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The Obama administration has bought into what my colleague at CFR Ray Takeyh calls the "Rouhani narrative:" Rouhani is a reformer, Iran is ripe for change and reform, progress is at hand. As in the Cold War days when we were told we needed to compromise to "help the reformers in the Kremlin," so today we must not be too tough in negotiations lest we weaken Rouhani and his reformist brethren.
But the reforms in Iran are imaginary, making Rouhani either complicit in the deception or unable to make any changes.
As the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported yesterday, "Repression Intensifies Despite Rouhani’s Promises:"
In the past three days alone, the Judiciary has banned the reformist daily Bahar, sentenced the prominent actress Pegah Ahangarani to 18 months in prison, and put to death 18 individuals who are ethnic minorities.
According to AFP, "An Iranian court has sentenced filmmaker and actress Pegah Ahangarani to 18 months in prison, her mother told ISNA news agency Monday, apparently for her social activities, political comments and interviews with foreign media."
Here is the Amnesty International comment:
Two death row prisoners from Iran’s Kurdish minority are at imminent risk of being executed after the Iranian authorities carried out 20 death sentences over the weekend, Amnesty International warned today.
“This surge in executions shows that behind words and promises, the Iranian authorities continue to rely on state-sponsored killing, sparking fears that Zaniar Moradi and Loghman Moradi, two Kurdish minority prisoners on death row, could be next,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International....
“Iran’s new government has been cautiously lauded on the world stage for limited signs of progress, including releasing some prisoners of conscience. But the renewed dependence on the death penalty gives a startling example of one area where the Iranian authorities are clearly stubborn,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
The Obama administration has shown its lack of interest in Iran’s human rights situation since June 2009, when the President seemed indifferent to the wave of protests that arose around the presidential election. Today we find in regime stalwarts, who have represented the Islamic Republic for decades and smiled while acts of terrorism took hundreds of lives, new hope for reform. But inside Iran, there is no reform; human rights violations continue apace. The "reformer" Rouhani has appointed as Minister of Justice Moustafa Pour-Mohammadi, whom Human Rights Watch called "minister of murder" in 2005 for his previous conduct: hundreds of extra-judicial executions.
What’s the relationship between the internal situation and the nuclear file? Simply this: we are fooling ourselves if we see in Rouhani a reformer who wishes to change the Iranian system, move toward democracy, and abandon the nuclear weapons program. That "Rouhani narrative" was carefully constructed to ensnare Western diplomats, officials, and journalists. We have no excuse if we fall for it.