But those indicators are contradicted by various reports indicating that many Western businesses remain wary of doing business with Iran, out of fear that it could open them up to penalties based on restrictions related to the country’s money laundering, support for terrorism, and human rights violations. Iranian officials themselves, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have repeatedly complained that the US is scaring off would-be investors with these restrictions, although some commentators have also observed that certain businesses and state entities are keeping their distance from Iran in part because of potential reputational consequences.
These sorts of consequences are routinely underscored by statements calling attention to Iran’s human rights abuses and other such issues. And these statements are just as likely to come from European-based human rights organizations or from European government spokespersons as they are to come from individuals and organizations based in the United States.
For instance, the London-based human rights organization Amnesty International routinely issues urgent calls to action in response to the cases of Iranian political prisoners or other citizens whose lives appear to be in danger from repressive and abusive actions by the Iranian authorities. For instance, on Thursday, Amnesty reported upon the case of Iranian Kurdish political prisoner Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand, who has been hospitalized due to the extreme health consequences of a month-long hunger strike aimed at calling attention to attempts at arbitrarily extending his sentence.
Having already served 10 years for peaceful human rights advocacy, Kabudvand should be scheduled for imminent release, but authorities are instead attempting to charge him with “spreading propaganda” from within the prison, thereby justifying a last-minute addition of more time to his sentence. Such tactics are often observed in the Islamic Republic, as the regime strives to prevent activists from returning to their former activities once they have served a prison sentence.
Many opponents of Iran sanctions relief worry that increased investment in the Islamic Republic will help to enable more such repressive activities, or that it will encourage European powers to turn a blind eye to such abuses in favor of promoting trade relations. Meanwhile, other critics emphasize the danger of providing additional wealth for Iran’s military interventions and expanded sectarian influence in the broader Middle East.
The latter danger was highlighted by British Foreign Minister Phillip Hammond on Thursday, when the Scotsman reported that he had urged Iran and Russia to use their influence over Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in order to compel him to allow humanitarian air-drops into the war-torn country.
This comes after Assad repeatedly refused to cooperate with international relief efforts, thereby underscoring one of the apparent effects of Iran’s unwavering support for the embattled dictator. Although Russia has joined Iran in fighting on behalf of the Assad regime, there is some indication that Moscow’s resolution on this matter is wavering. Meanwhile, virtually all other participants in international negotiations over the Syrian crisis have called for Assad to be removed from power as part of a negotiated solution.
Most military analysts have indicated that his ouster would have been certain early in the conflict, if not for Iran’s support. Consequently, many of Tehran’s critics insist that the Islamic Republic is responsible for a major portion of the quarter-million casualties in the five-year civil war. Many of those same critics worry that that destructive influence will only worsen if Iran gains access to significant financial resources from Western sources.
Iran’s influence in Syria and Iraq also highlights the Islamic Republic’s well-recognized support for international terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and dozens of Shiite militias that are fighting alongside the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps on those foreign battlefields. The financial sponsorship of such groups is frequently cited by American lawmakers and others in criticism of expanded trade relations with Tehran-linked entities.
What’s more, recent developments have also recalled attention to the fact that Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism is not limited to Shiite groups or potential adversaries of the Sunni militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Breitbart pointed out on Thursday that the death of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour shortly after his latest trip to Iran has helped to call renewed attention to the expanding relationship among Shiite Iran, the Sunni Taliban, and by extension various other potential Sunni threats to Western interests.