Ultimately, the Iranians aspire to achieve 50 billion dollars annually in foreign investment. At the same time, they have complained that the potential for the country’s large-scale economic recovery has been constrained by ongoing economic “aggression” on the part of the United States, which continued to enforce terrorism and human rights-related sanctions, even though nuclear-related sanctions were lifted in January under the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The Iranian criticisms have alleged that the US is violating the “spirit” of the agreement. Furthermore, Tehran insists that the US should be doing more to encourage European investment in the Islamic Republic. However, many Western officials and analysts, especially those who opposed the nuclear agreement, believe that the White House has done more than is required of it under the JCPOA, and that it is incumbent upon Tehran to institute reforms that will make foreign investment easier.
The new oil investment contracts may be a step in this direction, as some Western firms were reportedly waiting for the Iranians to reveal their terms before they seriously explored the benefits of doing business with Iranian entities.
But even in the wake of those contracts, some Western firms still face reputational consequences for possibly doing business with Iran, which is widely regarded as the leading state sponsor of terrorism, as well as having a notoriously poor human rights record. Various human rights organizations feel that the US and its allies have been prone to neglecting these issues in the interest of preserving the nuclear agreement or gaining access to Iranian markets. And this argument is particularly salient among Western lawmakers and experts who opposed the nuclear agreement in the first place.
On Wednesday, the Huffington Post published an article that explored the changing relationship between the US and Iran in the wake of the JCPOA. The article gave voice to the criticisms without specifically endorsing them, and then made the case that, for better or worse, the nuclear agreement is a political reality, and perhaps one that will last for some time to come. Although some critics of the deal have advocated for its cancellation, the Huffington Post article takes the position that Western policymakers should use the new relationship between Iran and the US as an opportunity to employ new methods for holding Iran accountable for its illicit activities.
Those illicit activities, and certainly those of them that are related to human rights, have been in sharp focus in recent days. There have been numerous reports of mass executions, as well as extensive discussion of the execution of a nuclear scientist who was the focus of dubious accusations of spying for the US. The National Council of Resistance of Iran was keen to point out that these executions have been taking place at the same time of year in which an estimated 30,000 political prisoners were executed by the Iranian regime in 1988.
The NCRI reported on Wednesday that audio recordings from that time period had recently surfaced featuring Hossein-Ali Montazeri, who had been the heir apparent to Islamic Republic founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, but who lost his status and was essentially ousted from the regime when he criticized the 1988 massacre. The audio recordings provide new details about Montazeri’s comments to the members of the death commission that was tasked with sentencing political prisoners to hang.
“The greatest crime committed during the reign of the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you,” Montazeri said. “Your [names] will in the future be etched in the annals of history as criminals.” He added that the arbitrary nature of the executions meant that the entire legal system of the Islamic Republic was at fault.
The recordings also revealed that the massacre, which was focused upon the dissident group the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, had been planned for some time by hardline factions including the Ministry of Intelligence. That same ministry remains a driving force behind much of the regime’s suppressive activities to this day. And recent stories of that repression suggest that, notwithstanding certain changes in the relationship between Iran and the US, little has changed about Iran’s actual behavior since the early days of the Islamic Republic.
Reports still emerge on a fairly regular basis describing the execution of Iranian political prisoners. Apparently one of the latest such incidents was the execution of Mohammad Abdollahi, a Sunni Kurd who was accused of being a member of armed, anti-government groups. Although he was previously acquitted of those charges, Abdollahi’s case was later reopened by the revolutionary court, in violation of Iranian law.
He was executed on Tuesday alongside four persons convicted of drug offenses. Now, according to the Kurdish news source Rudaw, Abdollahi’s family is being denied the right to reclaim his body, in keeping with the harshly punitive actions sometimes taken against the families and associates of political prisoners. On Wednesday, the NCRI website posted a video of the 11 year-old daughter of another prisoner, Bahman Rahimi, explaining that she was deprived of a final visit to her father, and was instead taken without warning to view his corpse after he had been hanged.
Similarly, the mother of the executed nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri told reporters that she had had no advance knowledge of her son’s death sentence, and was taken to visit him the day before he was hanged, only to be told by Shahram himself that it was their last meeting.
In the 1988 recordings, Montazeri is heard to complain that some of the individuals executed in the summer massacre were apparently innocent of any crime and were condemned merely on the basis of their relationship with other persons who had been sentenced to death. The recent attacks on the families of political prisoners further buttress the claim that little has changed in the ensuing 28 years.