Few of the world’s leaders gathered this week for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) appeared as isolated as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. As he delivered predictable anti-Americans attacks from the podium, the Iranians risked their lives to demonstration the Islamic Republic here. While the Biden administration’s approach to Iran has featured too many punches thrown, the recent protests provide an opportunity for recalibration.
The latest wave of protests was triggered by the Iranian government murder of a woman named Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old was arrested and beaten by Iran vice squad– who apply strict Islamic social norms – on alleged violations of the hijab laws. She was pronounced died at Kasra Hospital in Tehran last week.
Iranian authorities have alleged that Amini had a pre-existing health condition, a dubious explanation rejected by his family and large sections of Iranian society. Amini’s death sparked days of protests and acts of challenge on the other side the country. Media reports to suggest the regime has already killed dozens of people, and this number is expected to increase. The authorities are again resorting utilize internet outages to hide the repression of the regime and hinder the demonstrators. It is not the first time in recent years that protesters move from demand reform to openly seek revolution.
Yet Iranian government officials were welcomed in New York this week, a symbol as clear as any of the inconsistency of the Biden administration’s Iran policy. Raisi is in charge of the most sanctioned club office in Iranian history. Raisi and his chief of staff are subject to US and European sanctions, but both have been granted visa At New York.
It is too late to undo this embarrassment, but it is still possible for the administration to live up to its to promise of one foreign policy centered on human rights. More precisely, Biden and other senior national security officials can act on their stated desire to stand with protesting Iranians and hold responsible” those involved in Amini’s death or the suppression of protests.
We have previously recommended in these pages which amounts to “maximum pressure” against the Islamic Republic – and “maximum support” for the Iranian people. This includes withdrawing from negotiations to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, implementing a “protest policy handbookto support Iranians protesting and isolating the government from international organizations. But there are actions below these broader measures that can be taken immediately.
The administration currently has all the legal and political authority necessary to engage in a targeted campaign of designations against those responsible for killing Amini, as well as those who suppressed protesters across Iran.
The administration may work with the Treasury Department to sanction individuals and entities that engage in human rights abuses or censorship activities, in accordance with executive orders 13553 and 13846. These orders target individuals and entities that engage in human rights violations or censorship activities, including but not limited to sanctioning freedom of expression and assembly, respectively. Simply put, these sanctions place offenders on the US economic blacklist through an asset freeze.
There is also a channel of diplomatic pressure. The Department of State, under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 2021, may sampling a visa ban on foreign government officials and their families for gross violation of rights. Children and families of regime elites Direct extravagant Lives abroad. The reason for such a ban was explained by the famous retired Iranian footballer Ali Karimi, who tweeted following the murder of Mahsa Amini that “their children are leaving. Our children are dying.
On Thursday, the Biden administration relied on some of these authorities to target Iran’s vice police, which is part of the previously sanctioned law enforcement (LEF). The administration also appears to have issued a series of designations against officials who have supported crackdowns on protesters in jurisdictions witnessing protests.
The people that the administration has recently appointed include heads of Tehran and national vice police, Hajj Ahmad Mirzaei and mohamed rostami. The administration also sanctioned four national security officials, including, but not limited to, the head of the Iranian army’s ground forces as well as the intelligence minister. But there are other goals that the administration can and should consider.
Following the logic of local designations, other provincial law enforcement chiefs could be subject to sanctions because of the use of force against the protesters. Two prominent examples include Hossein Rahimi and Ali Azadi, police chief of Tehran and Kurdistan. And while EWL leader Hossein Ashtari is already sanctioned, he could be subject to the aforementioned 2021 law to secure a visa ban against him and his family. The same could apply to Ashtari’s deputy, Qasem Rezaei, in addition to all the other senior security officials named this week.
By downsizing, the administration could even target LEF commanders in small towns witnessing protests and violent repression. Potential candidates could include LEF commanders in Divandarreh, Saqqez, Babol and Bokan, who are Colonel Abbas Abdi, Colonel Seyyed Ali Saffariand Colonel Mohammad Zaman Shalikar and Colonel Salmane Heydari, respectively. In Bokan, for example, a 10-year-old girl was shot in the head. Washington could also explore the potential applicability of sanctions against local politicians, who are likely to retain ties to LEF units in their jurisdiction, such as governors. In Saqqez, for example, demonstrations took place outside of the governor Kamil Karimyanoffice.
As the administration evolves, it could explore the feasibility of sanctioning national-level politicians, such as General Ahmad Vahidi, who is interior minister, and Issa Zarepour, who is minister of information technology and communication. The Treasury Department previously sanctioned predecessor of Vahidi for control of the LEF, and has already sanctioned Vahidi but not under human rights authorities. Vahidi also has a INTERPOL Red Notice against him for his role in bombing of the AMIA Jewish Cultural Center in Argentina in 1994. It would now be prudent to update Vahidi’s designation.
treasure before sanctioned Zarepour’s predecessor for internet censorship and limiting internet access, especially after Aban or November 2019 protests. Since the Islamic Republic continue to do this businessthe Treasury should update its sanctions lists by targeting the next person in charge of prosecuting Internet censorship in Iran.
We have no illusions about the chances of that happening, but it would make sense to apply sanctions against Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei himself. Sitting at the top of the regime, Khamenei is the ultimate arbiter of Iran’s security policy at home and abroad. He also serves as the country’s commander-in-chief.
Whereas sanctioned under executive order 13876, which targets his office and network of appointees, Khamenei has not faced any human rights sanctions. It is despite his reported authorization of the violent repression in 2019 which led to the death of about 1,500 Iranians. “The Islamic Republic is in danger. Do whatever it takes to end it. You got my order’, is that one The source quoting Khamenei told Reuters in December 2019. It is likely that Khamenei continues to be involved in, or at least aware of, the regime’s responses to protests of a similar scale against the Islamic Republic.
The Biden administration faces a simple question: does it have the political will to act sustainably against Iran’s human rights abuses and crackdown on protests? Or will the recent series of designations be once again unique?
Behnam Ben Taleblu is a senior researcher at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) where Saeed Ghasseminejad is senior adviser. Both contribute to Iran’s FDD program and the Center on Economic and Financial Power (CEFP), among others. The opinions expressed are their own.