This sentiment was also expressed in very strong terms by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday in his address to the gathering of the UN General Assembly in New York. Netanyahu devoted a major portion of his speech to questions of Iran policy, describing the Islamic Republic as a “genocidal enemy,” in reference to its leaders’ repeated calls for the complete destruction of the state of Israel.
Netanyahu also emphasized his continued opposition to the nuclear agreement, having previously addressed the US Congress while negotiations were ongoing, in order to solidify opposition among the Republican Party and some especially pro-Israel Democrats. But Netanyahu has not expressed his opposition solely in terms of the deal’s impact on Israel, instead presenting it as a misstep for overall global stability.
The Times of Israel reported on Thursday that Netanyahu’s speech included the assertion that sanctions relief would very likely lead Tehran to the financing of more domestic repression, and would certainly lead it to the financing of more terrorism and aggression beyond its borders.
By calling for Iran to pay reparations to the victims of former terrorist acts, the US Congress is drawing attention to the same issue. It is fair to say that many of the supporters of that bill do not realistically expect Iran to abide by the court orders paying those reparations. Rather, by defying that order even after the issue was raised anew by the legislation, Tehran would be making those US legislators’ point regarding the lack of change in the Iranian regime.
And more than just blatantly ignoring requests that it take responsibility for these past actions, Tehran is actively fighting back against those requests. The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that the central bank of Iran has launched a legal challenge that will be taken up by the US Supreme Court in its forthcoming session. The challenge seeks to undermine a court decision stating that some victims of Iranian terror would be permitted to seize frozen Iranian assets to pay their own compensation, before Iran could reclaim access to the cash.
It is unclear whether this issue will be resolved in any meaningful way before the nuclear deal is implemented. That is generally not expected to happen until well into 2016, although Iran has intimated that it may be able to fulfill its obligations more quickly than anticipated, thus freeing up the US and the European Union to suspend nuclear-related sanctions at least until such time as the Islamic Republic is found to be in violation of the further terms of the agreement.
In the meantime, and even with outstanding questions about Iran’s willingness to distance itself from former terrorism or its ability to live up to the expectations of the agreement, there has been a major push for investment in the soon-to-be-opened market. This comes from European and North American firms and governments as well as from countries that are closer to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
By most accounts, Asian countries like India, Pakistan, and China have moved further along the path toward reestablishing normal trade ties with Iran. The Express Tribune pointed out on Wednesday that Pakistani businesses are pushing for more streamlined banking arrangements in order to facilitate early transactions with Iranian entities and effectively circumvent US-led sanctions that remain in place for the time being. The report adds that India and Turkey have already taken these steps, so that Pakistan is scrambling to keep pace.
This describes the situation for European businesses as well, or at least those that have not been deterred by the unresolved questions. Also among these unresolved questions is the issue of Iran’s new contract templates for European partners. These have not been seen, having just been approved by the Iranian government on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg. They will not be unveiled until an oil and gas conference scheduled for February in London. This has been pushed back four times since it was originally announced, and Iran News Update previously suggested that this might be a deliberate attempt to keep interested businesses chasing the Iranian market before they even know whether the terms of new contracts will be favorable to them.
Still, some Western businesses have explicitly stated that they are waiting to see these contracts before they push any further into the Iranian market. Others are recognizably concerned about the potential public relations consequences of selling goods or providing capital to the Islamic Republic when it is understood that that money and equipment could still be used to exacerbate human rights abuses.
Some manufacturers of cranes, for instance, have previously fallen afoul of public relations when images were revealed showing their cranes being used in Iran’s notorious public hangings. On Wednesday, an editorial appeared in the New York Daily News, authored by National Council of Resistance of Iran President Maryam Rajavi. In it she called attention to the more than 2,000 executions that have been carried out since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013. She presented this as part of a much larger human rights crisis and insisted that the West take steps to confront it now that the nuclear deal is moving toward implementation.
Rajavi described these systematic human rights abuses as a war by the regime against the whole of its own people. In this context, the NCRI and various analysts have been optimistic about the prospects for unity of purpose among the Iranian people in opposing that regime’s repression. This continues to carry serious risk of reprisal, but in some areas there have been signs that the regime’s hold is slipping.
Iran News Update previously made this case regarding Tehran’s well-known restrictions on information, noting that the authorities are attempting to consolidate power over internet censorship and monitoring, but are apparently doing so in response to more frequent and effective circumvention of that censorship by a young and tech-savvy populous. The simple ubiquity of information and communications technology makes it easier than ever for such a populous to disseminate information and organize.
And according to a review published on Thursday in the New Republic, this is a major theme of the latest film by banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi. The film, Taxi, consists of interviews with and footage of ordinary Iranians, often aimed at capturing “everyday manifestations of repression.” But it is not only Panahi who captures images used in the film, and the New Republic determines that the depictions of modern technology and media give the impression that someone will always be willing and able to expose those manifestations of repression, “no matter what authoritarian power bans it.”