Tehran’s Duality on Terrorism & Democracy

With the recent twin terror attacks in Iran, hitting at the parliament and the mausoleum, Iran revealed a new rhetoric on terrorism, which is reserved only for them.

When President Trump condemned the twin attacks, extended condolences yet suggested that Iran shares some of the blame for the terror attacks, by stating “those who sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote”, Iran responded with a vengeance.  Foreign Minister Zarif in a tweet rejected the notion entirely while terming Trumps’ words “repugnant”. As reported in firstpost, Zarif continued to give his own explanation for the attack rationalizing that the attackers targeted the “seat of democracy”.

For decades the Iranian regime has preached that Europe and the Western world are to blame for the terrorist attacks perpetrated against them. Even in the face of the most recent London attack, the supreme leader related to the events claiming that Europe has brought the Islamic state terrorism on itself through its intervention in the Middle East. In his tweet (June 5) he stated “this is the inferno they set up and has now backfired on them”. Why is it legitimate to analyze thus in the European context, yet repugnant in the Iranian context?

Furthermore, to interpret the attacks in Iran as targeting “the seat of democracy”, is bordering on delusional science fiction. Iran is a Democtatorship. It is a country which holds presidential elections but which allows a non-elected body to disqualify candidates in advance if they do not represent the values of the Islamic Revolution. It is a country which has publicly elected officials in government and in parliament but they are subordinate to the unelected regime, and specially the unelected Supreme Leader and his military backing, the IRGC. It is a country in which opposition leaders who tried to bring about change are under house arrest without trial. Whether Zarif likes it or not, Iran is a ruled by a theocracy, a “deep state” of power that is unelected but chosen by the regime itself.

To twist things even further, the supreme leader recently dismissed any chance of reconciliation with the US due to the fact that the US is the cause of instability in the ME and founded upon terror and cruelty – never mind the fact that the West and most Arab states claim that it is Tehran which is the cause of instability in the Middle East now.

 

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Zarif’s Endless Hypocrisy

All successful politicians can justifiably be accused of hypocrisy in its many forms – some lie brazenly, some create spins, some refrain from telling the whole truth…In order to survive politically, these seasoned politicians place the agendas of their governments before their personal integrity because honest politicians have very short life-spans.

Without a doubt, Iran’s FM Javad Zarif is a successful politician: he not only understands the rules of the game, he is smart and ambitious enough to create his own rules on the way. Zarif, along with President Hassan Rouhani, is responsible for the nuclear deal with Iran and he enjoys a “superstar” status in Iran which earned him the honor of a statue of his bust in Iran.

Whether Zarif will continue to enjoy the adulation of the Iranian people and of the regime is questionable but, at least for now, he is at the top of his career and one of the key factors of his success is his straight-faced hypocrisy: this has made him a great negotiator with the P5+1, a great interviewee and, for now, a prized asset for Rouhani. On the other hand, this outstanding quality has also made him a politician whose statements should be taken with large doses of skepticism and scrutiny.

Following are a few of his statements which exemplify Zarif’s hypocrisy. Whether you agree with the statements and the agendas they represent or not, one thing is certain: they should not be accepted at face-value.

 

Zarif on Terrorism

syriaZarif whole-heartedly supports Rouhani’s rebranding of Iran as a champion against terrorism, as opposed to a state which supports terrorist militias. Rouhani’s brilliant re-positioning of Iran on the issue of terrorism was based on, and facilitated by, the brutal terroristic nature of ISIS and the reported support that ISIS received from the US in its infancy. If ISIS is “the bad guy”, then fighting ISIS is “good”, hence Iran’s fighting ISIS earns it the title of being “the good guy” regardless of whether it supported and continues to support terrorist militias or not… a bit like a convention of butchers rallying for vegans.

Tehran has supported Assad since 2011 and is fighting ISIS since 2014. Over the past two years, it continuously took the credit for fighting ISIS and continuously denigrated the efforts of the dozen or so countries, especially the US, in fighting ISIS. When Moscow joined the fray, at the insistence of Tehran, Zarif glowingly praised the Russian involvement adding that all countries should follow Russia’s lead. What he “forgets” to mention is that Tehran, as the self-proclaimed leader in the fight against ISIS, has failed dismally to destroy ISIS and doesn’t deserve the role of judging who is and who isn’t doing a good job in the war against ISIS.

During the Munich Security Conference hosted in (surprise, surprise) Tehran, Zarif warned about nations backing terrorism in order to attain “temporary capital”. Although he is 100% right to say this, he conveniently “forgets” that Tehran has done exactly this by supporting terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic jihad etc…in order to achieve what he is warning against.

