Iran in Turmoil

In the aftermath of presidential elections in June 2009, the world has come to witness the most serious internal unrest Iran has confronted since the decisive events of the 1979 Revolution. What millions of Iranians consider to be wide scale election fraud perpetrated by the incumbent president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his supporters – at this stage, a ‘social fact’ – has triggered an unprecedented division within Tehran’s political establishment.

The plight and aspirations of the demonstrators are easily discernible; yet it is a challenge to confirm with absolute certainty what is precisely driving the divisions within the ruling elite. Opinions are many. According to one theory, these debates are more than traditional vies for executive power, reflecting a marked divide between the conservative hardliner camp threatened by reform and the reformers calling for a more republican, democratic form of Islamic rule. The hardliner camp has traditionally espoused a strong rejectionist stance vis-à-vis the West, while reformers appear willing to establish dialogue in a much more pragmatic approach to foreign policy.

Some analysts have gone so far as claiming these divisions to be strictly ideological. They point on one hand to an Ahmadinejad-Khamenei faction with a strict interpretation of Islam and unbridled loyalty to the concept of “Velayat e Feghih”. On the other hand they claim, one finds a Mousavi-Khatami-Rafsanjani trio loyal to the founding principles of the Islamic Republic, and yet seeking an accountable system of government, enhanced liberal freedoms and regard for the ‘will of the people’. In line with this theme, Ayatollah M. Khatami, Iran’s former president and a key reformer, has recently called for a referendum on the legitimacy of the Iranian government – a move, strategically designed to ratchet up pressure on the government to concede ground. In recent years, many prominent figures of the Islamic Republic’s naissance have pledged support to the reformist platform, giving the movement increasing import within Tehran’s corridors of power.

Still others charge that with few exceptions, dissenting clerics among former pioneers of the system, are not fully genuine in their support for the ‘green reform movement’; engaged rather, in a masked attempt to preserve the Islamic Republic and a system of privileged clergy. They find themselves cornered, the argument says, at a time when their power is being directly questioned by popular discontent with the Ahmadinejad presidency.

And yet another school of thought claims that these debates constitute the frustrated reaction to the power grab of a threatening alliance – between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), President Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi (Ahmadinejad’s spiritual advisor and influential radical cleric), and their concomitant supporters. Better put, the battle for power is being waged across the revolutionaries of the first generation and those of the Neo-Right second generation. The latter has been fighting for an Islamic government, the view holds, to displace an Islamic Republic, solidify the strength of an ‘IRGC military-business-industrial complex’, and weed out an old guard they accuse of being corrupt.

Notwithstanding the IRGC’s clear stakes in Iranian politics however, the author finds it difficult to suggest that the entire IRGC or the Iranian army is uniformly behind the hardliner camp. Differing views certainly exist in the traditional homogenous character of these important institutions, and as protests continue and innocent blood is shed, divisions are likely to surface. In recent days, tensions in the alliance between Ayatollah Khamenei, Ahmadinejad and the IRGC are already emerging. Take for instance, the recent dispute over Ahmadinejad’s choice for a vice president.

In this complex web of Iranian politics, the truth likely reflects a mix of these forces and tensions, with the outcome of the current struggle just as elusive. Should the opposition and mass demonstrations continue to frustrate the existing government, the short-term scenario may see a compromise position between these two competing factions. Regardless of what’s in store, it is certain that a significant milestone and ideological crack has taken place since the founding of the Islamic Republic. Should it result in improving the everyday lives of Iranians and a more nuanced stance internationally, the current questioning within the system may ultimately offer promising signs of political maturity.

As these battles persist within the ‘establishment’, a large segment of Iran’s 70 plus million population has thrown its weight behind the reform movement in a desperate bid for change; with 70 percent of Iran under the age of 30 and constituting a mix of socioeconomic classes. While the objective observer must recognize that Ahmadinejad benefits from a dwindling yet non-negligible support-base in Iran among the rural underprivileged, extreme right and conservative classes; calling the current mass thrust simply a “Twitter Revolution” is missing the boat entirely. The vast majority of Iranians, representing all walks of life, want change and a better future. This should not be surprising. After all, for three decades Iranians have been tormented by an existence plagued by war, isolation, economic downturn and social ills; breached civil liberties; gender inequality and human rights violations. The legal system, constitution and political system are in desperate need of improvement.

