Don’t aim at people

The stage is set for a showdown between the western powers and the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). The leaders of the IRI have made sure by their rhetoric in the last few days that the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the UN Security Council will be negative and give enough ammunition to western governments to call for action by the Council. At the same time, the talk of American military action against Iran has been intensified, apparently as a means by Americans to pressure reluctant China and Russia into toeing the line. The question is: what action the Security Council will possibly take and how may that affect the behaviour of the Iranian regime?

The leaders of the IRI have lost no time in threatening retaliation against any sanction or military action by the West. They threatened to increase the uranium enrichment activity and leave the NPT agreement altogether and hence stop all inspections by the IAEA inspectors. They also alarmed the western community by declaring their readiness to share their nuclear know-how with other sympathetic governments like Sudan. And as a direct response to any American military action against Iran, the regime’s Supreme Leader threatened in an unmistakable terms that they would target American interests anywhere in the world. These are not idle threats. The Iranian leaders know a thing or two about how to create problems around the world and fight their enemies by proxy. 

Now the Security Council is meeting to consider the IAEA’s report and make a decision on how to respond. The Americans and their European allies would have liked to press ahead with economic sanctions, but that’s not going to happen at this stage (China and Russia will oppose it). So initially, they aim for a softer option, the so-called “smart sanctions”. These are meant to put more pressure on the IRI leaders and less on the ordinary people in Iran. This may not necessarily be good news.

As the case has been more often than not in recent years, the less effective the Security Council to act collectively in dealing with world crises, the greater has been the chance of member states (especially the big powers) going it alone. The threat of American/Israeli military action against Iran will increase, rather than decrease, by the Russian/Chinese reluctance to agree on effective measures to resolve the Iran crisis. So no matter what the Security Council does, it seems that the Iranian people are going to pay a high price for the folly of their leaders’ policies.

At any rate, the people of Iran can only hope and pray that the West deals with the Iranian regime in ways that harm their own interests the least. After all, they have been subject to the oppressive policies of the Islamic regime for over two decades, and cannot understand why they should pay the price for its international adventurism too. One measure that they would most certainly welcome is to open the file on human rights record of the Islamic Republic and start proceedings, in an international criminal court, against those responsible for crimes against humanity. This will have the exact effect of putting pressure directly on the Iranian regime and at the same time helping the struggle of the Iranian people for democracy and human rights.

Such a measure will not be hard to undertake. The record of the Islamic Republic of Iran is bulging with all forms of crimes against humanity from torture to execution of political prisoners on large scales, to extra judicial killings both inside and outside Iran, and to crimes against religious minorities. Many of the high-ranking officials of the present regime have been involved in these crimes. The Supreme Leader of the regime, Mr. Khamenei and the regime’s strongman Mr. Rafsanjani have been presiding over many of these atrocities over the last 2-3 decades and are indicted by a German court for authorising the assassination of 4 opposition leaders in Berlin. At least three of current ministers (namely, Interior, Intelligence and Islamic Guidance Ministers) are accused of being involved in some of the crimes inside Iran. One, Mr. Pour-Mohammadi the Interior Minister, was directly involved in hundreds (if not thousands) of executions of political prisoners in 1988.

The evidence against them is also overwhelming and their indictment should not create any problem. There are many witnesses to these crimes who can attest at any international court. Indeed, some of the very top Iranian personalities are among the witnesses. The crimes associated with Mr. Pour-Mohammadi have been best detailed by non other than Ayatollah Montazeri the heir apparent to the late Ayatollah Khomeini until just before these atrocities took place. The involvement of the Intelligence Minister Mr. Mohseni Ejehi in extra judicial killing of at least one dissident is documented by the celebrated Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji.

Such a measure will expose the pillars of the regime to the public opinion both at home and abroad, and discredit them in the eyes of the international community. It will strip them of some of the reverence and supports they enjoy in the Islamic communities. It will also give a great boost to the struggle of the Iranian people for democracy and human rights. Internationally too, such a measure will be supported by human rights organisations and will have a moral pull that few who may claim any respect for humanity can resist supporting it.

The international community is gearing itself to punish the Iranian regime for its non-compliance with the demands of the UN Security Council. The Iranian people have had no choice in electing their government and cannot be held responsible for its actions and punished for it. The measures the West is taking to deal with this crisis will be a test of how much they are genuine in their claim that they like to help the Iranian people in their struggle for democracy and human rights. One measure that will serve this purpose is proposed here: set up an international criminal court and indict all those in the Iranian regime who have been involved in crimes against humanity over the last 27 years – and rest assured that not many of them will be left unstained! Remember the old Yugoslavia and its indicted warmongering leaders – let the Iranian authorities run for cover as fugitives too!

Hossein Bagher Zadeh is a human rights activist and commentator on Iranian political and human rights issues. He is a spokesperson for Manshoor 81 (Charter 2003). His weekly column on Iranian affairs (in Persian) appears in Iran Emrooz and Iranian publications. He lives in England.

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