Linking Human Rights To The Nuclear Deal

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Should human rights be linked to the nuclear discussions between the West and Iran? Here are three different perspectives…

 

“Human Rights are Internal (period)”.

In general, the “old boys” in Tehran don’t want linkage just as they don’t want any external interference on anything. Since the regime is responsible for isolating Iran and upholding strict Sha’aria laws which are the backbone for the horrid state of human rights in Iran, all “problems” are deemed internal and are not open to criticism.

The “regime” is a very general description for the Iranian leaders who want to uphold the status quo of ruling the Iranian people in a manner that seems incompatible to democracy. These include Supreme Leader Khamenei himself, as well as his minions of mullahs and IRGC generals.

These leaders are uncomfortable with any discussions that might lead to compromise and loss of face and are the first to negate bundling any of these together, eagerly looking for excuses to pull the hand breaks at the smallest sign of weakness.

 

“Human Rights are Internal, but…”

President Rouhani foreign policy is a testament of his efforts to change Iran’s relationship with the world. He and Foreign Minister Zarif are definitely a part of the regime in that they do not feel comfortable with any concessions to Iran’s power but they are Westernized enough to understand that without concessions, a deal with the West will be impossible.

Every agreement with the P5+1 on the nuclear issue that could be construed as a concession was followed immediately with idealized descriptions of loopholes in order to soothe the ruffled feathers of the suspicious regime leaders.

Both Rouhani and Zarif might be willing to concede that the state of human rights in Iran could be improved but are not ready to confront the regime in order to do so. They too definitely do not want linkage with human rights on any level because they know too well that their chances of changing the regime’s stance on Sha’aria laws are next to impossible.

 

Human Rights Linkage is Key to Success

We believe that in order for Tehran to truly stand behind a nuclear deal, it must let go of all the laws, norms and aspirations that lead to Iran’s isolation in the first place. As long as Iran is isolated in any of its paths, its path to militarizing its nuclear program will always remain and any nuclear deal is simply a temporary testament of goodwill and a far cry from the guarantee it is meant to be.

As such, any linkage between the nuclear issue and other symptoms of the regime’s hardline strategy is not an option but a necessity.

 

 

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Ashton, the Regime IS the Message (part 2)

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Khamenei Was Right

Back in February, Supreme Leader Khamenei stated that the US wants to change the regime in Iran. Although most Western diplomats would outwardly shake their heads in denial, in their hearts they would probably agree with Khamenei.

In our last post we pointed out that Tehran’s stance on Human Rights and on its Nuclear Program are similar symptoms to the real problem – the regime of Ayatollahs. In both cases, the regime is striving to avoid any external interference in an agenda that is deemed to be internal. The difference is that, at least for now, President Rouhani seems ready to talk about reaching a nuclear deal while any talk of human rights abuse is nearly non-existent.

Ashton and Zarif Learn the Hard Way

EU Chief Catherine Ashton probably believed that by seemingly making headway on the nuclear track, she could do the same on the human rights track as well. She was proven wrong not only by the rants of hardliners but by a diplomatic snub by none other than the smiling Foreign Minister Zarif himself who subsequently cancelled a dinner meeting with Ashton.

Whether Zarif knew about Ashton’s meeting beforehand or not is still in question but Zarif’s reaction symbolizes the large and sensitive political gulf between Iran and the West.

Zarif did not exit cleanly: following Ashton’s meeting, Zarif shot out a warning to the Austrian ambassador for abuse of diplomatic rights. Within a week, the Austrian response came back loud and clear in a meeting between Zarif and members of the Austrian parliament who grilled him on the human rights issue in Iran. Zarif objected on the politicization of the human rights issue in discussions with Iran but found himself admitting that “there was room for improvement” on the state of Human rights in Iran.

Sarah Shourd Learned the Harder Way

Unlike Ashton and Zarif who used diplomatic maneuvers, Sarah Shourd, an American was arrested in July 2009 with two fellow Americans, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, while hiking in the Zagros Mountains on the border of Iraq and Iran. The three were charged with spying and thrown in jail. Sarah spent 410 days in solitary confinement until her release which was expedited up by her insistence of a growing tumor in her breast.

Once out, she campaigned successfully for the release of her friends who followed her to freedom after approx. 800 days in prison…the happy ending became happier as Shourd and Bauer married soon after his release.

