Will the Focus of Iran Policy Shift after Conclusion of Framework Nuclear Deal?

The same re-focusing may be possible for Iran’s civilian population and rare reformist politicians, for whom domestic politics have been “frozen, awaiting the outcome of the negotiations,” according to Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s executive director. Ghaemi said of the preliminary nuclear agreement, “It will have the potential to validate voices of moderation and embolden those who have called for a loosening of the political and cultural environment in Iran.”

But Ghaemi also cautioned that a hardline backlash is possible, even probable. And indeed, many reports indicate that such a backlash has already been underway for some time, as tightening restrictions on free expression, access to information, and religious laws and policies arguably served to compensate for what might have been perceived as political outreach to Iran’s traditional enemies in the West.

On Thursday, as world media outlets were covering the announcement of a framework agreement, IranWire reported on one of the latest instances of political repression against persons deemed to be unfriendly to the regime. The target in this case was a well-known Iranian television writer and producer, Mostafa Azizi, who was arrested and charged with “insulting the supreme leader” and “spreading propaganda” when he returned to Iran to visit friends and family nearly five years after he moved to Canada, where he now has permanent resident status.

Azizi had been held secretly for nearly two months before it was revealed by news agencies. In the midst of nuclear talks, Iran had acquired some negative attention from the world media for its arrest of certain persons with foreign connections, such as dual American-Iranian citizen and Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian. It remains to be seen whether Azizi’s Canadian residency or the recent progress in the nuclear talks will bring international attention to his case.

But by and large, Iran’s political imprisonment and government repression have only been the focus of niche news outlets like IranWire, advocacy organizations like the International Campaign, and political groups like the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Naturally, some such groups have sought broader media representation through their press statements and through direction action.

On Thursday, the NCRI reported upon two such actions that it had helped to organize. In Sweden, demonstrators gathered outside of Friends Arena in Solna before a soccer friendly between the Iranian and Swedish national teams. The demonstration garnered some attention from Swedish television news reporters, to whom one demonstrator explained, “We have gathered here to show our opposition to repression in Iran and to show that Iranians all over the world condemn violations of human rights in Iran.”

Meanwhile, a memorial service was held to call attention to one victim of such human rights violations. The gathering marked three years since the death of Mohsen Dokmechi, a supporter of dissidents affiliated with the NCRI, who died in prison after being tortured and denied essential medical treatment, in keeping with common tactics used by the regime against its political prisoners.

At the same time that the framework nuclear agreement will arguably free up political space for discussion of such human rights violations, it will likely also encourage refocusing of the world’s political attentions on Middle Eastern conflicts to which Iran is a party. But many of Iran’s critics have expressed the view that confronting Iran’s role in these conflicts requires that the world community avoid general rapprochement with the regime.

According to Reuters, Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi on Thursday expressed the hopeful view that continued diplomacy over the nuclear issue would effectively forestall open warfare. But, he cautioned, regional rivalries will persist regardless of any agreement. After all, the nuclear issue is separate from the regime’s other regional activities, as well as its repressive activities within its own country.