To be sure, a most important struggle is being played out in Iran for the future direction of the country. The emergence of an increasingly unified stance in favour of the opposition has constituted the most significant challenge to the hardliner camp, its foreign and domestic policies; to many, this movement has even threatened the viability of the political system as is since the conception of the Islamic Republic. The crackdown of the demonstrations and reformists sanctioned by the Iranian authorities is reflective of the consequent anxiety across the ruling elite. In a desperate attempt to silence the opposition, rogue elements within the ruling establishment have attempted to link the current civil unrest to foreign conspiracy theories and plots to overthrow the regime through a ‘velvet style revolution’. Such tactics are aimed at isolating the demonstrators and justifying the severe measures employed to crush the opposition. With thousands detained and taken to Iran’s notorious prisons, and scores injured and killed, these rogue elements have had no qualms about exercising brute force in silencing peaceful demonstrations. They parade their tactics on national television; displaying the purported confessions of tortured detainees admitting themselves as pawns of foreign interests. To date, the preferred strategy has been to label all unrest as nothing more than foreign tampering.

Such policies are an unfortunate perversion of tragic events in Iran’s modern history. Yes, the history of Iranian-American relations is deeply troubling. However, the current attempts at crushing an indigenous grass roots movement do nothing to redeem the Iranian people. Conveniently invoking memories of the past (e.g. 1953 CIA coup) and labelling the protests as foreign provocations continue to distort the important lessons yet to be learned. Ironically, the prevailing view in Iran is that the results of the June 2009 election represented a “coup” by Ahmadinejad supporters to secure his second term as president.

While such scapegoating tactics may have had buyers at home in the past, the market for such rhetoric is quickly dying out – both amongst the people and segments of the ruling establishment. In a case in point, the Association of Combatant Clergy (“majma’-e rowhāniyūn-e mobārez”), which represents more liberal clergy in Qom, Iran declared the following during the post-election crackdown: “[w]hat sane mind believes that a peaceful movement of millions of informed people — including workers, shopkeepers, farmers, students, clergy and others — could be agents of a so-called enemy?” Ayatollah M. Khatami has similarly pronounced: “[i]n a propaganda climate which is constantly spewing poison into society, the progressive and peaceful movement of the people is being portrayed as a rebellion, a colour-coded revolution, instigated by foreigners.” Presidential hopeful Mir-Hossein Mousavi has followed suit by stating: “Isn’t it an insult to 40 million voters … linking detainees to foreign countries?”

The violent post election crackdown has revealed how far Tehran’s rogue elements are willing to go to preserve their power; preaching on behalf of a government that purports to act under the banner of religion and pursue its merciful and peaceful ends.

How should the US and the international community proceed in this volatile political climate? What can be done to uphold the Iranian government to its obligations to honour the dignity and human rights of the country’s citizens?

The Recommended US Reaction

There has been much debate on whether the Obama administration acted appropriately in response to the recent crisis in Iran. Many have accused President Obama of being too soft on Iran.

What we are witnessing in Iran today is a genuine indigenous struggle by and for Iranians. It ought to remain that way. Given the history of US intervention in Iran, any American response or public pronouncements in connection with current events must be carefully crafted and targeted. For any overly aggressive rhetoric from the White House may have serious unintended consequences: jeopardizing diplomatic routes with Iran on nuclear and regional cooperation issues. This would bring a clear loss to all stakeholders, including the Iranian people. Moreover, when seen thought this historical prism, such remarks may play directly into the hands of those in Tehran seeking to maintain the crackdown; empowering them with “evidence” to accuse demonstrators as agents of foreign interests and threats to national security. Further, given that the Obama administration desires to keep the diplomatic option open with Tehran, the US is placed in a particularly difficult position where it does not have much room to manoeuvre. With three decades devoid of diplomatic ties and meaningful trade, Washington lacks any real leverage on Iran. President Obama appears to be fully in tune with these realities and to date, his administration has appropriately calibrated its public oratory and reaction.

The exercise of prudence, however, does not mean turning a blind eye to the violation of human rights. In the 21st century, states must not be able to invoke state sovereignty as a shield to treat their citizens as they deem politically convenient. Domestic constitutional guarantees and inviolable fundamental human rights must be respected. The US and the international community, relevant UN bodies and NGOs must persistently express that the violent post election crackdown is in breach of universally accepted human rights norms and unacceptable. Well-orchestrated international measures have yet to be taken.

