Deadline Extension Pushes Rouhani Under or East

iran east west

As the nuclear talks deadline was extended yet again (this time for seven months),  and it still remains to be seen whether this will mean more sanctions on the people of Iran, it is time to look at the person who probably has the most to lose by this situation: Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani.

The Promise in Rouhani

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Rouhani, it must be remembered, was elected a year and a half ago on the basis of reformation and getting the country’s economy into motion after long years of stagnation from sanctions, among other things. This is still far from being the case.

We cannot ignore that under his rule, Iran is indeed trying to speak with the West, although its tactic can be summarized as “stall + divide“. Also, most critics and experts on Iran agree that the true power lies in the hand of supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.

But Rouhani is a symbol of sorts, having been elected on the slogan “Government of Prudence and Hope”, one might argue that Rouhani is the only viable partner for talks in the current regime. Holding that assumption, it is quite alarming, when putting 2 and 2 together, to see that Rouhani is in big trouble politically.

Growing Opposition to Rouhani

27261Image1Reports from Tehran suggest that there is plan for a coup d’état in Iran. There is also the political blunder Rouhani has been facing for a long time now, when he was unable to appoint a science minister, a fact that marks clear problems with the Iranian parliament. Also, there are always tensions with the IRGC and other hardliners in Iran who, on the whole, vehemently resist any concessions on the nuclear program.

Were Iran a Western country, Rouhani might rely on the popular support he receives from his public. But a) even that support seems to be slipping away from him and b) popular support can be easily overridden in Tehran with one word by Khamenei just as in the bungled 2009 elections.

Rouhani: Under or East?

putin-rouhani-russia-iranWe shouldn’t be surprised then, that this might be the moment that his foes from inside have been waiting for and that the failure of the nuclear negotiations might lead to a severe backlash that Tehran’s hardliners must have been praying for.

Either that, or Rouhani will have to go down an alternative path: give up on rapprochement with the West and the elimination of sanctions while choosing to “buddy-up” to an “anti-West” coalition headed by Russia and backed by China, members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and neighbors who may have a strategic economic interest such as India.

In any case, the West will have lost the chance to normalize its relationship with Iran even though no one really knows how the West would benefit from such a friendship.

Lawyers and Journalists Become “Endangered Species” in Iran

endangered

 

Despite Rouhani’s “moderacy”, or perhaps because of it, things in Iran seeem to be going from bad to worse. Rouhani’s promises for changes in the state of human rights appealed to his voters but also ruffled up quite a few feathers among hardliners who want to maintain the status quo “gained” ander Ahmadinejad.

Human rights lawyers and journalists seem to be on the front line with poilitcal opposition activists and minorities – anyone whose presence reminds the hardliners by their presence that the criticism against the state of human rights in Iran is horrid.

Nasrin Sotoodeh is a human rights lawyer who was jailed, relleased and re-jailed following protest over the acid attacks against women in Iran. She spent 3 years in Evin prison and was awarded the Sakharov prize for freedom of thought. She was also under a ten-year ban from practicing, and although the ban was released, it is now re-instated.

Jason Rezaian is an American-Iranian journalist working for the Washington Post in Iran. He was arrested for charges that range from sedition to spying and has been in jail for over three months with limited access to his lawyer nor communication to his family. He was arrested with his wife who was subsequently released.

Of course, these two do not represent the thousands of people who are rotting in prisons in Iran for charges which would seem ludicrous anywhere else in the world. But they do represent the problem olying behind Rouhani’s promises: as the rates of hangings increase and as persecutions of religious/sexual minorities are on the rise, the inability of Rouhani to deal with these two high-profile cases exemplifies the stalemate in Iran – human “wrongs” in Iran are getting worse and Rouhani remains silent.

 

Other relevant posts:

larijanis-speech-at-upr-nominated-for-oscar/

irans-human-rights-problem-find-out-on-october-31st-at-upr-of-iran/

rouhani-stop-lying-about-human-rights/

Don’t Trust Rouhani’s Trust in “Nuclear Fatwa”

nuclear fatwa

The problems and the possible deal with Iran on its nuclear program boil down to one word: TRUST.

In reality, there is very little trust between Tehran and the P5+1 because, if the past is a judge of the future, Iran broke whatever trust there was by crossing IAEA red lines repeatedly. In order to foster such a trust, Tehran will have to go beyond its usual denials and produce a form of commitment that will allay the fears that Iran’s nuclear program will lead to a nuclear-armed Iran.

