PROXY WAR OVER IRAN NU­CLEAR AGREE­MENT DI­VIDES US, EUROPE AT UN

US seeks tougher lan­guage on draft res­o­lu­tion; Di­vide par­al­lels views on Trump’s Iran deal de­ci­sion

Financial Chronicle - - AROUND THE GLOBE - KAMBIZ FOROOHAR

AS Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump pre­pares to an­nounce whether he’ll cer­tify Iran’s com­pli­ance with the deal to curb its nu­clear pro­gram, US and Euro­pean ne­go­tia­tors at the United Na­tions are on an­other col­li­sion course – this time over the Is­lamic Repub­lic’s hu­man rights record.

The US is push­ing for tougher lan­guage con­demn­ing Iran for hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in the draft of a UN res­o­lu­tion that’s typ­i­cally taken up every year, but al­lies – in­clud­ing some in Europe – are push­ing back, just as they are in de­fend­ing the nu­clear ac­cord that Trump has called “the worst deal ever.”

While both sides want to crit­i­cize Iran on hu­man rights, they dis­agree over how far to go and whether to give Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani some credit, ac­cord­ing to notes on the draft.

Ma­neu­ver­ing over the res­o­lu­tion comes ahead of an Oc­to­ber 15 dead­line Trump faces un­der US law to tell Congress if he can con­firm Iran is com­ply­ing with the 2015 ac­cord he’s called an “em­bar­rass­ment to the United States.” The pres­i­dent may de­cer­tify Iran and push for new con­straints on its be­hav­ior but keep the US in the multi­na­tional agree­ment, which lifted a range of eco­nomic sanc­tions in ex­change for curbs on the nu­clear pro­gramme.

Nikki Ha­ley, the US am­bas­sador to the UN, and other Trump ad­vis­ers have ar­gued that the ac­cord’s in­spec­tions regime, led by the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency, has loop­holes. They also say the agree­ment ne­go­ti­ated un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama falls short be­cause it fails to ad­dress Iran’s con­tin­u­ing bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram, its in­volve­ment in con­flicts across the Mid­dle East and its hu­man rights record.

Giv­ing Trump a Win

The world “must also con­tinue to hold Iran re­spon­si­ble for its mis­sile launches, sup­port for ter­ror­ism, dis­re­gard for hu­man rights, and vi­o­la­tions of UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions,” Ha­ley said in Au­gust after Rouhani threat­ened to aban­don the nu­clear deal if Iran faced more sanc­tions.

Euro­pean al­lies, in­clud­ing the UK and Ger­many, have stood be­hind the nu­clear ac­cord, say­ing in­spec­tions by the IAEA show Iran is abid­ing by it. Be­hind the scenes, some diplo­mats are try­ing to find a way to “give Trump a win” by en­dors­ing some of his crit­i­cism of Iran while con­tain­ing any threat to scut­tle the agree­ment, ac­cord­ing to a diplo­mat from a Se­cu­rity Coun­cil na­tion who asked not to be iden­ti­fied de­scrib­ing in­ter­nal dis­cus­sions.

In the UN dis­cus­sions over the hu­man-rights res­o­lu­tion, US al­lies don’t want to un­der­cut Rouhani, who they see as a rel­a­tive mod­er­ate be­sieged by hard­lin­ers in Tehran. But they don’t want to be seen as de­fend­ing Iran’s hu­man rights record.

“The EU re­mains con­cerned with the hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion in Iran, in par­tic­u­lar the high num­ber of ex­e­cu­tions and is­sues such as free­dom of ex­pres­sion and rights of mi­nori­ties,” said Cather­ine Ray, Euro­pean Union spokes­woman for for­eign af­fairs. “The EU aims at dis­cussing these is­sues in a con­struc­tive man­ner.”

‘Dou­ble Stan­dards’

For 14 years, the UN has con­demned Iran’s hu­man rights per­for­mance in a res­o­lu­tion in­tro­duced by Canada. It’s one of three coun­try-spe­cific res­o­lu­tions reg­u­larly of­fered, with the other two aimed at Syria and North Korea.

“The Is­lamic Repub­lic of

Iran con­demns such res­o­lu­tions, which are en­dorsed against the Is­lamic Repub­lic of Iran in an un­re­al­is­tic man­ner and based on the dou­ble stan­dards of West­ern gov­ern­ments as well as spite­ful and po­lit­i­cal ap­proaches,” Ira­nian For­eign Min­istry Spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said after last year’s vote, ac­cord­ing to PressTV.

Crit­ics of Rouhani, in­clud­ing the US, say he hasn’t de­liv­ered on prom­ises of greater re­spect for civil and po­lit­i­cal rights since his May re-elec­tion. Last year, Iran con­ducted at least 567 ex­e­cu­tions, many for dru­gre­lated of­fenses, ac­cord­ing to Amnesty In­ter­na­tional. An ad­di­tional 247 peo­ple were ex­e­cuted in the first six months of 2017, ac­cord­ing to a UN re­port.

The nu­clear deal has had lit­tle pos­i­tive im­pact on hu­man rights in the coun­try, said Shirin Ebadi, the ex­iled Ira­nian hu­man rights lawyer and No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate.

“Even if he wanted to” im­prove hu­man rights, “the struc­ture and con­sti­tu­tion of the Is­lamic Repub­lic is against him, but I don’t think Rouhani wants to,” Ebadi said in a phone in­ter­view from Lon­don. Although the an­nual hu­man rights res­o­lu­tion isn’t legally bind­ing, it “was highly dam­ag­ing to the rep­u­ta­tion of the Is­lamic Repub­lic be­cause it showed that a ma­jor­ity of con­demn their be­hav­iour.”

For­eign, Dual Na­tion­als

The UN res­o­lu­tion is an im­por­tant re­minder to the peo­ple of Iran that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity stands with them, ac­cord­ing to a spokesman at the US Mis­sion to the UN. The US has in­cluded new lan­guage in the res­o­lu­tion em­pha­sis­ing Iran’s tar­get­ing of for­eign and dual na­tion­als, the of­fi­cial said.

Ha­ley can point to Ira­nian-Amer­i­cans Sia­mak Na­mazi and his oc­to­ge­nar­ian fa­ther Ba­quer, a for­mer UNICEF of­fi­cial, who are both serv­ing 10-year prison sen­tences on es­pi­onage. An­other de­tainee is Nazanin Zaghari-Rat­cliffe, an Ira­nian-Bri­tish woman, ar­rested while trav­el­ing with her tod­dler daugh­ter and sen­tenced to a five-year prison sen­tence for plot­ting to top­ple the gov­ern­ment.

The draft UN res­o­lu­tion calls on Iran to end the house ar­rest of lead­ing op­po­si­tion fig­ures from the 2009 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Mir Hos­sein Mousavi, his wife Zahra Rah­navard, and Me­hdi Kar­roubi have been un­der house ar­rest in Tehran for al­most six years for sup­port­ing the Green Move­ment, which grew out of peaceful protests against the dis­puted re­sults of that elec­tion.

The res­o­lu­tion faces a com­mit­tee vote next month be­fore go­ing to the Gen­eral As­sem­bly in De­cem­ber. Last year, 85 coun­tries voted to con­demn Iran’s hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions while 35 coun­tries, in­clud­ing Rus­sia and Syria, voted against do­ing so. An ad­di­tional 63 coun­tries ab­stained.

A se­cu­rity guard out­side Bushehr nu­clear power plant, Iran

Has­san Rouhani

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