The Iranian regime is confident that the next US administration will rejoin the nuclear deal. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani recently said that he had “no doubt” about a pending return to the status quo under American President-elect Joe Biden.
This, Rouhani added, would result in the prompt suspension of economic sanctions as the US arranged to return to the seven-party nuclear agreement from which it withdrew in 2018.
On the other hand, recently released satellite images indicate that the Iranians are building new facilities near the fortified underground Fordow nuclear site. While the regime has made no public statement about the work, it previously acknowledged similar defensive constructions at nuclear facilities in Natanz.
There is also evidence of ongoing work at other less-prominent sites that has not even been declared to inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
In October, the main coalition of Iranian opposition groups known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), announced the discovery of a military site controlled by the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, which is primarily responsible for weaponizing Iran’s nuclear program.
The new US administration should pay due attention to these reminders and recognize their significance.
It is widely anticipated that Biden will adopt a softer policy than his predecessor, President Donald Trump, but the presidential transition does not need to result in the US whipsawing from “maximum pressure” back to a conciliatory strategy. A gentle approach would embolden the regime.
And the nuclear deal is not the only outstanding issue with the West. There is a 32-year-old crime against humanity case for which no Iranian official has ever been held accountable. During three months in 1988, an estimated 30,000 political prisoners were brutally executed.
The massacre was highlighted just days before the release of new images from Fordow, when a letter was made public by a group of UN human rights experts. In a report, they demanded relevant information from the Iranian regime and also acknowledged the troubling failure of international bodies to address the crime.
The killings were not investigated by the UN’s General Assembly, Security Council, or Commission on Human Rights.
The experts said: “The failure of these bodies to act had a devastating impact on the survivors and families as well as on the general situation of human rights in Iran and emboldened Iran to continue to conceal the fate of the victims and to maintain a strategy of deflection and denial that continues to date.”
Some of the main perpetrators of the massacre remain in positions of extraordinary influence within Iran’s political and economic systems, among them the current head of the judiciary and the justice minister.
It is no surprise, therefore, that evidence points to escalating repression of dissent in the Islamic Republic, especially in the face of popular unrest that has defined recent years.
Dozens of peaceful protesters were killed at the beginning of 2018 when the country found itself in the midst of a nationwide uprising. But that death toll was dwarfed in November last year when the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) opened fire on crowds of citizens participating in a larger uprising.
Approximately 1,500 people were killed, making the crackdown by far the clearest acknowledgement that authorities remain committed to the strategies that were on prominent display in the 1980s.
This observation is one that Biden and other policymakers should take to heart as they set a course for collective Western responses to Iran’s malign behavior.
American and European policies can help to safeguard the Iranian people against even worse repression of their fundamental rights. At the same time, appropriately assertive policies are still needed in order to pressure the regime into abandoning activities that could lead to it obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Then comes the concern regarding Iran’s role as the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, a threat much more immediate and closer to home since its agents or proxies could strike virtually anywhere in the world, at any time.
Fears over Iranian terrorism were particularly validated in 2018, when multiple Iran-backed terror plots were thwarted including one that would have seen explosives being set off just outside Paris at an NCRI-organized gathering of tens of thousands of Iranians.
Maryam Rajavi, the NCRI’s president-elect, was the keynote speaker at the event in the French capital, joining an impressive array of hundreds of international figures and lawmakers calling for democratic change in Iran. Four co-conspirators in the bomb plot, including a senior Iranian diplomat, are currently on trial in Belgium, in a case that should influence Western policies.
The past 40 years have shown that the Iranian regime’s behavior will only get worse. There is only one conclusion: Sustained pressure on the Iranian regime is necessary and tragically under-emphasized.
Source » arabnews