Furthermore, he urged Europe to be more “flexible” in regards with the Syrian refugee crisis emanating from Syria. Again, he is 100% correct in stating this but he “forgets” to mention that most of these refugees are actually fleeing Assad and Hezbollah/Iranian forces and that had Tehran not supported Assad since the inception of the war, it would not have lasted so long and taken such a heavy toll on the Syrian people.

Tehran might be fighting ISIS terrorist, not too successfully it seems, but it also is using terrorists in order to achieve its own goals.

 

Zarif on Meddling

meddle eastTehran is a notorious meddler in the affairs of its regional neighbors. It does so in order to “export the revolution” and build itself a network of allies which may help it lead Khamenei’s vision of a Global Islamic Awakening with Tehran (and Shiism) at its center. Zarif himself is in tune with these efforts: Tehran, he wrote, has a “viewpoint that has the potential to be projected globally and change the international order” and that “without revolutionary goals, we don’t exist”.

Tehran’s influence is Lebanon, Syria and Iraq is massive while its influence in countries such as Yemen and Bahrain is still kept in check by the ruling governments there and their partner, Saudi Arabia.

And yet, Zarif repeatedly dismisses accusations of meddling and portrays Tehran’s meddling as nothing more than a “helping hand” to friends. According to him, it is up to the Syrian people to decide the future of Syria and that their fate should be “determined at the polls and not by weapons“. Once again, he “forgets” to mention, that Tehran blindingly supporting Assad with weapons and fighters and if he is so keen on a democratic decision, why hasn’t Tehran convinced Assad to hold a free election since 2011? No, Tehran wants Assad in power, with or without elections since Assad represents the Shiite-like Alawite minority which is more in tune with Tehran than the majority Sunni rebels.

Similarly, Zarif stated that Lebanese people should decide their own fate politically, conveniently “forgetting” that Lebanon is indirectly under Tehran’s rule through the political and military power of its proxy, Hezbollah. Without the interference of Tehran in Lebanese politics, Hezbollah would probably be ousted and Tehran would lose another ally on the road to a global Islamic Revolution.

Tehran’s “helping hand” to its neighbors holds the guns needed to support whoever is more in tune with Tehran in killing and suppressing whoever isn’t.

 

Zarif on Human Rights

Zarif’s take on human rights is just as hypocritical as his statements on terrorism and meddling. As with other leaders in Iran, Zarif seems to believe that Iran is a true and open democracy focused on the welfare of its citizens…a government by the people and for the people…a government which “follows its people, not the other way around“. Of course, he “forgot” to mentions that Iran is only semi-democratic in that its president, Rouhani, is chosen by the people through open elections but the regime, with Khamenei at its head, is chosen by the regime itself and it is Khamenei who has supreme control in Tehran, not Rouhani. Even the free elections for the presidency are tainted by the fact that nominees for the presidential elections have to be accepted by Khamenei himself.

In an interview with Charlie Rose last year, Zarif’s hypocrisy shone out when he stated “Iran doesn’t jail people for their opinion“, ignoring the imprisonment, torture and oppression of thousands of Iranians who are paying for the crime of criticizing the regime (a “sin” punishable by death). Zarif, in the same interview also stated that Tehran “has a plan to improve human rights” but unfortunately, he hasn’t shared the details of such a plan and neither has Rouhani.

Lately he spoke about trying to release WaPo’s reporter in Tehran, Jason Rezaean, from jail and from his death sentence for being a spy – although the charges against Rezaean are “serious”, Zarif said, he wants to “resolve it (his imprisonment) from a humanitarian perspective“. Too little, too late: Rezaean should not have been imprisoned with restricted contact with his lawyers and family in the first place for simply doing his duty as a reporter.

No, Mr. Zarif…speaking about Iran and human rights in the same sentence cannot be accepted as anything less than hypocritical.

Tehran Silences Opposition

silence

The Right to Voice Opposition = Democracy

Silencing the voice of opposition sooner or later allows the government to place the priorities of its leaders before those of the people it governs and in the case of a democracy, before those of the people they were elected to represent.

The voice of opposition doesn’t always represent the majority of the people but without it, the majority might one day find its own voice silenced.

But what happens when a government is both democratic and dictatorial such as in the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran?

 

Elections ≠ Democracy

Iran prides itself on being democratic based on the fact that its presidents are elected by the people. In fact, in the last elections, Hassan Rouhani voiced his opposition to the management of the previous governments and was elected by a clear majority. His election was ratified by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s non-democratic leadership, embodied in Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who gave Rouhani its blessing.

