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Congresswoman Mary Miller supports ‘maximum sanctions’ on Iran despite their ‘devastating’ impact

Pharmacist Mortez Vakil pictured at his store in Iran in 2021. His business has suffered since the U.S. re-imposed sanctions on Iran, due to shortages of medicines and price increases in cosmetics.

WASHINGTON — In April, Illinois Congresswoman Mary Miller met with Bryan Leib, Executive Director of Iranian Americans for Liberty, for a “meet and greet.” There was little reporting about the meeting — despite its potential implications on the world stage.

While the interview lasted 27 minutes, Miller discussed her views on Iran for only a portion of that time. Still, it offered a rare glimpse into the central Illinois Republican’s views on foreign policy.

Miller said she supports “maximum sanctions” and “maximum pressure” on Iran due to the country’s nuclear program — a status quo position after policies implemented by former President Donald Trump.

“The thought of lifting any sanctions is ridiculous, and it’s about like whistling to open the border and (letting) everybody come in.” Miller said.

Barbara Slavin, Director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, a think tank which supports U.S. and European cooperation, said the policy of maximum sanctions has caused immense suffering in Iran. She described U.S. sanctions as “devastating.”

“The consequences of redoubled US sanctions, whether intentional or not, pose a serious threat to Iranians’ right to health and access to essential medicines…ranging from a lack of critical drugs for epilepsy patients to limited chemotherapy medications for Iranians with cancer,” the non-governmental organization, Human Rights Watch, explained in 2019.

Slavin said former President Trump’s decision in 2018 to leave the Iran Nuclear Deal (also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) — a stance supported by Congresswoman Miller — has actually led to the growth of the country’s nuclear program and a lack of transparency around it.

Sanctions have “not only failed to stop the Iran nuclear program, but Iran has massively advanced the nuclear program since Trump pulled out of it,” Slavin, who’s also a lecturer at George Washington University, said.

President Joe Biden has yet to re-join the Iran Nuclear Deal, or lift maximum economic sanctions on the country.

Founded in 2020, Iranian Americans for Liberty is critical of diplomacy and supports regime change in the country. As the anti-war think tank, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, noted in 2021, Iranian Americans for Liberty “is closely aligned with Iranian monarchists, who advocate for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic and the return of Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi to the country as the leader of a constitutional monarchy.”

Leib, Executive Director of Iranian Americans for Liberty, is a contributor to the conservative outlet Newsmax. He’s also a member of the Jewish Voices for Trump Coalition.

“Iranian Americans for Liberty — which also has ties to pro-Israel advocacy organizations and has apparently sought to obscure the source of its funding — often launches attacks against other Iranian American organizations and citizens that it claims, without evidence, to be agents of the Iranian regime,” the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft stated.

Slavin said Iranian Americans for Liberty isn’t a well known group in the Iranian-American community, and described their board members as having little prominence in international affairs. 

Miller is a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. In recent years, Iranian Americans for Liberty has courted other members of the caucus, such as Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona.

Harrison Malkin is a reporter for Illinois Public Media. Follow him @HarrisonMalkin

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Harrison Malkin

Harrison Malkin is a politics reporter at Illinois Public Media. He's focusing on elections across the state, particularly the 13th and 15th congressional districts and the gubernatorial race. Malkin studied Politics and Communications at Ithaca College, where he was a nightly newscaster and reporter for WICB. From 2020 to 2021, he was a reporting fellow at the Center on Media, Crime, and Justice at John Jay College. You can send a tip, recommendation, or note to hmalkin@illinois.edu.

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