President Obama has gotten it right: while expressing in clear terms that his statements are in no way meant to intrude in the sovereign affairs of Iran, he has cited America’s respect for human rights and support for the rule of law in Iran. While Washington should not be seen to be interfering in Iranian domestic affairs, it should nevertheless not shy away. As is necessary in confronting all nations threatening human rights, the Obama administration must at all times adopt and implement a human rights centred diplomacy towards Iran – stressing the obligation of Iranian authorities to respect the human rights of their citizens. Beyond such limited US intervention, any other robust US action at this stage will only work to the disadvantage of the reform movement and millions of Iranians struggling for change.

Without a doubt, the current political turmoil in Iran has further complicated an already challenging US plan to diplomatically engage Tehran. Any overture by the US at this critical juncture will be viewed as an official American recognition of the results of the Iranian presidential elections and work to the detriment of internal Iranian debates and political fermentation. Clearly the political crisis in Iran is far from over. Iranians themselves have not fully resolved their differences over the disputed presidential elections and the future of the country. So an astute approach would be for Washington to continue to sit by the sidelines in this interim period, waiting for Tehran’s political fog to settle. The US, however, must continue to commit to the diplomatic route without any immediate deadline, and engage at the appropriate time. The case for such policy is made in detail in the author’s first piece on Iran-US rapprochement published at MIT International Review.

What’s more, military action will likely inflict a severe blow to democratic movements in the country. In this capricious political climate, it would be sensible for the US to persuade Israel from refraining to attack Iran. An attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would constitute the absolute worse action for all stakeholders; strengthening the power of reactionaries and providing the kiss of death for the reform movement. An emergence of a fully democratic Iran is the only durable solution to Iran and its difficulties vis-à-vis the US and the West. Lessons of the past are crucial in devising an effective policy towards Iran. Lest we forget, one of the reasons for which the Islamic Republic grew triumphant from the chaos of the popular revolution of 1979 was no other than Iraq’s invasion of the country in September, 1980. This foreign menace in effect neutralized divisions amongst the revolutionaries, cemented the ‘rule by the clergy’ model and galvanized the masses behind the then newly founded and undefined regime. The rest is history.

The Recommended International Reaction

The US may be limited to act at this stage, but there is ample opportunity for other nations to spearhead a firm stance condemning the violent crackdown in Iran. Those with substantial economic ties with Iran (e.g. Germany, France, Italy and Brazil) could work alongside relevant UN bodies and NGOs to project the cause for human rights.

While the post election rift is an entirely domestic issue and its outcome is to be reached internally by Iranians, the loss of innocent life and repeated violations of human rights are matters that should concern all of humanity. If only to pay homage to universal morality, the international community, must not abandon the Iranian people. The international community has a ‘Responsibility to Care’ and the ruling establishment in Tehran must recognize that they cannot continue to treat the country’s citizens with impunity.

With an influx of information reaching media outlets from Iran, evidence is clear that a highly repressive, unrelenting and violent crackdown has been authorized by the highest echelons of the Iranian state. The security apparatus of the government’s onslaught has directly targeted largely peaceful demonstrations challenging the results of the Iranian elections; creating an environment filled with rage, fear and tremendous feelings of injustice. Freedom of assembly is a right guaranteed under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran; yet amongst other safeguards, it is being quashed with excessive force.

To date, according to the Iranian authorities the official number of demonstrators killed in the post election commotions is some 20 individuals. Major media outlets put this figure much higher, not only on the basis of unconfirmed reports but per statements by credible human rights groups, hospital officials and family members who have visited morgues looking for loved ones. Hundreds have been injured and thousands have been arrested; including students, university professors, journalists, human rights advocates, and 36 military officers who planned to express their solidarity with demonstrators by attending the Friday sermon of July 17, 2009 in their official uniforms. The authorities have even prevented the families of murdered protestors, many in their teens, to mourn their loss. Sources at the infamous Evin prison have quoted some 1,000 arrests by Saturday 20 June 2009 alone. The International Federation for Human Rights, a Paris-based NGO has reported that more than 2,000 people were detained in Iran as a result of post election crackdown; that hundreds have gone missing with no information provided to their families on their whereabouts.

