Tehran plays by its own set of diplo­matic rules

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - DAMIEN McELROY Lon­don Bu­reau Chief

As Iran fielded ques­tions over its hu­man rights poli­cies at the UN in Geneva last week it was in­struc­tive to ob­serve the bravura of Tehran’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives dis­miss­ing ev­ery con­cern raised as a fab­ri­ca­tion.

It was faced with a bar­rage of crit­i­cism over is­sues rang­ing from im­pris­on­ment and tor­ture to forced mar­riage and fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion.

The coun­try’s am­bas­sador re­peat­edly as­serted in re­sponse that Ira­nian laws pro­hib­ited many vi­o­la­tions and that courts would pun­ish as vi­o­la­tions.

The whole process had an air of un­re­al­ity, for Iran is a coun­try that has in­creas­ingly gone rogue on in­ter­na­tional norms and con­ven­tions.

Last week saw the 40th an­niver­sary of the US em­bassy hostage cri­sis. It de­fies a kind of nat­u­ral logic when a regime as well en­trenched as the Ira­nian one goes back­wards in its be­hav­iour.

Tehran has be­come more and more rev­o­lu­tion­ary and an­ar­chic. It has re­vived its pol­icy of tak­ing hostages for lever­age over for­eign states. It has also aban­doned any pre­tence of op­er­at­ing a con­ven­tional sov­er­eign state and in­stead uses an in­flu­ence net­work across the re­gion to bol­ster its stand­ing and un­der­mine its neigh­bours.

Ja­son Reza­ian, a US jour­nal­ist, who spent 544 days locked up in Iran, has launched a cam­paign against what he calls Tehran’s hostage fac­tory.

In the last 12 years he be­lieves that 57 peo­ple, mostly dual na­tion­als or Ira­ni­ans with for­eign res­i­dency, have been caught up in the pol­icy and that least 13 are cur­rently held by the regime.

There can be no doubt that the de­ten­tions are de­lib­er­ate. Most of those in­volved have faced the same judge, Abol­ghasem Salavati, on vague charges of en­dan­ger­ing the coun­try’s na­tional se­cu­rity. The de­tainees are usu­ally held in sec­tion 2A of Evin prison, a wing that is un­der the con­trol of the Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The closed door trial is in­evitably marred by lack of ad­e­quate le­gal de­fence or fail­ures in due process.

The bar­gain­ing power that Iran de­rives from the hostages is rarely con­cealed. In the case of a Bri­tish hostage the Ira­ni­ans are quite clear that they want pay­ment of half a bil­lion pounds tied up in a le­gal dis­pute be­fore she will be handed over.

As the lawyer Jared Genser told Mr Reza­ian when the pool of coun­tries af­fected by the pol­icy has widened in re­cent months, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, Le­banon and France, that Iran has started to en­counter push back.

“It has only been with the ex­pan­sion of the regime’s hostage tak­ing to na­tion­als of a much broader group of coun­tries in the last few years that gov­ern­ments around the world are now call­ing these shake­downs the hostage tak­ing that it is,” said Mr Genser, who rep­re­sents two of those held.

There is lit­tle doubt this agenda is driven by the IRGC, which is favoured by the coun­try’s supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei over the gov­ern­ment. In fact it has be­come so pow­er­ful the gov­ern­ment is now act­ing as its aux­il­iary in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs. What is less ap­pre­ci­ated is how all parts of the state are part of the project.

There is an ef­fec­tive dou­ble act be­tween IRGC com­man­der Qassem Suleimani and for­eign min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif that acts as the ham­mer and anvil of this pol­icy.

Mr Zarif is bet­ter known as a Twit­ter war­rior who de­liv­ers so­phis­ti­cated de­fences of Iran in pol­ished English. Strip away the niceties and the US-ed­u­cated for­eign min­is­ter is work­ing hand in glove with Mr Suleimani to de­fend and pro­tect the sys­tem.

There is a shared nar­ra­tive of “rev­o­lu­tion­ary re­sis­tance” deeply em­bed­ded in both men that is masked by their very dif­fer­ent public per­sonas.

“Both rep­re­sent Iran’s in­com­ing gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers: as­sertive, prag­matic and com­mit­ted to the revo­lu­tion’s prin­ci­ples,” ac­cord­ing to a land­mark 205 page dossier from the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Strate­gic Stud­ies re­leased last week. “They are un­will­ing to com­pro­mise on Iran’s claimed role as a re­gional hege­mon and are com­mit­ted to the sus­te­nance

The West must know that Iran doesn’t play by the same diplo­matic rules as ev­ery other state

of the Axis of Re­sis­tance.”

The IISS dossier amounts to a warn­ing to Western diplo­mats to stop col­lud­ing with the idea that Iran plays by the same diplo­matic rules as ev­ery other state, bar­ring the most rogue.

It points out that both men have used open­ings with their Western in­ter­locu­tors to en­gage and learn about the other side but rarely make con­ces­sions. Even at low points for Iran the ap­pear­ance of talks and open­ness to di­a­logue can be enough to ease the worst of the pres­sure the coun­try is un­der. Con­versely they are both happy to lap up Western con­ces­sions when the big pow­ers need help.

It con­cludes that Iran is un­likely to cur­tail its re­gional med­dling to achieve in­ter­na­tional re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and warns that ul­ti­mately Iran can­not be both “rev­o­lu­tion­ary and part of the in­ter­na­tional or­der”.

There is a bleak prog­no­sis when the pat­tern of Ira­nian be­hav­iour, not only within its own bor­ders but in Le­banon, Syria, Iraq and Ye­men, is put un­der close scru­tiny.

In the ab­sence of pow­er­ful coun­tries tak­ing a stand against the thug­gish na­ture of the regime, it has been left to the peo­ple on the streets of Beirut, Bagh­dad and else­where to re­ject the con­se­quences of Tehran’s power plays.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.