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.