Perhaps Khamenei was ready for change or perhaps the call for change was so loud that he and his cronies understood that stifling the voice of the majority might lead to an all-out revolt.

Unfortunately for Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the opposition leaders in the previous 2009 elections, they were not as lucky nor as successful as Rouhani:  they are still under house arrest to date despite Rouhani’s promise to free them and their silence reminds all that Khamenei still holds the dictatorial reins on Tehran.

 

Opposition = House Arrest, Imprisonment, Exile and Death

After 3 years under house arrest, Moussavi’s health is worsening. Three weeks ago, he was taken to hospital but was returned home by security forces on the same day. His daughter voiced her protest on the opposition’s website Kaleme and he was reintroduced to hospital to receive medical care. To the chagrin of the security forces, pictures of Moussavi in hospital were leaked renewing the pressure to free a man whose only crime was to legally oppose his government.

But Moussavi is still definitely in the category of “the lucky ones”. Most political prisoners find their way to the infamous Evin prison and even if they are hospitalized, they are chained to their beds such as in the case of political prisoner Mashallah Haredi.

The riots in Evin prison last month were lead by political prisoners who decided that they wanted to be heard. They were brutally silenced by Iranian security forces  and are now under threat of being exiled. No comment yet from Rouhani.

 

“Rogue Forces” and Hardliners

The opposition to Rouhani’s government is growing daily. Hardliners are staging protests and are disseminating information such as the infamous “I am Rouhani” movie which portrayed him as a “pragmatic technocrat leaning towards the West”. These same hardliners are now demanding for Rouhani to resign.

Rouhani, who was elected on the freedom of opposition cannot help but bite the bullet: “I am proud that the government has created a situation allowing everyone to easily talk and criticize“. But insiders say that he is specially frustrated at the silence of the most important voice in Iran, that of Khamenei.

In the meantime, ex-president Mohammad Khatami has expressed his worries that “rogue” forces of plain clothes security officers who are disrupting meeting that include any criticism against Khamenei and the Islamic Revolution.

So paradoxically, the election of a democratic, moderate-minded leader is allowing for more voices of opposition to grow against him while any opposition to the hardliners remains silent.

Which is worse? And more importantly, when will Iran decide if it wants to remain a dictatorship or become a true democracy?

Iran slams UN as “undemocratic” – and keeps suppressing opposition

During the recent visit of the UN’s secretary general Ban Ki-Moon to Tehran calls were made to let him meet with Iranian opposition leaders. These calls were voiced in the hope that a meeting between Ki-Moon and the opposition leaders would provide a more complete picture of the political landscape and the state of human rights in Iran- one that would be drastically different from the bright image portrayed by the Iranian regime.

The Iranian regime had declined these calls at around the same time that Khamenei had began his strategic attack against the UN, an attack in which he denounced the UN and some of its bodies as “undemocratic”. Specifically, during his opening speech to the non-aligned movement conference in Tehran, Khamenei slammed the “overt dictatorship” of the U.N. Moreover, Khamenei had stated that  “the U.N. Security Council has an irrational, unjust and utterly undemocratic structure, and this is an overt dictatorship”. These statements were echoed regardless of the fact that Ki-Moon was present in the audience.

Khamenei’s statements are ironic if not hypocritical considering the fact that while he was delivering his speech Iranian opposition leaders were (and still are) subject to house arests for a period that already exceeded 18 months.

At this point one should ask; how could a regime who imprisons political rivals consider itself democratic? Furthermore, how does this same undemocratic regime have the audacity to call for revisions in the UN structure under the claim of aspiring for a more democratic UN? Put simply; how could a dictatorship blame the UN for being a dictatorship?

It is important to note that the violent oppression of alternative voices in Iran is not limited to leaders alone – It is well reflected in the long record of abysmal human rights violations undertaken by the Iranian regime. Indeed, only this week David Alton reported in “The Independent” that:

“The Iranian regime has resorted to extreme measures to quell any hint of dissent at home, in particular towards the PMOI, the only viable organized opposition… The Iranian authorities continue the extensive use of the death penalty, with at least 360 executions reported in the country and Amnesty suggesting that there have been over 274 other executions, with many prisoners executed secretly… Since the 2009 uprising, the regime has arrested scores of individuals affiliated with the PMOI, charging each with “ moharbeh” and sentencing them to death…”

Under the above circumstances it should be made loud and clear that the Iranian regime’s calls for a new global order, and its requests to be more involved in the UN and its different bodies, should be put aside at the very least until the regime undertakes concrete actions to insure democratic processes and basic human rights in Iran.

* Source: http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/51746