In a rare moment of bipartisanship, Republicans and Democrats shared some common ground this weekend as an unlikely collaboration of lawmakers joined in calls from Iranian dissidents for a democratic Iran and for the regime to be removed.
Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Kevin McCarthy, Rick Scott and Thom Tillis, alongside Democrat Sens. Cory Booker, Bob Menendez and Maggie Hassan all took part of the “Free Iran World Summit.”
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-NY, also spoke at the event.
The event was organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella group for resistance groups opposed to the regime in Tehran and who call for a democratic and secular Iran.
The event came after hardliner Ebrahim Raisi won the country’s presidential election amid mass boycotts and accusations of election rigging. Many noted the accusations of human rights abuses against Raisi — for which he has been sanctioned by the U.S.
McCarthy joined others in calling out a regime and new present that he said “has a history of suppressing freedom of speech, supporting terrorism and seeking nuclear weapons.”
“I’m happy to be with you today to stand in support of a free and democratic Iran,” he said.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the chair of the House Democratic caucus, made a similar statement.
“The Iranian government brutalizes its citizens and exports terrorism throughout the world and so I commend you on your courage, your strength and on your leadership in helping to bring about a free, secular and non-nuclear Iran and to give Iranians the types of freedoms and liberties they deserve.”
The largely virtual event included hundreds of Iranian activists appearing from inside Iran at key monuments, their faces blurred, to show the continued resistance within Iran.
Booker hailed Iranian-American contributions to U.S. society, and praised Iranians who defied “the authoritarian Iranian regime” in protests and social movements.
“Their desire for democracy and justice outweighed their fear of being injured or taken to jail,” he said, saying he was confident that one day the world would see a “free and open” Iran.
Menendez said it was “a beacon of hope that one day the people of Iran, the United States and all the world will rejoice in an Iranian government at peace with the international community and works to secure a better future for its people.”
Cruz took a different approach and criticized the Obama administration for entering the “catastrophic” Iran nuclear deal and other moves. He praised the Trump administration for its maximum pressure campaign, and accused the new Biden administration of appeasing what he called an “evil and despotic regime.”
“We’re now heading into a dangerous chapter, with the Biden-Harris administration,” he said. “They worked to undermine the national security gains made in the last four years and reinvigorate the ayatollahs.”
Talks have been ongoing in Vienna to bring both the U.S. and Iran back to the 2015 nuclear deal. The Biden administration has expressed willingness to rejoining after the Trump administration withdrew in 2018.
Raisi recently said he would not meet with President Biden, at least until sanctions were removed.