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Canada Must Hold Iran Accountable!

The Islamic Republic is a state sponsor of terrorism—That’s why Canada shut down the Iranian embassy in Ottawa in September 2012 . However, I would like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to some of the more-particularly inhuman and nefarious activities of the Iranian regime.

The Islamic Republic started with an officially-approved massacre of all sorts of dissidents. Along with the functionaries of the former monarchy, thousands of revolutionaries whose views differed from that of the Islamic Republic, were either hanged or shot dead after sham trials – or even without them.

Later, the Islamic constitution that was established in Iran effectively brought a fundamentalist Islamist regime to power which systematically suppressed all other voices and sociopolitical constituencies like liberals, socialists, women, and religious and ethnic minorities. This has led to a vicious process of violation of human rights in Iran since the establishment of the Islamic regime; a process that still vigorously continues, even after the presumably “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani took office.

As a matter of fact, the violation of human rights in Iran has skyrocketed since Rouhani became president in 2013. Over 2,000 Iranians have been hanged under this “moderate” president’s watch, the largest scale of executions in Iran in the past 25 years. Indeed, the execution spree in the first half of 2015 was not overlooked by Amnesty International, which noted that “death sentences in Iran are particularly disturbing because they are invariably imposed by courts that are completely lacking in independence and impartiality”.

Amnesty International also added: “[Death sentences] are imposed either for vaguely-worded or overly-broad offences, or acts that should not be criminalized at all, let alone attract the death penalty. Trials in Iran are deeply flawed, detainees are often denied access to lawyers in the investigative stage, and there are inadequate procedures for appeal, pardon and commutation.” As a result, Iran has become the top country committing executions per capita, under Rouhani’s watch.

One of the “legal” pretexts of the Islamic regime for executing dissidents is the common charge of “muharebeh” or “enmity towards God”, routinely used against all sorts of human rights activists and dissidents; and which invariably receives the death penalty, sometimes administered in public by mass hangings by cranes – although even stoning is not ruled out legally. Many of those hanged take up to 20 minutes to die slowly and painfully from strangulation. The victims’ bodies are typically left hanging for some time before being removed as a way of intimidating the public into silence.

Many of those who are executed come from minority communities such as the Ahwazi Arab-Iranians – who are predominately Shia – as well as Kurdish and Baluchi Sunnis. The targeting of minorities has not changed since Rouhani’s assuming office. Over the past decade, many Ahwazi Arab political prisoners, ranging from poets and teachers to bloggers and human rights activists, have been executed on trumped-up charges in kangaroo courts.

Rather than finding reasonable evidence for the committing of a crime, judges rely on “confessions” which have been extracted from the accused through physical and psychological torture. Meanwhile, friends and relatives of the accused are kept in the dark, often not informed of where their loved ones have been imprisoned, executed or even buried. Again, NOTHING has improved under Rouhani.

Never mind that Iran is one of the few countries that continue to execute juvenile offenders, where according to the UN at least 160 are languishing on death row for crimes committed under the age of 18. The number of child offenders executed in 2014-15 – under Rouhani’s watch – is higher than at any time during the past five years. According to an Amnesty International report released a few days ago, Iran’s authorities have sought to “whitewash their continuing violations of children’s rights and deflect criticism of their appalling record as one of the world’s last executioners of juvenile offenders”.

Such kinds of reports, however, have failed to prevent Rouhani from receiving a warm welcome on his European tour, as top politicians as well as the Pope were eager to meet him. Surprisingly, these days, even the prominent opposition voices in the West, who often complain about their own governments’ disregard of human rights, don’t see a necessity to voice any substantial criticism against the abuses of human rights by the regime of Iran.

That is because much of the world wants do business with the Iranian regime, and they don’t want any fuss over rather “trivial things” such as the violation of human rights by that regime. Indeed, it seems that the rush to conclude a nuclear deal with Iran has twisted and bound all tongues in the West.

How can we possibly improve the condition of human rights in Iran by holding the Iranian regime accountable when at the same time the Liberal government of Canada is going to implicitly legitimize that regime’s violation of human rights by reestablishing diplomatic relations with it?

