US-European Tensions Over Iran
Business Week, prior to this weekend, reported on the discrepancy between US and European trade data with respect to Iran. Last year, US shipments increased by 35 percent, totaling to a rise of approximately 315 million dollars. By contrast, European trade decreased by a staggering 77 percent. The vast difference is apparently attributable to differing application of US-led sanctions, with American companies being subject to a much greater proportion of exceptions to those globally-mandated restrictions.
This situation has led some European officials to accuse the US of seeking to secure a competitive advantage that will be particularly beneficial in the event that sanctions are removed and Iran opens to international business in the near future. Business Week quotes Suzanne Maloney, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, as saying that these perceptions “will inevitably create tension.”
This tension may be a complicating factor for the US to consider in setting policy towards Iran, both with respect to nuclear negotiations and in more general context. If it wishes to limit those tensions, it may have to either reduce sanctions enforcement for all countries, or enforce sanctions more vigorously for American companies for as long as those resolutions remain on the books.
Baha’is: Plight and Protest
In the New Statesman, Oxford professor Nazila Ghanea writes about the situation facing Baha’is in Iran, both in terms of the severe repression they receive from the Iranian government, and the heroic support they receive from some of the nation’s people. She points out that the six year anniversary of the imprisonment of seven Baha’i leaders garnered large-scale protests that included participation from a prominent human rights lawyer and a progressive Muslim cleric.
But in light of the ongoing imprisonments and desecration of Baha’i cemeteries, Ghanea concludes that there are lessons to be learned from both “the profound joy of principled camaraderie amongst Iranian upholders of justice” and “the attack on their dead ancestors.” She understands that the plight of religious minorities is severe, but she holds out hope that it will be alleviated in time.
On a similar note, the National Council of Resistance of Iran reported on Friday that residents of the Iranian town of Savadjan defied the regime by holding a rally in remembrance of one of the latest political prisoners to be executed by the government on the basis of political affiliations.
Gholamreza Khosravi was hanged at dawn on June 1 in Gohardasht Prison, and for fear of rallies in support of his political cause, the regime refused to release his body to his family, instead burying it secretly on the day of the execution. Nevertheless, villagers from the town of his birth gathered at the Seyed Soleiman shrine in his honor and then marched to the village mosque before the gathering was disrupted by government forces.
A Telling Remark
The Brookings Institution quotes Mashhad’s Friday prayer leader as condemning women who resist the legal requirement to wear head coverings. He identifies such actions as protests against religious values and, of course, Islamic governance. He also declared, “We aren’t concerned with how people think, but we will confront foreign religion that seeks to undermine our religious values.”
It is a telling remark, in that it can easily be construed as an outright admission of the theocratic system’s contempt for freedom of thought. The speaker, Seyed Ahmad Alam Alhoda, sees no place for differences of opinion on the issue of the veil, and he understands that the clerical government will exclude those views and treat them as other governments might treat active sedition.
An Example of Failed Propaganda
An article at Cracked.com details six examples of “propaganda that backfired in hilarious ways,” and the Iranian government has the distinction of making the list at number two, with an incident from the 2009 .
The article tells the story of Majid Tavakoli, a student leader who was arrested for opposing the system and its rigged elections, and was then dressed in women’s clothing and photographed by government officials in an effort to shame him.
As the author puts it, “pretty much not a single person in Iran believed it,” and far from discrediting Tavakoli, the regime’s efforts simply inspired the “Be a Man” campaign, in which thousands of Iranian men took pictures of themselves in women’s clothing, in order to show solidarity with him in his false arrest.