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Sen. Cruz, Colleagues Call on Administration to Take Steps to Restore Internet Access in Iran, Sanction Iranian Officials Responsible

November 25, 2019

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WASHIGNTON, D.C. – Iranian officials took unprecedented action to silence and oppress the Iranian people – unleashing security forces and shutting down the Internet to hide police brutality – after widespread protests broke out against to the regime’s decision to increase gasoline prices by 50 percent. In response, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), sent a letter to President Trump urging his administration to swiftly impose mandated sanctions on those Iranian officials responsible for shutting down the Internet, and work to restore Internet access in Iran, which though partially restored remains heavily filtered. 

As the members wrote in the letter:

“Officials from across the Iranian regime, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, have responded by threatening the protesters and unleashing security forces. Clashes between demonstrators and police have already turned deadly. Regime officials have also shut down access to the Internet across Iran to hide the extent and scope of their brutal crackdown from the Iranian people and the world. The White House has clearly and strongly condemned ‘the lethal force and severe communications restrictions used against demonstrators,’ and we call on you to use the full array of tools available to the administration to build on that condemnation.”

They concluded:

“As always, we stand ready to provide the administration the resources necessary to implement these measures, and to impose additional pressure against the Iranian regime and its officials for their violence inside and outside Iran.”

Read the full letter here and below:

President Trump –

We write to urge you to take determined action to counter pervasive, ongoing censorship by the Iranian regime against the Iranian people.

In recent days the people of Iran have launched anti-government protests across their country. As State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus correctly noted, the protesters are demanding accountability and transparency, after the regime squandered the vast billions Iran received from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to finance terrorism and military expansionism.

Officials from across the Iranian regime, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, have responded by threatening the protesters and unleashing security forces. Clashes between demonstrators and police have already turned deadly. Regime officials have also shut down access to the Internet across Iran to hide the extent and scope of their brutal crackdown from the Iranian people and the world.

The White House has clearly and strongly condemned “the lethal force and severe communications restrictions used against demonstrators,” and we call on you to use the full array of tools available to the administration to build on that condemnation.

Section 403 of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (ITRSHRA) (22 U.S.C. 8514b) mandates the imposition of sanctions on persons who engage in censorship with respect to Iran, specifically those who “prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly by citizens of Iran” or “limit access to print or broadcast media.” It also requires the President to submit to Congress a list of such persons “as new information becomes available.” The sanctions are described in the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA) (22 U.S.C. 8501 et seq.), and include ineligibility for a visa to enter the United States and “the blocking of property and restrictions or prohibitions on financial transactions and the exportation and importation of property.”

We ask that you –

  • Expeditiously provide a list of the Iranian officials who are shutting down the Iranian people's access to the Internet, and impose the mandated sanctions; and
  • Take all available technical measures to restore access to the Internet in Iran.

As always, we stand ready to provide the administration the resources necessary to implement these measures, and to impose additional pressure against the Iranian regime and its officials for their violence inside and outside Iran.

cc: Secretary of State Pompeo, Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce Ross, Grant Turner, Chief Executive Officer of USAGM

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