Obama’s NPR Interview Raises Troubling Questions About Normalization of Relations with Iran

President Obama held a year end  interview with NPR’s  Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep on December 17, 2014 that aired on December 30th. During the interview Obama  was questioned about possible normalization of relations with Iran. He coyly said , “ I never say never.”  He also said  that he might like  to see the Islamic regime become  a “successful  regional power in the region.” All while the  P5+1 beavers away trying to conclude a nuclear deal with Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran, the last time we looked, is still called  a state sponsor of terrorism by the State Department  Read the transcript here.

This sounds like legacy building akin to his dramatic announcement of a renewal of relations with Communist Cuba.

Today’s  concerning remarks are in juxtaposition to his signing into law on December 19, 2014, The US Israel Strategic Partnership Act, H.B. 938  which passed after a year of debate by Congress allegedly deepening trade and military support for Israel. The Times of Israel reported:

Obama said his administration will interpret certain sections in a manner that does not interfere with his constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy. That includes a section requiring the administration to provide Congress with certain diplomatic communications.

The US-Israel Strategic Partnership Act increases the value of emergency US weaponry kept in Israel by $200 million, to a total of $1.8 billion. It promotes closer US-Israeli links in energy, water, homeland security, alternative fuel technology and cybersecurity.

It also offers a verbal guarantee of Israel maintaining a qualitative military edge over its neighbors.

The law also expands cooperation on research and development, business, agriculture, water management and academics.

Perhaps the December 19, 2014  signing of the US Israel Strategic Partnership Act was to bolster the Labor- Hatnua alliance in the March 17, 2015 snap election for a new Knesset. The leftist alliance position is that the right in Israel have abused the partnership with the US  through approval of settlement building authorizations undermining possible two state peace arrangements with the Palestinian Authority. Meanwhile the PA supported by Arab League  is rushing to file a resolution for a vote by the  UN Security Council  demanding a peace deal with Israel within a year for and the end of alleged Israeli occupation of the West Bank by 2017. The PA, the Arab League and sponsor of the proposed resolution, Jordan  have been  emboldened by the Recent actions of the European Parliaments and several EU member states passing symbolic Palestinian statehood resolutions. There has been an indication from Secretary Kerry that the US might veto the Palestinian resolution  as it might jeopardize  the March 2017 Israeli snap elections result. Meaning that Israeli leftist allies might hopefully form a new  ruling coalition more amenable to a peace deal . There have also been leaks that the US might threaten to  abstain from such a resolution. The PA believes it may have sufficient votes on the Security Council to pass such a resolution.

Today’s State Department Press Briefing evinced concerns over the President NPR interview in an exchange between Jeff Rathke, Director of the Department’s Press Office and AP’s Matt Lee who covers both the White House and State Daily Press Briefings.

Omri Ceren of The Israel Project in a post this evening drew attention to concerns over the President’s NPR interview comments and a recent wave of support in Washington among advocates for normalization of relations with the Islamic Republic. He  wrote:

He said two things about an Iran nuke deal that are getting talked about: (1) it “would serve as the basis for us trying to improve relations over time” beyond the nuclear issue and (2) it would allow Iran to become “be a very successful regional power.”

The AP’s Matt Lee asked about both of those at today’s briefing: whether negotiations are designed to “bring Iran back into the fold” and whether the White House would reverse 35 years of Iran policy “designed to keep it from becoming a successful regional power.

There’s a separate reason why the normalization comments are getting so much attention: pro-engagement advocates have been flooding the zone with the argument. Barbara Slavin from the Atlantic Council said on Friday that “a deal with [the] US would be transformative.” Robin Wright from the Wilson Center toldFace the Nation on Sunday that for the “first time in 35 years, Iran and United States are on the same page at the same time.”.

The push has raised some eyebrows, because the Iranians – including and especially Khamenei – have been saying the exact opposite and rejecting any possibility of post-deal normalization.