Shourd, Bauer and Fattal might have been unlucky to be thrown in jail but getting out alive makes them extremely lucky.

Khamenei Remains the Key

Khamenei is Supreme Leader and as such, abhors any form of pressure, especially pressure from outside of Iran.

On the eve of the Iranian new year, Khamenei communicated the need for Iran to be self-reliant in the face of the West, emphasizing “economy, culture and knowledge” as the means to achieve self-reliance. Economy is key here since economic sanctions were and remain the best forms of pressuring the regime.

Khamenei himself acknowledged that in the past year, “The Year of Political and Economic Valor”, political valor was achieved but as to economic valor, “what should have been done and what was expected to be done was not done”. In any case, he named this year “The Year of Economy and Culture with National Determination and Jihadi Management” – whatever that means.

A few days later, he expanded on the need for internal freedom by emphasizing the lack of freedom shown to people who questioned the Holocaust: “#Holocaust is an event whose reality is uncertain and if it has happened, it’s uncertain how it has happened. They treat their redlines in such manner. How can they expect us to neglect our faith’s redlines #freedom #holocaust“. Khamenei wants to raise Iran’s red lines to the level of the Holocaust in order that no one will criticize or pressure him again.

Ashton, the Regime IS the Message

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Human Rights and the Nuclear Program

The issue of human rights surrounding Catherine Ashton’s visit in Tehran might seem to some a meaningless sidetrack on the highway to negotiate a permanent deal with Tehran on its nuclear program. It isn’t.

The problem with Tehran’s nuclear program, has been its lack of transparency and its unwillingness to set the infamous Iranian pride aside long enough to focus on peaceful relations with the rest of the world. Its unwillingness to accept UN resolutions and wall-to-wall criticism on the nature of its nuclear program were coupled with an arrogant defiance and macho bravado that fuelled accusations and threats that seemed condescending and border-line paranoid to the West. And although President Rouhani’s smile spearheaded the rapprochement with the West, it is the never ending rants of the hardliners that remind us that Tehran might not yet have the humility needed to accept that if everyone says that there is a problem in the contested nuclear program, there simply is one.

Now, substitute the words “nuclear program” in this paragraph to “human rights problem” and notice that it rings true in the same manner. They are both symptoms of the main problem…the bigoted regime that places Islamic Revolutionary values above all else.

Rants and Rebuttals

Ashton’s primary objective in Tehran was obviously the nuclear deal and her meetings with Rouhani and Zarif retained the essence of Rouhani’s hash tag #Constructive_Engagement.

But her two hour meeting in the Austrian embassy with 7 Iranian women’s rights activists brought the realities of the regime back into the spotlight. The next day, posters of Ashton morphed with Saddam Hussein over pictures of dead babies hit the streets and the angry rants followed:

Meanwhile…

And just as the rants from Tehran faded into background echoes, Dr. Shaheed Ahmed, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights, opened a press conference regarding his latest report on Iran with this statement: “Today, I report with deep regret that despite overtures and announcements emanating from the newly elected Iranian government, and perhaps even in spite of modest attempts to take steps towards reform, the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran remains of serious concern.” Un Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon joined Ahmed and “sharply rebuked the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, for failing to improve human rights since taking office in August“.

Yes, Rouhani would prefer to separate the negotiations with the West on the nuclear program from the issue of human rights but, unfortunately, both are intrinsically connected to the same regime.

West Too Desperate To Trust Iran

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Should the West Trust Iran?

The discussions between the West and Iran concerning the nuclear deal are boiling down to one word – “TRUST“.

For years, Tehran, and specifically, Supreme Leader Khamenei, reiterated time and again that militarizing its nuclear program is not an option…but nobody really believed it because at the same time, he was spewing anti-Western rants (he still does) and the nuclear program had literally gone underground (it still is).

And then, President Rouhani took office in a whirlwind of promises for change and moderation. Suddenly, the faces representing Tehran showed up with smiles paving the way to the nuclear deal. For a while, it seemed that Tehran could be trusted. IAEA inspectors flew in, nuclear plants were open for inspections and uranium enrichment beyond 5% diminished. Sanctions were lifted and hardliners on all sides had to sit back and simmer for a while.

