Obama and Iran’s hu­man rights record

Pres­i­dent’s nu­clear deal gives a green light for more and heav­ier op­pres­sion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Dana Rohrabacher

The re­port ear­lier this month that Wash­ing­ton Post cor­re­spon­dent Ja­son Reza­ian had been con­victed of es­pi­onage by an Is­lamic court in Tehran was on its own ac­count an out­rage. With con­gres­sional at­ten­tion given over to elect­ing a new speaker, not to men­tion the dra­matic in­ter­ro­ga­tion of Hil­lary Clin­ton, the self-defin­ing na­ture of this rigged con­vic­tion might have been over­looked. It is too sig­nif­i­cant to be over­looked. The ink had not dried on Pres­i­dent Obama’s Iran nu­clear arms agree­ment when the mul­lah regime took a Western reporter who it had im­pris­oned for more than a year and cast him into an even longer tor­ment. Noth­ing could have been more clar­i­fy­ing.

This is the na­ture of the beast our diplo­matic es­tab­lish­ment has been try­ing des­per­ately to trust — in­deed, a mis­placed trust in the mul­lah regime’s will­ing­ness not to de­velop nu­clear weapons.

The Reza­ian con­vic­tion, an in­ten­tional thumb in Amer­ica’s eye, in­truded just when the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion thought the Green Rev­o­lu­tion of 2009 had re­ceded into the mists. Then the mass protest chal­lenged the elec­tion of former Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad and was met with a bloody put­down in the streets along with mass ar­rests of brave hu­man rights ad­vo­cates.

The ac­tivists pleaded for sup­port, at least moral sup­port, from Mr. Obama. But the pres­i­dent turned a deaf ear in hopes of forg­ing a legacy-build­ing deal with their op­pres­sors.

His­tory teaches that it is not nec­es­sar­ily wrong to par­ley with the world’s bad ac­tors, but that doesn’t mean ig­nor­ing the evil na­ture of those on the other side of the ta­ble. If a regime is based on beat­ing its peo­ple into sub­mis­sion, how can we count on its good faith with us?

De­spite op­po­si­tion by a ma­jor­ity of Congress and the Amer­i­can peo­ple, the Ira­nian nu­clear arms deal is about to go into ef­fect. It will pro­vide Iran up to $150 bil­lion in un­frozen as­sets, prob­a­bly by early in 2016. This will al­low the Is­lamic re­pub­lic to ex­pand its grotesquely wicked be­hav­ior, which in­cludes spread­ing global ter­ror­ism and sys­tem­atic abuse of hu­man rights within its bor­ders.

But th­ese par­tic­u­lar con­cerns high­light an­other le­git­i­mate con­cern. Our gov­ern­ment’s de­bate over Iran pol­icy should not be so cen­tered on a flawed nu­clear deal.

That is a symp­tom of a much broader mis­un­der­stand­ing of the Ira­nian threat. It seems the Obama po­si­tion is pred­i­cated on the idea that the theo­cratic regime is trend­ing to­ward mod­er­a­tion.

In 2013, the newly elected Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani was point­edly em­braced by Mr. Obama and a num­ber of oth­ers as a vic­tory for the re­formist el­e­ments in Ira­nian so­ci­ety, a vindi­ca­tion of the goals of the pop­u­lar 2009 up­ris­ing. Wrong. Since Mr. Rouhani came to power there have been 2,000 ex­e­cu­tions, more than 700 this year alone. This fig­ure rep­re­sents the num­ber of peo­ple put to death by the Ira­nian ju­di­ciary. It doesn’t in­clude those killed by pri­son author­i­ties, those de­nied life­sav­ing med­i­cal at­ten­tion, or those who died un­der tor­ture dur­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tions.

As re­cently as Sept. 13, a well-known po­lit­i­cal pris­oner, Shahrokh Za­mani, was found dead in his cell. He had been work­ing on doc­u­ments re­lated to la­bor rights as well as the plight of po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers. His body showed signs of abuse.

The po­lit­i­cal pris­oner pop­u­la­tion, in fact, has not de­creased dur­ing Mr. Rouhani’s pres­i­dency. Crim­i­nal­iza­tion of dissent is still en­demic to the regime, as it con­tin­ues to be prom­i­nent on an­nual lists of the world’s most heavy-handed op­pres­sors of jour­nal­ists and civil ac­tivists.

The web­site Jour­nal­is­mis­no­tacrime.com re­cently re­ceived the re­sults of a study it had com­mis­sioned of the jour­nal­ism pro­fes­sion in Iran. It found that nearly 60 per­cent of those jour­nal­ists who par­tic­i­pated in the study had been ar­rested. Twenty per­cent had been tor­tured.

Sadly, the study seemed to re­veal that such re­pres­sive mea­sures are rea­son­ably ef­fec­tive. Sev­enty-eight per­cent of jour­nal­ists who were in­ter­viewed by psy­chi­a­try pro­fes­sor An­thony Fe­in­stein re­ported they’d dropped at least some of their jour­nal­is­tic projects as a re­sult of threats to them or their fam­i­lies.

The Ira­nian nu­clear pro­gram threat­ens the sta­bil­ity of the world and could be the har­bin­ger of mass de­struc­tion and death. We have at least sev­eral months to re­spond to that apoc­a­lyp­tic sce­nario.

Be­fore the treaty does its dam­age, we may ex­pect an­other mass pub­lic ex­e­cu­tion of Ira­nian pris­on­ers; an­other po­lit­i­cal de­tainee beaten to death for re­fus­ing to end his ac­tivism; an­other jour­nal­ist tor­tured, his fam­ily threat­ened, sim­ply be­cause he dared tell the truth about his coun­try.

Each abuse con­fronted on the in­ter­na­tional stage is an­other de­con­struc­tion of the ab­sur­dist nar­ra­tive that por­trays Mr. Rouhani as a mod­er­ate. When that nar­ra­tive is gone, the false premises be­hind the nu­clear agree­ment will be ex­posed.

Un­til the false nar­ra­tive is dis­proven, the pres­i­dent and like-minded of­fi­cials, here and abroad, will per­pet­u­ate the naive idea that the Mid­dle East­ern cri­sis will re­solve it­self.

For the United States and our al­lies, this is not a choice be­tween col­lu­sion with the mul­lah regime or U.S. mil­i­tary ac­tion against it. The way for­ward is to find ways to re­vive the rem­nants of the Green Rev­o­lu­tion. Re­sis­tance groups are ready, in­clud­ing the Peo­ple’s Mu­ja­hedin of Iran and the Na­tional Coun­cil of Re­sis­tance as well as eth­nic op­po­si­tion: Az­eris, Kurds, Baloch, Hazaris, all united in their suf­fer­ing un­der the mul­lahs.

Next time au­then­tic Ira­nian democrats cry out for sup­port, our re­sponse must be an un­mis­tak­able “Yes, we are with you, not with your op­pres­sors.”

The Ira­nian peo­ple are our al­lies. Let us, as Pres­i­dent Rea­gan did to the Soviet Union, an athe­ist dic­ta­tor­ship, pro­vide sup­port and en­cour­age­ment to those many Ira­ni­ans who op­pose their mul­lah theoc­racy. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, chairs the House For­eign Af­fairs Sub­com­mit­tee on Europe, Eura­sia, and Emerg­ing Threats.


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