That’s why when Rouhani points to Khamenei’s dubious “nuclear fatwa” “(fatwa = religious edict) as “the most solid proof to guarantee the peaceful nature of the Iranian program”, it only serves to increase the distrust.

The problem with the nuclear fatwa

IRAN-US-IRAQ-KHAMENEIEven if there is no doubt that Khamenei issued his oral “nuclear fatwa” prohibiting the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons, there are many doubts concerning the effectiveness of this fatwa as a binding commitment the world can trust for two specific reasons:

  • There is no written version of this fatwa anywhere – not in the Iranian parliament, nor on any official site (not even Khamenei’s). Although some verbal fatwas proved to be binding, the fact that such an important fatwa is not written nor has it been passed as law by the parliament weakens its strength as a binding commitment.
  • The fact that fatwas, according to Muslim law, may be rescinded by the issuer of the fatwa or by his successor without any reservations or problems further weakens the calls of Iranians to portray the fatwa as “proof” that Iran is not seeking the bomb.

Basically, if this is the most “solid proof” of Tehran’s innocence, we are in big trouble. If we add this weak link to the stream of accusations and threats reminiscent of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, the word “trust” is the last to come to mind.

More reasons for mistrust

Anti-US_TehranThe US, “the Great Satan”, is accused regularly of everything from being the agent behind all terrorism in the Middle East (#potcallingkettleblack) for promoting Islamophobia, for creating the ebola virus, for changes in the climate etc…

The accusations, sometimes ringing true and sometimes sounding ridiculous, are backed with constant threats of “eradicating” the US’s ally in the region – Israel. Khamenei even issued a 9 point plan on how to destroy Israel.

These threats become ominous when they are backed by boasts by Khamenei, IRGC commanders, politicians and mullahs of Iran’s missile power which, if and when Iran reaches break-out point, can bring nuclear destruction to any enemy in its sights.

In the end, as long as Tehran has a nuclear program, nothing Rouhani can say or do can create enough trust to believe that it won’t lead to a nuclear bomb. Only full compliance over time can do that.

The world has to accept that no nuclear deal will magically destroy any chance for Iran to make a bomb – at best, it can only delay the break-out point.

Owning a Dog in Iran = 74 Lashes

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This could have been funny if it were not sad: Dog owners in Iran are liable to receive 74 lashes.

Here’s what the law says: “Anyone who walks or plays with animals such as dogs or monkeys in public places will damage Islamic culture, as well as the hygiene and peace of others, especially women and children”. The Koran doesn’t forbid dogs but that doesn’t seem to bother the lawmakers in Iran. Oh, the law doesn’t apply to the police, hunters and farmers.

74 lashes for owning a dog in Iran! And this follows human rights chief Larijani’s “Oscar-winning” performance at the UPR in which he categorally stated that there is no torture in Iran. Perhaps that’s because Larijani has created a new loophole in what he calls “multi-cultural” human rights: that would mean that if Iran decides to punish someone with 74 lashes for owning a dog in Iran, that should be OK because it is simply part of Iran’s culture.

Endless Circles on Road to Nuclear Deal

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Endless Circle 1: Khamenei’s Red Lines

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One look at Supreme Leader Khamenei’s red lines for nuclear negotiations is enough to understand that Iran is in no mood to compromise on anything any time soon. All his red lines focus on maintaining Tehran’s nuclear program “as-is” despite the fact that the problem arises from the transgression of numerous red lines set down by the IAEA over the past decade.

Sanctions were put in place due to the fact that Tehran crossed the IAEA’s red lines and it is these sanctions inadvertently brought about the election of Rouhani whose critical goal is to rid Iran of the sanctions. But Khamenei isn’t budging: He wants the sanctions removed and his nuclear program intact.

But in the meantime, he is leading the world around and around in circles, speaking first of “heroic flexibility” and then retreating back to defiance.

It’s like someone caught stealing who wants to plea bargain his way into keeping his freedom and the loot.  Or like having a cake, eating it and asking for more.

 

Endless Circle 2: Crossing IAEA Red Lines

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Although Rouhani promised greater transparency and although Iran has stopped, as far as we know, enriching Uranium beyond 5%, parts of Tehran’s nuclear program remain hidden from the eyes of IAEA inspectors and the world.

Iran is still not answering any questions regarding possible military dimensions of its nuclear program and there is still no entry to the Parchin military base which seems to be the focus for military experiments in nuclear devices.

Once again, Tehran goes full circle from transgressing, agreeing to transparency and transgressing once more.

