from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Reminders About Iran

May 7, 2015

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During the three-month period between April 2 and June 30, Iran and the P5+1 are supposed to negotiate a comprehensive agreement about Iran’s nuclear program. The United States has been careful not to exacerbate relations with Iran, with the Obama administration trying hard not to upset any apple carts. The theory seems to be that there are hardliners in Iran (who are just like our own hardliners, the administration appears to believe) and we mustn’t annoy them.

So it is interesting to see how Iran is conducting itself during this period. The answer is clear: it is practicing no restraint whatsoever. The best example of this may be its seizure of the cargo ship Maersk Tigris which was plying the waters of the Gulf. This seizure has forced the United States to provide naval escorts to some American and British ships, and it served notice on the world that Iran would use military force when it pleased, negotiations or no negotiations.

A second example is the espionage charge against the imprisoned Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. He has been in an Iranian jail since July, 2014, and the ludicrous espionage charge is not simply a reminder of the nature of Iran’s "legal" system; it is also a slap in the face of President Obama. There was really no reason for Iran to charge an American journalist with espionage during this three-month period except to show Americans and their president how little they think of us--and how confident they are that nothing, nothing at all, will lead President Obama to back away from doing this nuclear deal.

Yesterday came another reminder of the nature of the Iranian regime. Here’s the AP story, from The Washington Post:

One of Iran’s most prominent human rights activists, Narges Mohammadi, has been arrested by state security forces and detained in Tehran’s Evin Prison, her husband said Wednesday.

Mohammadi is close to Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi. Her activism includes promoting women’s rights and campaigning to end the death penalty.

Her husband, Taghi Rahmani, told The Associated Press that about 10 people showed up at Mohammadi’s house early Tuesday morning to detain her — a show of force he called “very provocative.”

“Narges is a human rights activist. ... She hasn’t done anything wrong,” said Rahmani, who lives in exile in France.

Mohammadi was a vice president of Ebadi’s now-banned Defenders of Human Rights Center. Ebadi herself left Iran after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, which touched off unprecedented protests and harsh crackdowns by authorities.

Rahmani said his wife suffers from a health condition, made worse by confinement in small spaces, that causes temporary muscular paralysis.

Mohammadi previously was imprisoned in April 2012 to begin serving a six-year sentence following a 2010 conviction related to anti-government crimes. She was released on medical grounds in July 2012.

Last week, she told the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that an Iranian court had charged her with a number of national security crimes related to her activism.

The group said she is accused of propaganda against the state, assembly and collusion against national security, and establishing an illegal group, the “Step by Step to Stop Death Penalty” campaign.

So in the course of a mere three weeks, Iran has given us these powerful reminders of the nature of its regime, its defiance of international law, and its contempt for the United States and President Obama. Meanwhile Foreign Minister Zarif travels the world, offering assurances of Iran’s good faith and pacific intent. Zarif is a salesman, or put more nicely a diplomat, but not a policymaker, and the policymakers are showing us week after week the true nature of the regime. If we pay more attention to Zarif’s speeches and interviews than to the actual conduct of the regime, we have nothing and no one to blame but ourselves and our illusions about the Islamic Republic.

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