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US President Must Address Human Rights Abuses in Iran to Enhance His Negotiating

President Obama said “I spoke on the phone with President Rouhani of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  The two of us discussed our ongoing efforts to reach an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program.”  The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran must concern every citizen of the world and not be condoned by the international community.  While reaching an agreement, if one takes place, would be a welcome change between the two foes-- the “Great Satan” and a member of the “axis of evil”-- by no means should that be the end of the matter.

Although leading Senate and House hawks support President Obama’s engagement move with Mr. Rouhani, they are also mindful of the Islamic president’s political background, his contribution to Iran’s miserable human rights record and his support and masterminding of the Islamic regime’s international terrorism within the last 34 years.  “I do believe that there is a basis for a resolution.  Iran’s Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons,” said President Rouhani.  However, the American Congress, international leaders and the peace-loving people of the world have all heard this story many times before.  Déjà vu all over again.

There was an atmosphere of reconciliation and optimism during the 16 year-presidencies of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, who also had the support of the Supreme Leader of the regime Ali Khamenei, but nothing materialized.  In fact, since 1979 and the occupation of the US embassy in Tehran, the American presidents and in recent years some European leaders have been in search of so-called moderate elements and authorities within the Islamic regime who would be able to steer the country from its hostile attitude and costly stand-off with the world communities.  These efforts of course have been fruitless.  The fact is in the Islamic establishment only Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, is in charge and governs the country.  Neither hardliners and fundamentalists, nor reformists and moderate presidents, control the system or have ever played a role in running the foreign affairs including the nuclear negotiations.

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However, this time around, the country’s economy has been crippled by the new U.S. and E.U sanctions leveled against Iran, which have had a devastating effect on Iran’s oil industries and technological development.  Limited oil exports and lack of access to the international banking system have caused the bulk driver of the country’s economy to decrease as much as 55%, equivalent to a loss of revenue of about $100 million per day.  Consequently, the value of Iranian currency has dropped over 80%, with unemployment and inflation peaking at 50% and 40%, respectively.  Nonetheless, the diplomatic overtures from the new Islamic President are definitely not a change of strategy but rather a tactical “flexibility” merely to reduce the international sanctions and economic squeeze which would buy time to process the weaponization stage of uranium and allow the Islamic Republic to reach its most urgent goal which it is so heavily invested in—that of making atomic bombs.

While the Supreme Leader and his men are on a quest for construction of nuclear weapons, the critical issue for Iranian people is daily abuse of human rights in Iran by the theocratic regime.  It has been over thirty four years since the Islamic regime has come to power in Iran.  Since 1979 more than 8 million Iranians have fled their homeland.  It is without question evidence of a horrid regime when 8 million of its subjects abandon their homes, families, and everyday lives to pursue a potentially futureless, nomadic existence in order to maintain their basic rights as human beings.  Iranians escape their homeland in the hopes of protecting their identities, maintaining self-respect, and saving themselves and their children from inhuman religious fanatics.  The free world should not forget that 8 million educated and professional Iranians used the classic method of protest- they voted with their feet.  

While the Islamic Republic officially derives its legitimacy from Islamic laws, in practice its hold on power is reinforced through intimidation, terror, imprisonment, and execution.  Criticism of the terrorist government is unlawful, making one subject to immediate arrest and in most cases execution.  Those who question or intentionally ridicule the views of Islamic clergymen are labeled as enemies of God and Islam with links to the “Great Satan” (America) and Zionism (Israel), and they risk confiscation of their property and execution by the regime. Young boys and girls, and even pregnant women, are not spared from the wrath of the regime’s revolutionary courts and firing squads.

Practically any basic human rights that are recognized in the civilized world are denied in the Islamic Republic. Denial of a fair public trial, denial of freedom of speech, denial of freedom of assembly and association, denial of freedom of religion, denial of freedom of political participation, denial of principles of international law and conduct, and invasion of homes and privacy of the people are the basic criteria of the Islamic Republic.  In recent years, under the supposed “moderate” era of President Khatemi, there had been numerous dissidents, writers, publishers and even poets that were arrested, tortured, condemned, and executed on false charges that would be the equivalent of merely expressing opinions.  Amnesty International recently published a “File on Torture” on Iran. It described physical and psychological torture, saying that “the number of reports of torture and ill treatment received…makes it clear that these violations of human rights are continuing, widespread, and in most places, systematic.”

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Furthermore, under the rule of the Islamic regime since 1979, Iran as a member of the Charter of the United Nations and other international communities has systematically violated nearly every provision of these institutions and the universal declaration of human rights. There are governments in today’s world against whom charges of gross violations of human rights are lodged. However, these governments at least try to contest the charges brought against them, which means they acknowledge the validity of these laws. But the Islamic officials have openly opted to ridicule the concept of universal human rights; they brand the principle of human rights as a tool of western imperialism.

From the Middle East to Western Europe and the United States, the reign of terror is felt. Tragic terrorist acts, including those against American Marines in Lebanon, bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, car bombing of American installations in Saudi Arabia, attack of the World Trade Center in New York, and terrorist acts on two occasions in Argentina against innocent Jewish people, among others, can be considered standard manifestations of the policies adopted by the Islamic Republic of Iran- policies that nurture terrorism and implement it indiscriminately. Officials of the Islamic regime applauded the heroism of the “martyrs” of these terrorist acts. To them and their few but fanatical followers in neighboring Islamic countries, terrorism is a legitimate political tool, justified by a higher cause.  Alarmingly, Mr. Rouhani was head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council when most of these terrorist acts took place.   And yes, the Islamic government in Iran uses terrorism as an integral aspect of its foreign policy.

Therefore, reaching an agreement only over Iran’s nuclear program, as President Obama desires, by no means challenges the fundamental problem here, which is the Islamic government’s sponsorship of international terrorism and their domestic human rights abuses that are daily and systematically carried out.  Washington must put equal emphasis on and simultaneously negotiate both the human rights issue and the nuclear program with Islamic officials. Hopefully the free world can thus facilitate the struggle of the oppressed Iranian citizens and the exiled movement overseas, ultimately granting the Iranian people the capability of freeing their country of this brutal regime and once again gaining a respectable position in the world community. The minds and hearts of all Iranians, whether at home under the bloody hands of ayatollahs, or abroad in exile, are set on one resolution: The restoration of democracy in Iran and cultural heritage to the level that history has destined it to be.  

By. Mansour Kashfi

Mansour Kashfi, Ph.D., is President of Kashex International Petroleum Consulting and is a college professor in Dallas, Texas.  He is also author of more than 100 articles and books about petroleum geology worldwide.  mkashfi@tx.rr.com


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