By Raymond Tanter
Sunday, 10 December 2017
Today is Human Rights Day! Is this a day for celebration or mourning? Ordinarily, such a day would be for festivity; but, this day is not a usual moment in time. Why? The Iranian regime is the source of human rights abuses. Iran is not a typical state. It has the trappings of being normal, when, in fact, the regime is anything but ordinary. Iran specializes in detaining of political prisoners.
Consider a book by the National Council of Resistance of Iran called "Iran: Where Mass Murderers Rule: The 1988 Massacre of 30,000 Political Prisoners and the Continuing Atrocities." This volume uses one case — 1988 massacres of dissident political prisoners by Iran — as a point of departure to discuss general policy themes, which are threefold: Bring those responsible for these atrocities to an international tribunal; have the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights set up a commission of inquiry; focus Team Trump on human rights in Iran, in addition to ballistic missiles, sponsorship of terrorism, and armed intervention in Syria.
The Iranian regime regularly responds to disobedience — both when the offense occurs in public or “citizens” are in government detention — with amputations, blinding, eye-gouging, and public executions. This cruel method of death is one of the most inhumane ways to end someone’s life. Publicizing executions is intended to intimidate the masses, making them afraid of expressing their views and their opposition to the regime.
The so-called moderate, President Hassan Rouhani, is on record as sayingpeople should be hanged in public to make examples out of them for other citizens. Iran alone accounted for 66 percent of all recorded executions in the region. The overall number of executions carried out in Iran, however, dropped by 42 percent (from at least 977 to at least 567) in contrast to the previous year, per Amnesty International Report of Facts & Figures for 2016.
Regarding moderation, consider another NCRIUS book, "Presidential Elections in Iran: Changing Faces; Status Quo Policies." The “selections,” by the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader are not really elections, in the Western sense of the term. Although faces change, terrorism abroad and at home, ballistic missile tests, and covert arms transfers between partners in proliferation — Pyongyang and Tehran — continue unabated.
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) also takes note of December 10, and how the United Nations celebrates Human Rights Day. It commemorates the time the UN General Assembly, in 1948, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This milestone provides Trump an opportunity to address a longstanding human rights problem with our main allies, based on U.S. national security implications: Iran’s continuing repression of its own people.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
Statistics regarding the number of citizens imprisoned for their political beliefs are not available, per the Department of State Human Rights Report for 2016. The human rights NGO United for Iran estimates there are 905 prisoners of conscience in Iran, including those jailed for religious beliefs. But such information is available via the NCRI in its reports on human rights abuses in Iran, as verified by Amnesty International, and as stated above for 2016.
The Department of State website, for years since the 2015 nuclear deal, shows how Iran’s pervasive violations of human rights have proceeded unabated. The regime’s conduct stems from its radical Islamist ideology, which views Iran as the vanguard of Shiite Islam in a Middle East dominated by Sunni states and their U.S. patron. In this sense, Iran regards internal dissent as a form of Western cultural infiltration to undermine the regime’s legitimacy from within.
And there is some truth to this allegation. This conspiratorial worldview also guides Tehran’s campaign of aggression throughout the Middle East, which seeks to reshape the largely Sunni region in accordance with Shiite doctrine. So, Iran engages in proxy wars against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, seeks to make Baghdad a virtual satrap of Tehran, and sends teens from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran to their deaths in Syria.
And there is "How Iran Fuels Syria War." This NCRIUS book shows how the Iranian regime engages its forces in Syria by marshaling others and paying very low wages, dividing Syria, and establishing military zones. As a result, by challenging Iran’s human rights abuses, Trump can advance U.S. interests, by discrediting the ideology that animates Tehran’s malign conduct in other arenas.
To mark Human Rights Day, FDD presented key publications from 2017 evaluating how Iran’s Islamist ideology impacts its domestic repression. These writings demonstrate that a robust effort by Trump to combat Iran’s human rights abuses fulfills not only a humanitarian imperative, but also a vital national security interest.
The Way Forward
In conjunction with Human Rights Day and Trump’s review of Iran policy, on Dec. 7, the Organization for Iranian-American Communities (OIACUS) sponsored a briefing in the prestigious Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Building of the U.S. Capitol, an event yours truly attended.
Consider welcoming remarks in a video message from President-Elect Madame Maryam Rajavi from Paris. One of her themes was the need for regime change from within, a recurring idea championed by such scholars as Ivan Sascha Sheehan, per his Dec. 8 article in the Baltimore Sun, "Trump is right to focus on Iran’s support of terrorism."
There were presentations by a distinguished group of former U.S. officials, as well as remarks from two present Members of the U.S. Congress — Sen. Ben Cardin Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (D-MD) and a senior member of the Committee on Appropriations, Sen. John Bozeman (R-AR). They both gave strong support to the people of Iran and were critical of the regime.
Other statements were by former Speaker of the U.S. House, Newt Gingrich. He emphasized growing capabilities of the main opposition group in Iran, a coalition — the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Its largest unit is the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, (PMOI), commonly known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq or MEK. Gingrich highlighted lack of moderation anticipated by President Obama and how President Trump needed to accelerate his pressure on the Iranian regime with new sanctions on Tehran.
Former Chief of Staff to President Obama, General Jim Jones echoed the remarks of others, in focusing on regime change from within and enhanced capabilities of the NCRI family of organizations. Jones lamented the fact Obama did not authorize attacks against Bashar Assad in Syria and thereby helped moderate Syrian oppositionists before they could be defeated by Assad.
Finally, Amb. (Ret.) Lincoln Bloomfield, Jr. closed the program with a strong defense of regime change from within, new sanctions on Iran, and growing capabilities of the NCRI to effect regime change.
Prof. Raymond Tanter (@AmericanCHR) served as a senior member on the Middle East Desk of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration, Personal Representative of the Secretary of Defense to international security and arms control talks in Europe, and is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan. Tanter is on the comprehensive list of conservative writers and columnists who appear in The Wall Street Journal, Townhall.com, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Human Events, The American Spectator, and now in Newsmax. To read more of his reports