Biden administration's view that the priority for U.S. policy should be on supporting the protesters in Iran, rather than on indirect U.S.-Iran negotiations that Biden launched last year to try to revive a 2015 nuclear deal providing sanctions relief to Iran in return for limits on Iranian nuclear activities that can be weaponized. The talks stalled earlier this year.
The Biden administration joined the European Union and Canada last week in placing sanctions on additional Iranian officials for the crackdown.
"Until Iran changes its behavior, the United States will continue to impose costs and hold accountable Iranian officials and entities that are responsible for employing violence to suppress protests, civil society and women's rights," said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a press briefing last Friday.
In an interview Tuesday on VOA Persian TV, Iranian American commentator Hamid Akbari, a Chicago-based educational foundation executive and former professor of management at Northeastern Illinois University, said that if Republicans win majorities in the U.S. House and Senate, he believes they will "ratchet up pressure on the White House to take a tougher line vis-a-vis the Islamic Republic."
But Aram Hessami, an Iranian American politics professor at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland, told VOA Persian TV he does not see the midterm elections having much impact on Biden administration policy.
"U.S. lawmakers in the new Congress will primarily be concerned with reining in soaring inflation and kitchen-table issues," Hessami said. "Foreign policy will remain an area where the executive branch of the U.S. government will hold more sway."
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