The legal basis of these repressive actions and arrests remains obscure and unclear. Reports of egregious acts committed against detainees (e.g. alleged rape and other severe forms of physical and mental torture) are already widely circulated, including accounts of detainees who have died as a result of severe injuries sustained under detention. Images of severe beatings, cruel and inhumane treatment of the demonstrators by the state security apparatus are widely distributed. Regular beatings of women and the elderly have been reported along with wanton destruction of private property. Arms of the Iranian state, mainly regular police, special forces and unaccountable Basij and Hezbollah militia are the perpetrators of these acts, which have indiscriminately used, inter alia, batons, tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to reach their aims under orders by the government. Despite the peaceful nature of the demonstrations and public gatherings, nothing seems to shield the Iranians from a violent state reaction.

Representatives of the G8, UN Secretary General Banki Moon, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, Nobel Peace laureates including Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, even senior clerics and political figures within Iran itself have all made public declarations condemning such acts.

Despite such grievances and pronouncements, most of Iran’s hardliners remain relentless. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued that demonstrators are to be met with the full force of the law and not be tolerated. The IRGC has followed suit labelling demonstrators as “plotters” and as a “threat” to the government. What’s more, the hard-line cleric, Ahmad Khatami, a member of the Assembly of Experts of the Leadership, has stated that the leaders of the protests should be dealt with “severely and ruthlessly,” that “the judiciary [should] punish leading rioters firmly and without showing any mercy to teach everyone a lesson.” He has suggested that the Assembly of Experts should treat “rioters” as “mohrab”, in other words, those who wage war against God. Under the strict application of the Sharia law applied in Iran since the 1979 Revolution, violations classified as “mohrab” would merit punishment by death.

Ebrahim Raisi, a top Iranian official from the country’s judicial apparatus has confirmed special tribunals will be established to “process hundreds of ‘rioters’ and ‘thugs’ caught in security sweeps during the unrest.” He has further affirmed: “any comment, any writing or any move that might provoke or encourage people to create insecurity will be considered crimes.” In effect, any expression of discontent or questioning of election results, even if peacefully done, will be considered a crime by the Iranian authorities certifying the full wrath of the security and judicial apparatus. Given the declarations of Iranian authorities and the harshness of sanctions under Iranian penal code, severe punishments can be expected to be handed down against those still in detention.

To date, the opposition has stuck to its position and deems the government illegitimate. Presidential hopeful, Mir-Hossein Mousavi who has emerged as the leader of the mass movement calling for change, has repeatedly requested the election results be annulled — calls echoed by the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the country’s leading reformist political party. Recently, Mousavi has once again called on his supporters to take to the streets at a time when Ahmadinejad is scheduled to be sworn in [on 5 August 2009]. While the violent crackdown has resulted in a situation where Iranians out of fear are increasingly less inclined to risk their safety, sporadic mass unrest has materialized and is unlikely to subside. With no reconciliation in sight, further governmental repression is to be expected.

This patent disregard for the basic human rights of the Iranian people is morally and legally repugnant, fuelling the potential for further bloodshed, suffering and instability in the country, and further destabilization in the wider Middle East.

Time is of the essence. The international community must project a single voice in the sole interest of protecting human rights for Iran’s demonstrators and detainees. In this spirit, the following list provides a series of considerations both legal and strategic. It is the hope of the author that the following proposals and information may be helpful for diplomatic communiqués with Tehran, or initiatives to be employed to ease the suffering of the Iranian people.

1. Refrain from collective sanctions. They have not worked to date and have merely created misery for the Iranian people.

2. Continue to issue statements, expressing grave concern over the state security apparatus’ excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests and killings in largely peaceful protests. Such statements must categorically deny any intention to interfere in domestic affairs of the country; deploring rather, all violence against innocent civilians and demonstrators in right to peaceful protest.

3. Request the Iranian government to honour its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Iran has ratified the ICCPR in 1975. The violent crackdown and other alleged obstructionist measures employed since the June presidential elections constitute direct violations of the safeguards enumerated in the ICCPR. Notably, right to:

∙ peaceful assembly (Article 21) and association with others (Article 22);

∙ life (Article 6);

∙ prohibition against torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 7);

∙ liberty and security of the person (Article 9);

∙ due process (Articles 9 and 14);

∙ be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person when deprived of liberty (Article 10);

∙ not be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home, correspondence […] (Article 17);

∙ hold opinions without interference and freedom of expression (Article 19).

