United States and Iran at the Brink

May 21, 2019 Updated: May 21, 2019

Iran, a civilization going back at least 2500 years with an industrious talented population of about 80 million, today struggles with myriad misgovernance problems on the 40th anniversary of its Islamic Revolution.

The treatment of lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh is one example of the mullahs’ systematic abuse of human dignity. For defending Iranian women refusing to wear headscarves, she was sentenced to 148 lashes and 38 years in notorious Evin prison, the regime’s “torture factory.”

Kaveh Shahrooz, originally from Iran and today a human rights activist in Canada, notes that Sotoudeh is “the voice for (the) voiceless.” He says a good way to hold the regime responsible would be to apply Magnitsky sanctions now enacted in several democracies to 19 Iranian officials who have played a role in everything from carrying out mass murder to suppressing free speech.

This would be nuanced, allow all governments to calibrate their pressure on Tehran, and not stand in the way of mutually fruitful engagement, provided it does not include those implicated in mass crimes. The “name and shame” approach of the Magnitsky measures is consistent with internationally-supported Canadian policy of criticizing Iran’s government with our yearly human rights resolution.

Struan Stevenson, a member of the European Parliament for 15 years from Scotland, advocates a stronger policy. He recently urged the Trump administration to maintain financial pressure on the Iranian regime and termed the U.S. president’s decision to end the waivers for Turkey, Iraq, India, Japan, and China that had permitted them to continue purchasing Iranian oil “the final nail” in “the mullahs’ coffin.” Iranian oil exports, Stevenson advocates, should be squeezed closer to zero even though they have fallen to about 1m barrels daily, less than half of the pre-sanctions level.

Stevenson also welcomed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement of his government’s inclusion of the Iranian regime’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) on the U.S. terror blacklist. “The IRGC controls almost 90 percent of the Iranian economy, so it will be virtually impossible for anyone to trade with Iran without breaching U.S. sanctions or facing severe penalties for dealing with a listed terrorist organization.”

Stevenson also wants the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) added to the same foreign terrorist organization list.

For many Tehran watchers, the worst ongoing governance abuse was the regime’s decision to spend Iranian funds on proxy wars and militia groups in Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. It uses the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, whose role it to protect the Islamic system in Iran) as a tool of repression, sending it to crush protests and arrest dissidents. Following nationwide uprisings in early 2018, the regime arrested thousands of protestors.

Recent mass demonstrations focused international attention on the regime’s inaction in the wake of serious flooding, which left at least 250 dead and many more without access to food and water. Rather than making the IRGC’s resources available for rescue efforts, the regime deployed mercenaries to maintain order and prevent protests.

A related danger as tensions are rising is the possibility of a major war. An American aircraft-carrier and B-52 bombers are near the Persian Gulf. In Tehran, clerics and the IRGG are lashing out; President Hassan Rouhani, sounding distinctly hawkish, says Iran will no longer abide by the terms of the nuclear deal.

Trump’s chief advisor on national security, John Bolton, argued in 2015 that the best way to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb was to “bomb Iran.” There are now indications that Washington is drawing up plans to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran attacks Americans in Iraq. All non-essential Americans have been ordered out of Baghdad.

A single miscalculation could ignite a full-blown war in the region. Bolton has called for the “overthrow of the mullahs’ regime” and Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” has escalated to the point that Tehran is now in a chokehold.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are already engaged in a proxy war with Iran and are pushing Washington to take an aggressive stance. The ultra-hawkish Bolton must cease taunting the Tehran regime, including issuing dire warnings of impending U.S. military action, if war is to be avoided.

David Kilgour, a lawyer by profession, served in the House of Commons for almost 27 years. He is the author of several books and co-author with David Matas of “Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for Their Organs.” Kilgour’s experience as Crown counsel before going to Parliament was with the City of Vancouver (1967-1968); Dept. of Justice, Ottawa (1968-1969); Government of Manitoba (1971-1972); Government of Alberta (1972-1979).

 

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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