Since taking office on August 5, the Iranian regime’s new President Ebrahim Raisi has gathered a group of terrorists and criminals whose background should be cause for equivalent concern among the Iranian people and the democratic nations of the world.
The overall make-up of his administration reflects a commitment to belligerent foreign policy strategies, as well as the open endorsement of some of Tehran’s worst malign activities over the past 42 years.
Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), described Raisi’s cabinet as “the embodiment of four decades of mullahs’ religious dictatorship and terrorism, whose primary mission is to confront the people’s uprising, and to plunder the national wealth, step up terrorism and warmongering, and expand the unpatriotic nuclear and ballistic missiles programs.”
This is precisely the sort of identity expected to take shape after Raisi’s June “selection.” Raisi was appointed by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who had appointed Raisi as head of the judiciary in 2019. Khamenei chose Raisi as his regime’s next president to consolidate power within the regime.
That strategy was also on display during the sham parliamentary elections in February 2020,
Both the sham parliamentary and the presidential elections saw historically low voter turnout as the public engaged in a boycott.
Raisi’s presidential run was shadowed by numerous public demonstrations decrying him as the “henchman of 1988,” and in June that turnout among eligible voters had likely been under ten percent.
This boycott raised the international profile of Raisi’s past human rights abuses and other malign activities.
The Iranian Resistance has continued activities to mobilize the international community in this regard ever since by holding rallies in multiple cities just this week as a counterpoint to Raisi’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
In a speech delivered remotely to a conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Mrs.Rajavi said, “We urge the United States, the European Union, and its member states to refer the dossier of human rights violations in Iran to the UN Security Council. Such a measure will enable the UN to arrange for the international prosecution of Khamenei, Raisi, and other regime leaders for committing four decades of crimes against humanity and genocide.”
Accompanying speeches highlighted the prospective central focus of such an investigation by sharing details of Iran’s 1988 massacre of political prisoners –in which Raisi played a leading role as one of four officials on the Tehran “death commission.” That body systematically interrogated detainees in Evin and Gohardasht prisons and imposed capital sentences on anyone who expressed support for People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran.
It was this background that spawned most of the protests against Raisi’s presidential candidacy, although many Iranians also emphasized his similarly leading role in the crackdown on a nationwide uprising in November 2019, which led to the shooting deaths of 1,500 peaceful protesters and the systematic torture of countless others.
By compounding the legacy of the 1988 massacre, that crackdown clearly demonstrated that Tehran remained committed to the violent suppression of dissent, and that such tactics would only become more entrenched once Raisi made the transition from head of the judiciary to head of its executive branch.
Western powers should have been keenly aware of the dangers posed by Raisi’s “selection,” and should adopt an assertive turn in their Iran policies. Instead, the European Union dispatched a delegation to take part in Raisi’s inauguration on August 5, thereby affording him a degree of legitimacy on the international stage that the Iranian people had denied him at home. This inspired Iranian authorities with a renewed sense of impunity, especially in matters related to human rights, which in turn may have influenced Raisi’s decision to appoint advisors who embody “dictatorship and terrorism.”
Those figures include numerous officers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including several who have played major roles in the proliferation of the regime’s terrorist proxies and malign foreign objectives. At least one member of Raisi’ administration, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi, is subject to an Interpol arrest warrant for his involvement in a deadly bombing in Buenos Aires in 1994. Raisi’s Vice President for Economic Affairs, Mohsen Rezaei, has also been implicated in that same bombing, as well as various other incidents including the assassination of expatriate dissidents in Berlin’s Mykonos restaurant in 1997.
The regime’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian defended the latest attempted Iranian terror attack on a European target in 2018, when he condemned Western democracies for giving a home to members of the PMOI around the time that a high-ranking diplomat-terrorist and three co-conspirators were caught attempting to infiltrate an international rally of NCRI supporters with an explosive device. Had the plot not been thwarted, it would have most likely killed hundreds if not thousands of attendees, including prominent American and European lawmakers who took part to endorse the Iranian Resistance push for regime change.
The regime change is the only genuine solution to any of the problems currently emanating from the religious fascism ruling Iran. Raisi’s appointment alone is a clear signal that the regime has no interest in reckoning with its own past actions, even when those actions can credibly be described as genocide and crimes against humanity. Quite to the contrary, the regime has successively rewarded a number of perpetrators of the 1988 massacre, with Raisi being only the most recent, albeit arguably the most significant example.
The international community should know that Raisi’s presidency will oversee further escalation of the regime’s crackdown on dissent. And in case this is not enough incentive to impose more serious pressures on the regime, the international community should also note that an increase in human rights abuses is sure to go hand-in-hand with an increase in terrorist activity, foreign belligerence, and all the malign activities that define the careers of Raisi and his ilk.