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Lifting the veil on Iran – by Ida Lichter for the Spectator Australia – 17.12.22

A year of foolish deals, betrayal and appeasement.

Iran’s military drone sales to Russia and the raging Iranian protests have exposed the Islamic Republic’s history of civil unrest, brutality and imperialistic expansion, as well as the hypocrisy and betrayal by world powers that appeased the regime to achieve a nuclear deal.

A well-developed drone and missile industry proved Iran’s capability with strikes against Saudi Arabia, the UAE and commercial tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Recently, Iran admitted sending drones to bolster Russia’s depleted weapons in the Ukraine conflict and reportedly, may deliver short range and hypersonic ballistic missiles.

Packed with explosives, Iran’s ‘suicide’ drones have killed civilians, destroyed vital infrastructure, and ruined apartment blocks in Ukraine, causing a scale of carnage that mobilised Western public opinion against Iran, in addition to Russia.

At the same time, anti-government protests within Iran have increased international awareness of the Islamic Republic’s institutionalised persecution of women and other human rights abuses, such as capital punishment for illicit sex, apostasy and blasphemy. Under a proposed new law, Iranians who contact foreign media during the 2022 Qatar World Cup could face the death penalty.

Dissent from Qatar would further inflame unrest triggered by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, who was detained for a hijab violation. Hundreds of protestors demanding regime change have been killed and thousands arrested by the autocratic theocracy flying the flag of mandatory hijab as a religious and political banner.

Reports of escalating deadly attacks on minority Kurds, Balochi, Ahwazi Arab and Azeris by members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have drawn attention to the systemic repression and persecution of these largely overlooked ethnic groups that make up almost half the population of Iran.

Millions risked their lives to protest vote-rigging in the 2009 election. They called for US support, which had helped topple Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in 2000 and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze after rallies against election fraud in 2003. President Obama, however, rejected Iranian dissidents’ pleas, preferring to make an ally of the Islamic Republic to advance the Iran nuclear deal, no matter the concessions, consequences, or views of Gulf allies and Israel endangered by Iran.

In the 2019 uprising initiated by a fuel price rise, about 1,500 protestors were killed by security forces during a wave of protests between 2017 and 2021 regarding economic mismanagement, government corruption and religious authoritarianism. The uprisings should have shocked the international community, if only because the government could have alleviated people’s hardship after the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Iran nuclear deal was signed. The agreement, that waived UN sanctions against Iran in exchange for suspending nuclear development, lifted funds sorely needed domestically.

Instead, the regime diverted moneys to the IRGC and its offshore Quds Force to arm Shiite proxy militias such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Houthis. These paramilitaries have been exporting Iran’s revolution, underpinned by apocalyptic Twelver messianic ideology and imperialistic ambitions, through Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen. Hezbollah’s worldwide reach includes South America, Europe and Africa. Sanction-lifted funds have also helped Iran support Syria’s despot Bashar-al-Assad, deploy the Houthis to topple Yemen’s Hadi government, and press forward with ICBM and drone technology.

Regardless of misogyny, bloody crackdowns on protests, and destabilising regional and global expansion, Iran has escaped serious penalties by the United Nations, even remaining a member of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Both the EU and US are committed to human rights. Indeed, President Biden affirmed their unshakeable priority in foreign policy. Notwithstanding his noble rhetoric, Biden is beholden to the Democratic party’s progressive activists and unlikely to censure the left, woke movement and radical feminists, who have closed their eyes to the regime’s human rights abuses rather than share the barricades with Iran’s persecuted women, LGBT and ethnic minorities.

Despite US protestations of championing human rights, basic freedoms were not linked to Obama’s 2015 JCPOA or Biden’s revived version. Biden is also committed to Obama’s strategy of balancing power in the Middle East by backing Iran against US ally Saudi Arabia, which he labelled a ‘pariah’ state.

His claims that a restored JCPOA could ‘lengthen and strengthen’ the original agreement were doubtful, if not disingenuous. Eighteen months of prolonged negotiations brought the agreement’s sunset provisions appreciably closer to expiry, and gave Iran time to enrich uranium towards weapons grade. Instead of terminating the charade of intransigence, brinkmanship and concessions, the P5+1 negotiating partners (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States plus Germany) continually appeased Iran. This appeasement imperilled America’s Middle East allies, threatened the Abraham Accords and downplayed the Islamic Republic’s sponsorship of a global terror network.

Iran’s anti-regime protests have sidelined the nuclear deal, but the P5+1 have much to gain from a future agreement that could seal contracts for bilateral trade and development projects in the oil, gas, infrastructure, transport and services sectors. Russia is set to build nuclear power plants, and the China-Iran 25-year Strategic Partnership anticipates massive investments in exchange for fossil fuels.

The energy crisis precipitated by the war in Ukraine has brought serious repercussions for Europe. Having allowed short-sighted overdependence on Russian gas and oil, Europe would be keen to ratify the nuclear deal and import fossil fuels from the Islamic Republic.

For many years, Iran was seen through the lens of the JCPOA as the best option for thwarting its nuclear project and acculturating the theocracy to the West. In reality, the regime remained hostile, and the deal legitimised Iran’s development of nuclear weapons pending ‘sunsets’ due to lapse in years. The drive to forge the agreement led Western powers into spurious negotiations, foolish appeasement, betrayals, and obfuscation of Iran’s belligerence.

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Lifting the veil on Iran – by Ida Lichter for the Spectator Australia – 17.12.22
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