Since taking office, President Obama has written four letters to Ayatollah Khamenei. All have been dismissed by the Supreme Ruler. The fourth and latest ‘secret’ October  2014 letter suggesting that the US and Iran had common interests regarding the Islamic State came amidst P5+1 efforts to obtain a final agreement by the deadline of November 24, 2014. That failed  to interest Khamenei leading to  the P5+1 to set a new  date for June 2015. Obama was roundly criticized by both querulous Arab allies and Israeli PM  Netanyahu  as constituting appeasement of this state sponsor of terrorism. Joseph Puder in a FrontPage Magazine article on November 17, 2014 wrote:

Ayatollah Khamenei rejected Obama’s overtures for improved relations, and in the words of Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, the latest letter smacks of “Obama chasing after Khamenei in the undignified and counterproductive manner of a frustrated suitor.”

Watch this C-Span Excerpt we prepared of the exchange between Rathke of State and AP’s Matt Lee:

Below is an excerpt from the transcript of today’s State Department Press Briefing:

Matt Lee: Well, no, I mean normally I would ask the people at the White House, since it was the President’s words. But is that this building’s understanding of the way the negotiations, the nuclear talks with Iran are going on? They’re not an end to themselves IE to get to get rid of any ability Iran might have to build a nuclear weapon, but they are actually aiming towards normalization of the sort that you are looking for, that the President is looking for with Cuba?

Jeff Rathke: Well I think I would encourage folks to read the entire text of the president’s interview in particular with respect to Iran. He was, in response to a question about the possible opening of a U.S. embassy, he said, “I never say never,” and then he proceeded to lay out the fact that right now the focus is on getting the nuclear issue resolved and that’s a question of whether Iran is willing to seize the opportunity that the nuclear talks represent. So, and then he describes that as the first big step and then there would then perhaps be a basis over time to improve relations. But I think reading the President’s answer to that question, it’s quite clear that the focus is on the nuclear negotiations and that is…

Matt Lee: But my question is that, given his comments, is the specific, the nuclear negotiation, is that just a part of what the administration hopes will be a broader reconciliation or rapprochement with Iran that ends up with normalization of relations by 2016 when the president leaves office?

Jeff Rathke: Well as the administration has said, we are not closing any doors, but our concerns on Iran are well-known and our focus now is on resolving the nuclear issue. There is a chance to do that but that’s a question of Iran taking that, taking that opportunity.

Matt Lee: Another thing he said in the interview on Iran is that if they went ahead and reached an agreement, if they got a deal, a nuclear deal, and if the Iranians actually comply, that Iran would be in a position to become a successful regional power and suggested that that’s something that the United States would like to see. And you guys have made no secret of the fact that it’s not just the nuclear issue that is a problem for you with Iran, that there are numerous other things including the fact that it is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world, as identified by you guys. I’m just wondering does the administration want to see Iran become a “successful regional power,” given the fact that since 1979, American foreign policy, with respect to Iran, has been designed to keep it from becoming a successful regional power, has been designed to keep it from exerting its strength over your or exerting pressure on your allies in the region, both Israel and the Arab states?

Jeff Rathke: Well, again, the President’s answer to the question and U.S. policy is focused on resolving the nuclear issue. That is our focus and that’s why we have the P5+1 talks going on.

Matt Lee: Well right, but then why bring all this other stuff in then? If the focus is just on the nuclear issue, why even broach the idea that you want to see Iran become a successful regional power and leave the door open to you know, normalization of relations to the point where you could open an embassy?

Jeff Rathke:  Well, I think the point is that Iran’s behavior is the factor that drives that, and it’s, Iran’s behavior needs to change, not only on the nuclear issue where we have been involved in the negotiation process, but in other respects as well.

Matt Lee: I get all that but I’m just wondering why, and I guess someone needs to ask the president why he answered the questions the way he did, to leave this thing open because it sounds as though that, it sounds as though the administration sees or at least he sees the nuclear negotiations as a path to bring Iran back into the fold, back into the fold and not just the United States, but…

Jeff Rathke: That’s not the way I interpret the transcript. I think it’s quite clear that focus is on dealing with the nuclear issue.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.