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“Terrorist Regime”: Witnesses Testify on the Iranian Regime’s Escalating Threats to the U.S. Homeland, Human Rights Abuses, Malign Influence

October 25, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, in the first hearing held by the House of Representatives since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel, the House Committee on Homeland Security, led by Chairman Mark E. Green, MD (R-TN) and Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence Chairman August Pfluger (R-TX), questioned witnesses in order to examine and assess the threats posed by the Iranian regime to U.S. homeland security and that of our partners. Watch the full hearing here.
In the hearing, members received confirmation of the immediate and significant threat the Iranian regime poses to U.S. homeland security. Witnesses testified on the malign regime’s funding of terrorist proxies, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, possible terrorist exploitation of vulnerabilities at our open Southwest border, and the need to urgently address the numerous Iranian-backed plots and influence operations on American soil.
Iranian-American journalist and women’s rights activist, Masih Alinejad, provided harrowing testimony of the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Iranian regime and the growing threat to the homeland from the regime’s proxies. In addition, testimony was provided by Nathan A. Sales, former ambassador-at-large and coordinator for counterterrorism, Robert Greenway, the former senior U.S. government official for the Middle East and North Africa at the National Security Council and current director for the Center for National Defense at the Heritage Foundation, and Thomas S. Warrick, a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative of the Atlantic Council.

In Ms. Alinejad’s opening statement, she spoke on behalf of the Iranian people and warned of threats to the United States by the regime:

“The people of Iran are standing in solidarity with the people of Israel. We the people of Iran are held hostage in the hands of this terrorist regime. … The Iranian regime has even targeted individuals who work with me here in the U.S., including my chief of staff. They arrested his brother for a crime of working with me on U.S. soil and he was tortured for 90 days. As one agent told me, ‘The Iranian regime is persistent, and will try again and again.’ But as you hear, I am not going to keep silent. I have come to realize that even on U.S. soil, being safe is too much of a luxury for those of us who dare to criticize the terrorist regime in Iran. Iran’s regime is threatening U.S. citizens on U.S. soil but the [Biden] administration’s response has been very, very disappointing. In the aftermath of the assassination plot, no administration officials have ever reached out to me or other Iranian-Americans facing the same threats.”

Chairman Green asked Ambassador Sales about how terrorist proxies of the Iranian regime could be empowered to threaten the homeland through our vulnerable Southwest border:

“In the 1.7 million known gotaways, and these are the individuals that Customs and Border Protection actually seize and can count. These aren’t the unknown gotaways. With those individuals, the known gotaways [and] the unknown gotaways, what guarantees do we have that Hamas hasn’t already penetrated those?”

Ambassador Sales concluded:

“I don’t think we have any guarantees, and I think we have to assume the worst. We know that Iranian-linked terrorists have been found in the United States. I mentioned Hezbollah, 128 Hezbollah operatives arrested over the years by the FBI. Within that population, however many millions or hundreds of thousands of known gotaways. We should not assume that they are all perfectly clean.” 

Subcommittee Chairman Pfluger highlighted the importance of vigilance in the wake of the terrorist attacks on our ally, Israel:

“When you look at what happened in Israel and you compare the threat, the possibility of a threat, Ambassador Sales – what lessons do we learn and what actions must the Biden administration immediately take to prevent that type of attack from happening here?”

Ambassador Sales answered:

“I think one of the lessons from October 7 is that vigilance is essential. We can’t let up on our guard. We have to take our adversary seriously. When they say that they want to kill Americans, we have to believe them, and we have to prepare so that we can prevent them from doing so. When they say they want to wipe Israel off the face of the map—that’s not just rhetoric. When they say, ‘Death to America,’ that means death to Americans. … We have to take that seriously. We have to prepare, and we have to prevent it.”

Chairman Pfluger continued:

“When it comes to our policy towards Iran, give me two or three points that need to be immediately reversed from this administration.”

Ambassador Sales concluded:

“I think the most important thing that we can do is cut off the flow of money to Iran. … The bottom line is that sanctions work. Sanctions deprive terrorists and their state sponsors of the resources that they use to shed blood around the world. During the last administration, when we squeezed Iran’s economy to the point that its accessible foreign currency reserves were equivalent to Haiti, the money for terrorism dried up. Both Hamas and Hezbollah had to adopt austerity programs to deal with the shortfall.”