4. Support the triggering of UN Human Rights Committee mechanisms (individual, state-to-state complaints and inquiries); investigating cases where elements of the Iranian government are alleged to have violated the relevant provisions of the ICCPR.

 5. Demand the Iranian authorities to uphold the guarantees enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (CIRI) and honour their constitutional obligations. Many of the safeguards contained in the ICCPR are similarly provided in the CIRI, as well as other guarantees which appear to have been compromised in the post election crackdown. In particular, reference should be made to the following provisions.

General Principles of the CIRI

∙ “Islamic Republic is a system based on belief in: the exalted dignity and value of man, and his freedom coupled with responsibility before God; in which equity, justice, political […] independence, and national solidarity are secured by recourse to: negation of all forms of oppression, both the infliction of and the submission to it, and of dominance, both its imposition and its acceptance” (Article 2.6.3 of CIRI);

∙ the “government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has the duty of directing all its resources to the following goals:

    ∙ […] the elimination of all forms of despotism and autocracy and all attempts to monopolize power (Article 3.6 of CIRI);

    ∙ ensuring political and social freedoms within the framework of the law” (Article 3.7 of CIRI); “the participation of the entire people in determining their political […] destiny” (Article 3.8 of CIRI).

∙ “[i]n the Islamic Republic of Iran, the affairs of the country must be administered on the basis of public opinion expressed by the means of elections, including the election of the President […]” (Article 6 of CIRI);

∙ “[…] no authority has the right to abrogate legitimate freedoms, not even by enacting laws and regulations for that purpose, under the pretext of preserving the independence and territorial integrity of the country” (Article 9 of CIRI).

Rights of the People under the CIRI

∙ “Public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam” (Article 27 of CIRI);

∙ “[a]ll citizens of the country, both men and women, equally enjoy the protection of the law and enjoy all human, political […] rights, in conformity with Islamic criteria” (Article 20 of CIRI);

∙ “[t]he dignity, life, property, rights, residence, and occupation of the individual are inviolate, except in cases sanctioned by law” (Article 22 of CIRI);

∙ “[i]t is the indisputable right of every citizen to seek justice by recourse to competent courts. All citizens have right of access to such courts, and no one can be barred from courts to which he has a legal right of recourse” (Article 34 of CIRI);

∙ ”[b]oth parties to a lawsuit have the right in all courts of law to select an attorney, and if they are unable to do so, arrangements must be made to provide them with legal counsel” (Article 35 of CIRI);

∙ “[t]he passing and execution of a sentence must be only by a competent court and in accordance with law” (Article 36 of CIRI);

∙ “[i]nnocence is to be presumed, and no one is to be held guilty of a charge unless his or her guilt has been established by a competent court“ (Article 37 of CIRI);

∙ “[a]ll forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confession or acquiring information are forbidden. Compulsion of individuals to testify, confess, or take an oath is not permissible; and any testimony, confession, or oath obtained under duress is devoid of value and credence. Violation of this article is liable to punishment in accordance with the law” (Article 38 of CIRI);

∙ “[a]ll affronts to the dignity and repute of persons arrested, detained, imprisoned, or banished in accordance with the law, whatever form they may take, are forbidden and liable to punishment” (Article 39 of CIRI).

The penal laws enacted amidst the student protests of 1999 have enabled a carte-blanche crackdown on peaceful demonstrations by any person or group against the government. They arguably constitute a contradiction with the country’s own Constitution on the black letter of the law and/or in the manner such laws have been liberally applied and conveniently interpreted by the security apparatus. These unconstitutional laws must be repealed.

6. Call on the United Nations’ Human Rights Council to dispatch a Special Rapporteur and/or independent expert to Iran to survey and report on the human rights situation on the ground.

7. Remind Iranian authorities that they have a responsibility to ensure that regular law enforcement and Basij militia, inter alia, do not resort to violence; that excessive violence may constitute crimes against humanity; that ill treatment contravenes international human rights law.

8. Request that Iranian authorities release the names of all those detained in the post-June elections crackdown and their whereabouts.

9. Request that Iranian authorities immediately release all those detained post the election unrest (civilian, military personnel or otherwise) as well as all prisoners of conscience, abolishing the special courts created to summarily try the demonstrators.

