Phares points out that by gaining powerful regional influence, particularly in Iraq, Iran has been able to put pressure on Middle Eastern rival nations, and even fair-weather trading partners. It has virtually encircled Iran and called for changes of diplomatic strategy from such nations as Saudi Arabia.
The pressure on Turkey is in one sense a show of Iranian strength. But as World Politics Review points out, Turkey has in fact always been a trading partner with Iran, and likely always will be in spite of the ideological differences between the two governments. Such ideological differences are arguably only a small portion of the relations between those two nations, and World Politics Review claims that the current, highly-publicized diplomatic talks between Turkey and Iran are not really a change of status. Rather, they “continue the status quo” and are at most a change of strategy in the midst of ongoing trade and measured cooperation.
Armenia Now reports that there have been talks between Iran and Armenia over the possibility of setting up a Free Economic Space between the two countries as part of a joint effort to strengthen their national economies. However, the article also indicates that this is expected to be a joint effort by far more than two players. Russia and China are expected to support the project, especially since it may involve the creation of a railway linking the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf.
This is something that Russia in particular will be very interested in, although Iran is similarly interested in transit going in the opposite direction, towards the Black Sea. Such mutually beneficial products call renewed attention to the prospect of major Asian powers unifying against the West and forming an Asian bloc that would barely be subject to sanctions or international norms.
Hunter and Abedini
As part of the policy of direct diplomatic engagement, a representative of the Obama administration recently visited Iran in person. Pastor Joel Hunter, who is described as President Obama’s spiritual advisor, recently returned from Iran, where he met with Tehran officials to talk about Iranian prisoners of conscience, particularly including Pastor Saeed Abedini, a Christian Iranian-American who was arrested just under two years ago while working on building an orphanage and was sentenced to eight years in prison for his beliefs.
Last month, Abedini returned to the headlines when it was reported that he had been beaten by Iranian officials in front of his family while hospitalized due to injuries sustained during other beatings. All along the way, there have been continuous appeals for clemency in the case. Hunter’s recent visit served to reiterate and renew those calls in close proximity to the judicial figures who might be in a position to commute his sentence and allow him to return to the United States.
A Look Back at Human Rights Violations
At The New Yorkerwebsite, Robin Wright gives a rundown of the persistently oppressive situation facing dissidents and dissenters in Iranian society. Wright emphasizes the fact that President Rouhani has proven to be a great disappointment in this area, then goes on to detail the personal stories of some of the people who have been affected.
Of those few political prisoners who have managed to leave prison, most live in constant fear of being returned there. But these constant dangers and the poor conditions of Iranian prisons have not been enough to suppress the spirit of some Iranian activists and groups, who continue to work for change even though they never experience the full feeling of freedom now.