The Tower indicated that the latest story was broken by Reuters, although the details only reiterate a conviction that was reported last month as having likely occurred after the last closed-door session of Rezaiain’s trial. The new reports provide little to no additional information beyond official acknowledgement of the conviction. The length of the resulting sentence is still unknown, although early reports speculated that he could be facing between 10 and 20 years in prison.
Also unknown is the exact nature of the evidence presented against the defendant. His attorney, Leila Ahsan, had told reporters ahead of the trial that she had seen his file and found it to be absent any evidence corroborating the accusations levied against her client. Rezaian was arrested in July 2014 alongside his wife, a reporter for the United Arab Emirates’ The National newspaper, as well as two other journalists. The unnamed individuals were later released, and Rezaian’s wife, Nagameh Salehi, was released on bail and has yet to see trial.
Rezaian’s family and colleagues have categorically dismissed all notions that the American-Iranian dual citizen had engaged in espionage. His arrest, lengthy detention, and eventual conviction, combined with a great deal of secrecy surrounding the case, have been described by his advocates as indicative of an attempt to maintain leverage over the US during nuclear negotiations, and subsequently to indulge hardline anti-Western rhetoric.
The confirmation of Rezaian’s conviction comes amidst a well-recognized increase in such rhetoric, coming primarily from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The IRGC has also been leading a greatly enhanced crackdown on domestic journalism, art, and political advocacy.
On Monday, Breitbart pointed to a few of the latest instances of anti-Western rhetoric, particularly as applied to the context of the Syrian Civil War and the conflict against the Islamic State. Iranian officials have seized upon this month’s Paris terrorist attacks to attempt to portray Western nations as being at fault for current problems in the Middle East, and also to compel those countries to abandon their efforts to negotiate the end of the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Breitbart notes that the office of the supreme leader recently released a video and a cartoon reiterating familiar Iranian conspiracy theories that allege that the US and its allies created ISIS. The report also points out that an editorial in the Kayhan newspaper, which frequently acts as a mouthpiece for Khamenei, claimed that France had been attacked at the behest of its own allies and “Zionists,” in order to compel it to increase its presence in the Middle East.
This reference to the state of Israel is often closely tied to Iran’s anti-Western rhetoric, and it has also remained strong even in the midst of a situation of perceived rapprochement between Iran and the West. Iranian officials routinely call for the outright destruction of the Jewish homeland, and CBN News indicated on Monday that Iranian forces are actively training to bring about such a goal.
Over the weekend, thousands of members of the IRGC conducted war games in which they simulated the capture of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, complete with a full-scale replica of the Dome of the Rock. IRGC officers also boasted that the maneuvers included testing of newly developed military equipment like the Shahed-129 drone. Such purported technological advancements are often announced by the IRGC alongside threats and intimations of readiness for open conflict with the West.
These sorts of claims are undermined by some perceptions that the Islamic Republic is overextended on conflicts in the broader Middle East. But Iranian officials have also taken care to counteract this, saying for instance that Iran and its smaller allies are capable of defeating the Islamic State entirely on their own.
Toward this end, IRGC head Mohammad Ali Jafari recently claimed that ISIS cannot destabilize Iran but can destabilize the West through attacks like those that struck Paris on November 13. Agence France-Presse notes that these remarks came in the context of claims that Iran had arrested members of an ISIS cell near the Iran-Iraq border. But these reports were vague and could not be confirmed by outside sources. They may also appear as suspect in the wake of the IRGC’s numerous arrests if innocent journalists and activists, many of which have been portrayed as part of a US-led infiltration network aimed at destabilizing the Islamic Republic.