LOS ANGELES, CA (December 8, 2009) – Americans awoke Monday morning with news that tens of thousands of students marched courageously throughout the streets of Iran. Their gasps for freedom were met with tear gas. Their civil disobedience met electric stun guns and batons. Fortunately, American leaders have pledged not to stand idly by and allow the Iranian regime to suppress its own people and develop nuclear weapons. Leaders in the House of Representatives have said that they intend to bring major Iran sanctions legislation, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA) (H.R. 2194), to the floor for a vote before the end of the year. IRPSA reinforces American diplomacy by authorizing sanctions on companies that provide Iran with refined petroleum products. Because Iran imports approximately 40% of its refined petroleum, implementation of the sanctions contained in IRPSA would significantly impact the Iranian economy and force the Iranian regime to make a choice: either continue its illicit nuclear program and risk economic isolation or suspend the program and open the door to relief from sanctions. The bill has the broad bipartisan support of 76 Senators and 342 House members.
The timing of the vote is critical. Just last week, the Iranian government announced the provocative expansion of its nuclear program in its sprint towards acquiring nuclear weapons. Before it is too late, the Iranian American community urges its leaders to pass IRPSA and take other peaceful economic and diplomatic measures. Yet, as thousands of brave Iranian citizens raise their voices for freedom and democracy, other voices clamor for delay. Yesterday, Americans for Peace Now (APN) issued a letter to each House member in opposition to IRPSA. APN claims that “the most likely and immediate result [of IRPSA’s passage] will be a backlash by the people of Iran against the United States, not against the Iranian regime.” Last week, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), an organization that purports to “represent Iranian Americans on Capitol Hill,” issued a press release asserting that IRPSA’s passage “is a move in the direction of punishing the Iranian people instead of the Iranian government.” Such a tenuous claim—that the very people who are risking their lives to shout “Death to Dictator” would return to shouting “Death to America” because of an increase in the price of gasoline domestically due to sanctions aimed at weakening the very regime they are protesting—is belied by the reality of what’s happening in the streets of Tehran.
The Iranian people desperately seek for the United States and the international community to stand on their side. The video clips of the demonstrations tell the story. While APN and NIAC ask the American government to do nothing, the people of Iran march and chant “Obama, Obama, Ya Ba Mah, Ya Bah Unah;” “Obama, Obama, Either you are with us or you are with them.” Even more striking, the people refuse to heed the mullahs’ calls for chants of “Down with America” and “Down with Israel.” Instead, they respond with “Down with Russia”—a pointed reminder that Russia refuses to back tough economic sanctions at the United Nations.
Now is the time to stand with the Iranian people. The days of moral equivalence and half measures must end. Don’t we owe it to the besieged Iranian people? The Iranian American community does. We have demonstrated publicly on a daily basis in Los Angeles. Today, we urge our leaders to take action before it is too late. We urge all Americans to contact their Member of Congress now and urge him or her to help pass IRPSA this month.
30 Years After (www.30yearsafter.org) is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization, whose mission is to promote the participation and leadership of Iranian American Jews in American political, civic and Jewish life.