Few Developments since Evin Raid:The National Council of Resistance of Iran released its latest weekly report on the human rights situation. It calls attention to arbitrary arrests and gives the names of persons sentenced to death by the regime. Much of the report deals with the prison conditions and hunger strikes, as elements of a continuing chain of events since the Evin Prison raids of April 17.
However, the NCRI report gives the impression that little has changed in the government’s policies towards prisoners. That is, it indicates that one prisoner, Issa Rostami, was beaten to death with batons on April 28 at Karaj Ghezel Hessar Prison, and another, a cleric named Kazemeini Borujerdi, was pressured to write a letter falsely proclaiming himself to be in good health in his imprisonment.
Human Rights Concerns in the Face of Nuclear Talks
National Public Radio’s Morning Edition ran a report on Monday indicating that human rights activists within the United States are demanding that the US government and other members of the P5+1 raise the issue of human rights abuses in the nuclear negotiations that are taking place in New York this week.
The report featured comments from Gissou Nia of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. The organization is the source of the Unlock Iran campaign, which attempts to use Facebook to expose Westerners to the human rights situation in Iran. Nia reports that the main goal of the group and its campaign is to encourage Western pressure. In the short term, it is hoped that nuclear negotiations will be used as an opportunity to bring that pressure to bear.
Seeking Regional Alliances
At the same time that nuclear negotiators are meeting in New York, there has been a flurry of outreach by Iranian officials to the leaders of current and potential trading partners. In a series of moves that may imply an attempt to create alternative economies in the event of the return of Western sanctions, Tehran has been negotiating with several countries over the possibility of bartering national gas and other goods for imports from places like Turkmenistan, Armenia, and Kuwait.
President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif have already welcomed the Armenian Foreign Minister, and plans are in place for the Prime Minister of Pakistan to visit next week to discuss regional and international issues, including the possible completion of stalled construction of a gas pipeline between the two countries.
Meanwhile, Al Arabiya News reports that two warships docked in the port of Khartoum on Monday in what has been interpreted as a possible show of strength to Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia. This comes less than a week after Saudi Arabia staged a military parade that was similarly regarded as a signal to Iran.
It will be worthwhile to monitor future developments in terms of both alliances and tensions among nations throughout the Middle East and the rest of Asia. The situation is certainly tenuous for the time being.
China a Military Partner?
Adding to deliberate overtures sent by Iran to nearby trading partners, China has made its own move towards the strengthening of Asian alliances. Reuters quotes Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan as saying that the nation would like to have deeper ties of military defense with Iran. He referred to "increased mutual visits and personnel training cooperation between the armed forces.”
This is a potentially significant development in Chinese foreign policy, considering that the country has not generally been so straightforward about its collaborative relationship with Iran. China imposed some limited restrictions on trade with Iran in light of American sanctions. However, last week it was revealed that a wealthy Chinese businessman had been supplying Iran with ballistic missile components.
With a population of about 1.35 billion people and rapid industrialization, China has exceptionally large energy demands. This is certainly a motivating factor in its relationships with both Iran and China. But its new willingness to form public military alliances may signal that the government is betting on further deterioration in relations between these trading partners and other members of the international community.