Capitol Hill lawmakers introduced this week the first formal piece of legislation to express support for the demonstrations that have shaken the regime and condemned the government’s violent response.

Representative Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican and co-sponsor of the bill, said: “With this resolution, Congress is sending the strong, bipartisan message to the people of Iran that we support their democratic aspirations and will do everything in our power to hold this regime accountable for its deliberate human rights violations.”

The protests, which began on November 15 after the government tripled fuel prices, are the biggest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and quickly spread into a much broader anti-regime movement. The regime instituted a nationwide internet blackout to stop protesters from communicating with each other and the outside world.

Representative Ted Deutch, Florida Democrat who also co-sponsored the resolution, said: “The Iranian regime has an infamous reputation for egregious human rights abuses against its own people, including by censoring the internet, restricting both religious freedom and political participation, imprisoning journalists, and torturing political dissidents.”

Amnesty International said that at least 208 people have been killed by the regime in these protests, while US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said last week that the true number may well be over 1,000.

The Pentagon confirmed that it is considering sending thousands more American troops to the Middle East to contain Iranian aggression.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Wednesday: “Tehran’s efforts to destabilize the region have increased in recent months [and the US is seeing] a lot of turmoil in the streets of many cities of Iran.”

While the State Department announced more sanctions on several Iranian shipping and aviation entities, saying that they had been helping Iran’s nuclear program, which, alongside other moves to put pressure on Iran, has been welcomed by Iranian-American critics of the regime.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the US office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said that while the House bill is “great first step,” it doesn’t provide the tangible backing from the US government.

Representative John Garamendi, California Democrat, said: “We’ve got a long way to go here. But I join with you in looking to a future in which democracy and human rights are in Iran. I join with you that that should occur in the near future, not in the next millennium.”