3 Reasons Not To Trust Iran

Unfortunately, the smiling diplomats from Tehran headed by Rouhani and Foreign  Minister Zarif worked hard to find loopholes in the deal and they were joined by the hardliners to state the obvious – There would be no “freezing”, “dismantling”, “reigned in”, “rolled back” etc… as the West believed. At most, Tehran was ready to press the “pause” button. And yet, the West kept on hammering at a deal in the hope of winning the day through diplomacy as a worthy alternative to a military option.

But then, there’s the issue of Iran’s support of Syria (Assad). Although Tehran continues to support Assad politically, financially and militarily as we have shown in earlier posts, the same smiling diplomats set up a wall of denials in an effort to distance themselves from the atrocities and from Hezbollah itself. In the face of all the evidence to prove otherwise, each denial represents another crack in the wall of trust Rouhani had worked hard to create. Efforts to link Iran’s involvement in Syria to the nuclear talks were immediately shot down by Tehran and so, the West plods on.

Finally, the interception by the Israelis of a ship loaded with weapons originating in Syria, travelling through Iran and headed for Gaza poked another big hole in Tehran’s veil of trustw. While the Israelis touted the “smoking gun” they were seeking, Zarif immediately set up a wall of circumstancial denials. First, he ridiculed the munitions seizure by spinning it into an attempted PR stunt by Israel coinciding with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s presence at the annual AIPAC meeting in Washington – “Amazing Coincidence! Or same failed lies.” He then stated that it would be “inconsecutive” for Assad to send missiles to Gaza when he needs them badly himself.  And although he may be right about the great timing vis-à-vis the AIPAC convention and that Assad needs the weapons, the fact remains that containers of missiles and ammunition emanating from Syria and shipped through Iran are now in Israeli custody in Eilat. And the fact remains that, despite yet another reason to mistrust Iran, the West continues to bet on diplomacy.

So, Can Iran Be Trusted?

Rouhani and Zarif have proven themselves to lack trustworthiness in their denials on the nuclear program, on their involvement in Syria and on their involvement in attempted terrorism against the civilian population in Israel. If this were a baseball game, the umpire would shout out “strike three, you’re out” and Tehran would be sent off the field.

Unfortunately, it seems that after so many denials by Rouhani and company, it is the West’s turn to be in denial, preferring to ignore all the warning signs in an effort to let diplomacy save the day. And although it is admirable to do everything possible to avert a war, if Iran can’t be trusted, what’s the use in a deal?

Human Rights Worsen Under Rouhani

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Tehran Justifying Capital Punishment

The official count on “criminals” executed in Iran last year is 529. The number has gone up since Rouhani, not down.

Some of these “criminals” were hanged after being charged with murder, drug trafficking, rape etc… But the list of charges against them include also vague crimes such as Moharebeh (“corruptor on earth” or “enmity with God” or “acting against national security”) or simply “unknown”.

And while some might find the executions of hardened criminals justified – that still depends on the belief that they received fair trials. No-one, but the Iranian mullahs, can justify the execution of Hashem Shaabani, an Iranian activist and poet who was hanged last January, after spending three years in prison.

The Sha’aria laws that fuel these flagrant abuses of basic human rights are easily manipulated to silence any criticism against the mullahs and their leaders and what makes matters worse is that public floggings and hangings have become regular gruesome spectacles for hundreds of thousands of Iranians a year.

Rouhani Smiles On Despite Human Wrongs

So while this may seem like business as usual for Iran, it seems to be getting worse: Uzra Zeya, acting assistant secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor, released a report on Thursday, saying there has been “little meaningful improvement in human rights in Iran” under President Rouhani.

So while Rouhani is basking in the success of his smile diplomacy that has resulted in a definite thaw in relations with Western countries and an economic boom, the state of affairs within Iran is nothing to smile about, with approximately 66 executions per month (19% more than the average over two years before he took office).

And while Rouhani repeatedly digs his heels against concessions to the West regarding Tehran’s suspect nuclear program citing the “pride of the Iranian people”, he hasn’t dealt even once with the state of human rights/wrongs in Iran which are definitely tarnishing the pride of the regime in Tehran.

Some believe that Rouhani is not tackling the human wrongs in Iran because he is not strong enough to battle the extremists or the IRGC leaders on this issue. They may be right. But his inability to wage battle over human rights should ring loads of warning bells to Western negotiators and businessmen as to his ability to battle these same people regarding the nuclear program.