 

Endless Circle 3: Hardliner vs. Charm Offensive

Mohammad Javad Zarif

Supporting Khamenei are a bunch of eager hardliners who want to remind the world that Iran isn’t going to give in promising to increase enrichment if nuclear negotiations falter, that Iran’s missile capabilities are enormous, that no one will cross Khamenei’s red lines etc… Even FM Zarif who adopted Rouhani’s charm campaign knows how to echo Khamenei’s red lines when he suggests that a deal is possible only if the P5+1 would “officially recognize” Tehran’s nuclear program in its entirety.

Hello Mr. Zarif! Skilled negotiators such as yourself and your president should know that Iran will have to give something in order to get something. Perhaps he knows something about the steadfastness of the West we don’t? Or perhaps, this is simply endless-circling diplomacy – Zarif is a wizard at turning hot and cold repetitively, effusing optimism and pessimism in quick succession

 

Endless Circle 4: Iranian Double Talk

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Another form of counter-productive rhetoric that complicates the negotiations is the issue of the effect of sanctions. Rouhani won the election with a promise to free Iran of the sanctions and he seems definitely focused on this goal.

To most people around the world, including Obama himself, the only reason that Iran is even willing to negotiate a deal is the pressure of sanctions on the Iranian economy. And it’s working: Lo and behold, the few sanction reliefs have already kick jumped Iran’s economy.

But somehow, some leaders including Zarif himself continue to belittle the effects of sanctions (“sanctions have utterly failed“) while striving to make them disappear at the same time…once again,endless circles that give Iran more time without making any hard decisions.

Obama may be sending letters to Khamenei and Kerry might be writing checks that he can’t deliver but for Khamenei, the US was and remains the “Great Satan” which represents the “arrogant powers” who are doomed to failure under the great Islamic Awakening and the upcoming “Century of Islam”.

 

Breaking the Endless Circles: Just Answer 3 Questions!

Iran will have to decide which is better – a nuclear deal or increased poverty?

The West has to decide – can Iran can be trusted with a nuclear program?

And we should all ask ourselves – what happens after Khamenei?

One year in jail for watching a volleyball game

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Following our earlier post on Ghoncheh Ghavami

A short recap: This young British-Iranian activist for women’s rights was picked up by the police for watching a volley ball game in a gender segregated stadium.

She was released, rearrested and sent to th einfamous Evin prison where she has spent over 100 days and nights – at least 40 in solitary confinement – with limited connections to her lawyer and family.

At first, no one knew what were the charges – Iranian media reported that she would be charged for espionage at one point but this week, the sentence went through and she received one year in jail for “propaganda agains the regime”.

She is now on her second hunger-strike.

All this follows another post regarding Iran’s head of human rights, Javad Larijani’s “outstanding oscar performance” and the UPR of Iran in which he made Iran sound like a paradise for human rights.

Here are a few relevant quotes which are in stark contrast to what Ghavami has been through and will continue to go through for the next 9 months:

  • Larijani: Tehran “genuinely and meaningfully” involves its citizens “without any discrimination of any kind”.
    Iran 24/07: He forgot to mention the severe gender segregation that landed Ghavami in jail in the first place.
  • Larijani: All Iranian nationals are “equal before the law”, “have the right to choose their own lawyers” and can count on “the presumption of innocence”.
  • Iran 24/07: Ghavami, a British-Iranian national, may be “equal before the law” in Iran but she still has very limited access to her lawyer and has remained in jail since she was picked up over three months ago.
  • Larijani: Iran prohibits the use of torture and arbitrary arrest.
    Iran 24/07: ghavami was picked up at the stadium and was reportedly “beat up a bit” before letting her go and picking her up again…this time to jail.

Larijani’s speech at UPR nominated for Oscar

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Viewing Javad Larijani’s speech at the Universal Periodic Review is not easy to do – Iran’s Human Rights chief filled his speech with self-righteousness, generalizations and justifications coming off as if there are no human rights problems in Iran…at all.

Watching it three times in succession maked it easier to understand: Larijani’s speech is just too good to be true and he is simply lying.

