President Barack Obama used his speech before the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to highlight a new policy that would sanction companies and individuals that provided telecommunications technology to Iran and Syria that is used to carry out human rights abuses.
The executive order, which President Obama announced on Monday would place sanctions on companies and foreign nationals that assist the governments of Iran and Syria to provide certain cellphone tracking and Internet monitoring technologies in order to crack down on dissent in those countries.
"I've signed an executive order that authorizes new sanctions against the Syrian government and Iran and those that abet them for using technologies to monitor and track and target citizens for violence," President Obama said in his remarks. "These technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not to repress them."
A senior Democratic congressional aide told WJW that the latest executive order by President Obama shows his commitment to stop Iran's illicit behavior, particularly its drive towards developing nuclear weapons.
"This is just the latest example that President Obama says what he means when he reiterates the policy of the United States that we will prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons," the Democratic aide said. "The number one issue is preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons. President Obama has said that he'll use all elements of America's power and take no option off the table and that includes undermining the Iranian regime and its horrendous human rights record."
A Republican adviser familiar with sanctions laws indicated that the executive order was a good first step, but more needs to be done in preventing countries from utilizing these technologies to oppress their citizens.
"It's time to declare the telecommunications and high-tech sectors of these countries as zones of electronic repression and prohibit all international business dealings with those sectors. Legislation pending in the Senate would do that for Iran - and Congress should expand that idea to places like Syria as well," the adviser told WJW.
In Congress, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is pushing for an amendment to the Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Human Rights Act of 2012 in the Senate, while Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and Robert Dold (R-Ill.) are working towards similar provisions in the House that would sanction these companies for their roles in human rights abuses.