Heidarian: Iran policy may positively impact human rights
We welcome the Trump administration’s messaging, as well as the follow-through that the administration has shown in imposing new sanctions
Amir H. Heidarian
Feb. 12, 2017
A handout picture provided by the office of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shows him
As an Iranian American I am grateful that the Obama administration helped relocate 3,000 of my friends and colleagues, members of the principal Iranian opposition movement, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), out of Camp Liberty, Iraq. But I am very critical of its utter weakness in dealing with the Islamic Republic
Having formerly occupied the mini modern town called Ashraf in eastern Iraq, MEK members were under constant threat of attack from Shiite militant groups loyal to Iran. Dozens had been killed over the years but now, the survivors are safe in Albania and elsewhere, and are free to carry on their work for the ouster of the repressive theocratic system in place in Tehran.
Although the previous administration is owed credit for its action on this issue, even where Camp Liberty is concerned, the Obama White House carried on its work with little fanfare. It never acted as a public advocate for the MEK, and it never confronted Iran over its role in the repeated targeting of the camp with missiles that could often be traced back to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected in 2013, things have gotten worse in many respects. The so-called moderate executive has overseen a dramatic increase in executions, in a country that already had a reputation for maintaining the highest rate of executions per capita. At the same time, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has undertaken a major crackdown on activists, journalists, minority groups and dual nationals. The Rouhani administration did nothing to challenge this crackdown, and neither did the Obama administration.
This fact was repeatedly underscored by international human rights organizations, which publicly criticized the Obama administration and its allies for sidelining human rights issues in the interest of keeping a narrow focus on the nuclear deal, which effectively left 80 million Iranians at the mercy of the IRGC.
This past week, President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn formally put Iran “on notice” over its recent ballistic missile test and its ongoing provocative moves in the region. Then Trump himself took the regime to task for “playing with fire” and failing to appreciate the conciliatory treatment it had received from his predecessor. That soft approach is now at an end, according to the president and his foreign policy team, who insist that all options are on the table as potential responses to any more malign behavior by Tehran or the IRGC.
We welcome this messaging, as well as the follow-through that the administration has shown in imposing new sanctions on 13 individuals and 12 companies connected to the Iranian ballistic missile program. We are hopeful that further such sanctions will be used to isolate the IRGC and shrink its influence both at home and abroad. Presently, the hardline paramilitary controls the majority of Iran’s GDP, is acquiring larger shares of the national budget and is benefiting from President Barack Obama’s misguided nuclear agreement.
Counteracting the enrichment of the IRGC is the first step toward addressing Iran’s abysmal human rights record. And whether or not this is specifically part of Trump’s aim, he is on the right path with his imposition of non-nuclear sanctions and his declared willingness to take more of the same measures.
Amir H. Heidarian, a resident of Mequon, is president of the Iranian American Community of Wisconsin, a member of the Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC-US).