 

Lie after lie after lie…

Here are a few of Larijani’s best lines:

  • Larijani: Iran continues to “fully participate” for the “promotion and protection of human rights”.
    Iran24/07: Iran promotes human rights? Iran was ranked 167th with a 36% average by the International Human Rights Rank Indicator in 2013 – Iran still has a long way to go!
  • Larijani: Since the last report, Iran has “constantly worked for further promotion and protection of human rights”.
    Iran24/07: Constantly worked? Since its last UPR, Iran received 212 recommendations, accepted 126 (59%) and implemented only 5 (2%)…in 4 years!
  • Larijani: “The will of the people shall be the basis of authority of the government”.
    Iran 24/07: The will of the people? How about the will of the people who elected three political leaders (Mousavi, Karroubi and Rahnavard) who are still under house arrest after 4 years?!
  • Larijani: Tehran “genuinely and meaningfully” involves its citizens “without any discrimination of any kind”.
    Iran 24/07: Without any discrimination? The regime systematically discriminates on the basis of gender (in sports stadiums, municipality offices…), religion (over 300 individuals in prison because of their religion), age (girls married at the age of 9), sexual orientation (capital punishment for gays) etc…
  • Larijani: Baha’is enjoy all the possibilities/privileges of Iranian citizens.
    Iran 24/07: Bahai’s enjoy rights? Bahai’s, like Christians and Kurds are treated like Iranians as long as they do not preach their faith and ideals – once they do that, they are systematically persecuted by the states and vigilantes for trumped charges of espionage!
  • Larijani: Iran creates and maintains the “necessary measures for the protection of the rights of the vulnerable groups” (especially women and children).
    Iran 24/07: Protecting women? The latest spree of acid attacks for “bad hijab” were sparked by a law, passed in the Iranian parliament to enforce “enjoining good and forbidding wrong” by empowering civilian vigilantes!
  • Larijani: There are no forced legal marriages of children in Iran.
    Iran 24/07: No forced marriages? The legal age for marriage in Iran is 13 but girls as young as 9 can be married with permission from a court –Does Larijani want us to believe that all the 40,635 brides under 15 (including 1,537 under 10) married between March 2012 and March 2013 really consent to their marriages?!
  • Larijani: Iran adheres to a full separation of powers (executive, legislature, judiciary).
    Iran 24/07: Full separation? The IRGC which is the real basis of power in Iran is active in all three allowing the IRGC the power to circumvent the law repeatedly just as they did with Mousavi, Karroubi and Rahnavard!
  • Larijani: All Iranian nationals are “equal before the law”, “have the right to choose their own lawyers” and can count on “the presumption of innocence”.
    Iran 24/07: Rights to lawyers and innocent until proven guilty? Ask Jason Rezaian, a WaPo reporter, or Goncheh Gavami, a women’s rights activist – both were picked up and thrown into solitary confinement with limited access to their lawyers on trumped-up charges of espionage…and are still in jail!
  • Larijani: Iran prohibits the use of torture and arbitrary arrest.
    Iran 24/07: No torture or arbitrary arrests? Just google “Iran torture” to get an idea – people still get nabbed from their houses/offices and are thrown into jails where they are treated to abuse, beatings, rape and torture – Reyhaneh Jabbari herself was thrown into solitary confinement and tortured in an effort to get her to confess!
  • Larijani: Iran has “continuously worked for the promotion of human rights ” (with the UN).
    Iran 24/07: Working with the UN? Ahmed Shaheed, the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in Iran has not been allowed into Iran since taking office in 2011 because of accusations by Iran that his reports were unfair and political…Is that how Iran “cooperates” with the UN?!
  • Larijani: The imposition of (unjustified and unfair) sanctions in Iran has created obstacles to human rights.
    Iran 24/07: Unjustified and unfair? The responsibility for the sanctions lie wholly on Iran’s continuous strategy of evasion, lies, lack of transparency and non-adherence to IAEA policies and requests in its nuclear program including denying access to IAEA inspectors until today!
  • Larijani: Iran “adheres to renouncement of all forms of violence” and calls for unity in “combatting all forms of terrorism and extremism”.
    Iran 24/07: Renouncing violence and battling terrorism? When Larijani, like other Iranian leaders talk about fighting terrorism they conveniently “forget” that Iran supports state-sanctioned terrorism through its Qods forces and proxy terrorist organizations (Hezbollah and others) in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other countries!

 

What to expect? More lies…

Larijani and all the top leaders in the regime understand the rules of the game well: when in trouble, lie, conceal and gain time.

Larijani can say whatever he likes because he knows that nobody can really check up on him – especially since he banned the Shaheed from entering Iran.

And in a way, this method of lying and concealing resonates through all the interactions between the regime and the rest of the world in the fields of human rights, nuclear programs, military operations, terrorism etc…

Lie, conceal and gain time.