10. Request the Iranian authorities to allow for a delegation of the Iranian Red Crescent and/or the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) to visit detainees and report on conditions of detention.

11. Call for the abolition of all torture and accountability for all wrongdoers among prison authorities. While the Kahrizak camp has recently been ordered closed, other torture houses must be shut down – e.g. “level minus four” underground detention centre. Iran’s prisons must be repopulated with professional staff who are adequately trained on the limits of state power over detainees/citizens and will comply with universally accepted norms. The same is suggested for the country’s intelligence services.

12. Request the Iranian authorities to initiate independent, transparent and objective criminal investigations into the beatings, arrests, ill-treatments (i.e. torture, rape, etc.), and murders of demonstrators; including those who perished during the student protests of 1999. Such measures must bring all perpetrators to justice and afford adequate reparations to the victims’ families. If the current injustices are left unanswered, history will judge those who allow or sanction the shedding of innocent blood and suffering of the Iranian people. Title and status should not shield the culpable.

13. Call on the Iranian government to respect freedom of the press and permit journalists to adequately report on the events as they unfold. A blanket ban on reporting in Iran from all sources other than state-controlled media is unreasonable and unsustainable.

14. Highlight that the continuation or escalation of the violence by the arms of the Iranian state against the country’s own citizens will further isolate the country from the international community, and jeopardize economic and diplomatic ties.

15. Opposition members in the reformist block have recently called for initiatives to make the Iranian political system transparent and respectful of the law, “confronting all those who violate people’s rights, regardless of their positions and levels …and guaranteeing that such crimes will never happen again.” At a time when such indigenous calls are being voiced to protect the human rights of the people and prevent atrocities from reoccurring, possible options to respond to such aspirations include:

* In addition to criminal prosecutions, Iranians may seek to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate and ascertain the truth regarding the post election violence and to expose those responsible. The mandate of the Commission could be extended to cover all cases of grave violations of human rights since the 1979 Revolution, as well as reported violations of SAVAK, Iran’s intelligence service under the last Shah’s reign. If necessary, the international community must be prepared to provide the required expertise to assist Iran in establishing such a Commission.

* Iranian authorities may seek to ratify the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court. Ratification, by consequence, will (i) require an adaptation of the domestic legal environment to bring it in line with human rights standards enshrined in the ICC Statute; (ii) act as a deterrent for the commission of crimes falling under the Court’s jurisdiction (e.g. crimes against humanity), and (iii) potentially provide accountability for the violation of such grave crimes in the future.

16. Encourage the Iranian authorities to pay heed to the challenge of a significant segment of the Iranian population, influential figures and official clerics contesting the results of the June elections. In good faith, the Iranian authorities ought to entertain the referendum option being proposed by the opposition movement; or at a minimum, fully investigate the charges of election fraud. Such measures can take the form of a referendum with a question clearly defined through consultation with the public; or an arbitration committee of inquiry with the legitimacy to review all allegations of election irregularity. These are but a few examples of reasonable reconciliatory mechanisms through which to address the current political crisis in Iran. The international community must be prepared to assist the Iranians to commission a task force for such a purpose, joining selected domestic and international observers.

The current ruling elite in Tehran must recognize that while a world order that is still largely governed by interests driven states and realpolitik considerations can create imbalances, this fact cannot reasonably justify an isolationist, rejectionist policy externally, and a repressive policy internally. It is long overdue for Tehran to engage in intelligent politics at the world stage and to lead as an example, while fully respecting the aspirations and inviolable human rights of the country’s citizens. To do otherwise is to secure a firm place in the “wrong side” of the long history of the Iranian peoples.

Sam Sasan Shoamanesh is a legal advisor at the International Criminal Court (ICC). He was trained in general and international diplomatic negotiations by, inter alia, the United Nations [Vienna], Harvard Law School and the ICC. The views expressed in this article have been provided in the author’s personal capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views of the ICC, ICTY, the ICJ or the United Nations specifically or in general. This article was first published in MIT International Review.

1 The IRGC , originally conceived at the birth of the Islamic Republic to act as its custodian, and a critical factor in successfully defending the country in the Iran-Iraq war, has since expanded its power and influence metamorphosing into a military-socio-political force with significant financial interests and influence in the political machination of the country.

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