The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the intelligence ministry raided the ward last week and administered a mass beating to its residents, landing dozens of prisoners in the hospital…Mr. Bahavar’s letter, sent from Evin, is worth quoting at some length for the portrait it paints of Mr. Rouhani’s Iran. “It feels as though pain has engulfed my entire body,” Mr. Bahavar writes. “They covered our eyes and cuffed our wrists. . . . They lined us up in the Ward 350 corridor, our faces to the wall. I could hear some crying in pain. . . . They started beating our backs very severely with batons. The screaming and crying got louder.”

The security forces next formed a “tunnel” running from the ward’s main entrance to a minibus outside, according to Mr. Bahavar. The guards, some uniformed and some wearing civilian clothes, beat the prisoners as they ran down this tunnel. “The whole route . . . was covered in blood,” Mr. Bahavar reports. The minibus drove some of the prisoners away, while others like Mr. Bahavar were returned to the ward and eventually allowed to see a prison medic…Western governments have treated Mr. Rouhani as the great moderate hope—an Iranian version of China’s Deng Xiaoping. They forget that Mr. Rouhani has been a lifelong security apparatchik, having helped engineer the regime’s bloody 1999 crackdown on Iran’s student movement. His government also bans Twitter (except for its public officials) and is setting modern records for the number of public executions. And unlike Deng, whom Mao purged, Mr. Rouhani has always been part of the regime’s inner circle. 

Perhaps a regime, and a president, that can brutalize political dissidents as a matter of routine can prove reasonable at the nuclear negotiating table. We wouldn’t count on it, and neither should the West.

April 23, 2014