Iran Evades Punishment for Foreign Provocations and Domestic Abuses

On Thursday, Agence France-Presse confirmed that at least some portion of the Iranian leadership is consciously exploiting this loophole. In quoted Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan as saying that he was “certain” the Security Council would not take action on the missile tests. This commentary comes in spite of the fact that Britain, France, Germany, and the United States all joined in writing a letter on Monday calling for such a response.

While Iran is no doubt aware of this support for punitive action, it is also aware of the defense that it enjoys from the Russian Federation, which, like the US, Britain, and France, has veto power on the Security Council. As long as Russia remains willing to exploit the vague wording of UNSCR 2231, the rest of the council is effectively powerless to take collective action.

In its coverage of Khamenei’s speech, Iran News Update also suggested that the perception that Iran would face no consequences for its provocative gestures may have also inspired Khamenei to further ramp up his already pronounced anti-Western rhetoric. And indeed, that rhetoric has continued and has arguably intensified in the circumstances surrounding Khamenei’s speech.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran noted on Thursday, for instance, that Iranian state media had taken advantage of the March 22 terrorist attacks in Brussels in order to say that the Europeans “only had themselves to blame” for such attacks. In response to this commentary, a Brussels-based non-governmental organization called the Alliance to Renew Cooperation among Humankind issued a statement condemning the Iranian media for inciting “the continuation of the Jihadi aggression against Europe.”

The organization’s statement represents only one small portion of the European activism currently being directed against Iranian rhetoric, aggressive foreign policy, and domestic human rights violations. Within this climate of abuse and corresponding activism, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani canceled a planned trip to Austria just before it was set to begin on Wednesday.

The NCRI reported that its supporters nonetheless went ahead with a rally that they had planned in coordination with the Human Rights Center for Victims of Fundamentalism. The Wednesday demonstration sought to keep attention focused upon Iran’s human rights record, which includes a rate of executions that has reached its highest level in more than 20 years.

The NCRI has seized upon these and related facts to dispel the notion, advanced by some Western policymakers, that the Rouhani administration is more moderate than its predecessors. The organization, a collective of exiled dissident groups, continues to call upon the governments of Austria and other Western nations to predicate expansion in trade and diplomatic relations upon the improvement of the domestic human rights situation.

Whereas the NCRI acknowledged that it was not certain of the reason for Rouhani’s cancellation, The Tower reported that it was evidently a response to public knowledge of various protests scheduled to take place alongside those planned by the NCRI itself. Austria reportedly refused the Iranian government’s demands for the cancellation or obstruction of these demonstrations, leading Rouhani to call off the visit.

The Tower adds that notwithstanding his moderate image, this sort of move is in keeping with Rouhani’s record, considering that he “rose to prominence in 1999 by opposing student demonstrations against the Iranian regime.”

New reports of repression have continued to accumulate during his more than two and a half years as president, as highlighted by last week’s decision of the United Nations Human Rights Council to renew the mandate for Ahmed Shaheed, the special rapporteur for human rights in Iran.

The cancellation of Rouhani’s trip may have prevented the international media from taking much note of the planned protests, but there are some media outlets that are focused either on Iran or on human rights and are keen to report upon ongoing violations. informed sources, for instance, ran an article on Thursday regarding the plight of husband and wife educators Peyman Kushak Baghi and Azita Farizadeh, who have been sentenced to five and four years in prison, respectively, for their participation in a project to provide higher education to the Baha’i religious minority, which is barred from access to Iranian universities.

The article notes that the two defendants asked to serve non-overlapping sentences so that their five year old son would not be left without a caregiver. After initially imprisoning only Farizadeh, the Iranian authorities seized Baghi on February 28 and took him to begin his sentence without advanced notice after he arrived at his wife’s prison for a visit, along with his son.

Notably, this story reports that the parents may have had time to flee the country before being ordered to begin their sentences, but were reluctant to abandon their efforts to defend the basic rights of the minorities . Such reports highlight the fact that foreign activism is far from the only action being taken to pressure Iran for improvement of its human rights record. Even the NCRI maintains an active network within the country, even though financial support for the organization has proven to grounds for application of the death sentence.

Further highlighting the overlap between foreign and domestic activism, Charisma News reported on Thursday that Pastor Saeed Abedini, the Iranian-American convert to Christianity who had been imprisoned in 2012 for his faith while in the country to help in the construction of an orphanage, told an Idaho news outlet that there was a chance he would still go back to Iran, despite the abuses that he suffered at the hands of prison authorities before being released early this year in a prisoner exchange that also set free three other American-Iranian dual nationals.