Subcommittee on Oversight, Accountability, and Investigations Chairman Dan Bishop (R-NC) asked witnesses about reports that several high-level Biden administration officials have sympathetic ties to the Iranian regime as a part of the regime’s ongoing influence operation:

“Is it a threat to the United States homeland if there is an Iranian government influence operation functioning at the highest levels of the [Biden] administration? Does anyone on the panel believe that that would not present a threat to the homeland? Is there anyone on this panel that can enlighten the American people in this hearing about the details of that situation?”
Ms. Alinejad answered:
“It was shocking for you, but not for us Iranians. I was the one who actually launched a petition against Rob Malley right after the brutal murder of Mahsa Amini, because he was the one that actually came out and said, ‘The Iranian people want respect from their government.’ But that was not the fact. The Iranian people sacrifice their lives. More than 700 people got killed, more than 22,000 got arrested. They had only one demand: they want to end this regime. … But Rob Malley actually stopped the Biden administration from meeting with people like me. … That is why we’ve been warning the U.S. government, and we’ve been ignored.”

Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security Chairman Carlos Gimenez (R-FL) asked Mr. Greenway about how the Biden administration’s weakness on the world stage and anti-American energy policies are empowering the Iranian regime:
“Mr. Greenway, I want you to talk to me about how the Biden administration is helping Iran get more of the funding that it needs to conduct its terror operations around the world, including the United States, and the difference between this administration and what was happening in the previous administration. And how [this administration] is pouring billions of dollars into this regime that’s funding all the terror and the chaos that we see around the world.”
Mr. Greenway answered:
“At the conclusion of the Trump administration, as Ambassador Sales pointed out, Iran’s foreign accessible reserves were at $4 billion, which was the equivalent of Haiti. ….They were committed to acquiring resources rather than the conduct of terrorist organizations and terrorist activity. At the moment, they’re accessible foreign exchange reserves are north of $40 billion on their way to $70 billion. Their oil sales are approaching two million barrels a day. And it’s important to note that oil is now north of $90 a barrel, so they’re making more and selling more. This is all breathing life into the organization. The defense budget has increased by 14 percent. That’s just what goes to the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp] itself. And all of that goes then to surrogates and proxies, who now are no longer worried about resources. They have flush amounts of resources and capital. They are now able to focus their time and activity on terrorism.”

Subcommittee on Emergency Management and Technology Chairman Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY) detailed the threat of anti-Semitism in America, especially in the wake of the unprovoked terrorist attacks on Israel:
“I represent the fourth district of New York, which probably has the largest Jewish population of any congressional district across the country. After the horrific attacks that Hamas launched on Israel, former Hamas leader, Khaled Mashal called for Muslims to target and attack Israeli interests and Jews across the globe. We obviously have seen that. Given your background, what effects do messages like these have on individuals here in America who may have become radicalized and are in the shadows, waiting to commit a lone wolf attack?”

Ambassador Sales answered:
“I share your concern about the rising anti-Semitism that has poisoned our public debate, particularly since October 7. It might be comforting to think of anti-Semites as fringe radicals who occupy…the shadows of our society, but in fact, October 7 has made them feel emboldened to come out and be more vocal about their hatred of Jews. In some cases, their desire to see follow-up attacks, somehow even worse than what we saw on October 7. What has been most disheartening to me, as a former university professor, is the extent to which these extreme voices are coming from our elite institutions. When you have ivy league professors saying publicly that they felt exhilarated by the images coming out of Israel. … There is a sickness in academia, and I say this with regret, rather than anger, because for far too long, support for the most violent and depraved anti-Semitic rhetoric – we’ve just turned the other cheek. We have to stop.”

This month, Chairman Green led every Republican member of the Committee on a letter to President Joe Biden condemning the horrific and cowardly terrorist attacks by Iran-backed Hamas against Israel and expressing deep concern over the Biden administration’s actions and inactions on Iran. 
Last week, Chairmen Green, Pfluger, and Bishop, along with Subcommittee on Border Security and Enforcement Chairman Clay Higgins (R-LA), sent a letter to Secretary Mayorkas, requesting information about the employment of Nejwa Ali with DHS’s Citizenship and Immigration Services. Following the recent terrorist attack on Israel, Ms. Ali published extremist, anti-Semitic views online. The Chairmen requested documents and information no later than 5:00 p.m. on November 3, 2023. Additionally, in October, Chairmen Green and Pfluger demanded documents and information from DHS after an internal document was leaked warning that Hamas or Hezbollah terrorists could attempt to illegally cross our Southwest border.
In August, Chairmen Green and Pfluger demanded action and accountability from the Biden administration in the wake of Iran’s growing threats and retaliation on U.S. soil. In the letter addressed to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray, and National Counterterrorism Center Director Christine Abizaid, the Chairmen request a staff-level classified briefing on the ongoing threats against former national security officials and journalists as well as information about the agencies’ coordination efforts to counter the regime’s activities. These homeland security threats come as the Biden administration negotiates a new nuclear deal with Iran.