Tehran acknowledged on Wednesday it has removed several surveillance cameras installed by the United Nations. While claiming the cameras to be “damages,” Mohammad Eslami the Iranian regime’s new nuclear chief blamed the signatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with world power, for not implementing “their commitments so there was no necessity for the cameras’ existence.”
This action comes days after the recent travel by Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Despite mounting concerns by all parties involved in the deal, Grossi assured the world leaders he had obtained some promises from the regime.
The mounting concern by the western powers, and the IAEA comes two years after Tehran formally abandoned all of its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal and began pursuing levels of uranium enrichment much greater than what it had achieved prior to the seven-party negotiations that led to that deal, showing how flawed this deal was. These steps were part of the regime’s nuclear extortion plan.
Among the latest developments in the regime’s nuclear program is the acquisition of 10 kg of uranium enriched to 60 percent fissile purity and a similar quantity of uranium metal, a substance with no purpose other than as a component in the core of a nuclear warhead. Such steps underscore a threat that was very nearly made explicit in February by the regime’s then-Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi when he publicly declared that “those who pushed Iran in that direction will be to blame” if the regime attains nuclear weapons capability.
That statement, while the regime is in fact trying to acquire a nuclear bomb, showed a sense of impunity the regime feels, not just with respect to nuclear activities but also with respect to human rights issues and the regime’s world-leading support of international terrorism.
In 2018, four operatives including a high-ranking diplomat-terrorist were caught attempting to carry out a bomb plot against the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) annual gathering near Paris. Although all four were eventually sentenced to prison in Belgium, there is no indication that Western powers are pursuing accountability at a higher level, though Belgian authorities affirmed the incident was ordered and planned by the regime’s top officials and its Supreme National Security Council.
Since the sentencing of those four terrorists in February, little attention has been paid to the incident in mainstream media or policy circles, and Tehran has no doubt come away from the experience with the sense that it will face relatively low risk or reprisal if it attempts similar acts in the future. This was effectively confirmed last month when the regime’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, appointed a number of criminal figures, like himself, to his cabinet including several members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and at least one individual who is actually subject to an arrest warrant for his involvement in the 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires.
Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the NCRI’s president-elect described the entire cabinet as a group of “assassins, terrorists, and thieves,” and 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.”
In other words, Raisi’s choice of presidential advisors reflects a sense of impunity with regard to each of the regime’s well-established malign activities. This is exactly what should have been expected in the wake of Western inaction over various recent developments.
Those developments including the preceding two years of nuclear provocations, the growth of domestic unrest in Iran dating back at least to the end of 2017, and the eventual installation of Raisi as the person most likely to use the office of the president to crack down on that unrest while further accelerating Tehran provocations
But Raisi’s commitment to repression was never really in doubt, given that he had a reputation for ruthlessness four decades-long at the time of his “selection.” After serving as a prosecutor and clerical judge since the advent of the mullahs’ regime, in the summer of 1988 Raisi became one of four figures to sit on the Tehran “death commission” that was tasked with overseeing the implementation of Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwa regarding organized opposition to the theocratic system. The fatwa condemned the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) as being guilty of “enmity against God” and called upon regime authorities to execute them without mercy. As a result, over 30,000 prisoners, mostly members of the MEK, were systematically murdered in prison over a period of about three months.
In September 2020, a group of UN human rights experts wrote a letter to Iranian authorities urging transparency over this crime against humanity and an end to their harassment of victims’ families and other justice advocates. The letter noted that the international community had failed in its responsibility to address the killings in their immediate aftermath and that this failure “had a devastating impact on the survivors and families as well as on the general situation of human rights in Iran and emboldened Iran to continue… a strategy of deflection and denial.”
While this commentary may have been intended only to refer to the 1988 massacre and related human rights abuses, it is equally applicable to a wide range of malign activists who have been subject to the same type of deflection and denial. That strategy was on display, for instance, in Mahmoud Alavi or Mohammad Eslami’s remarks, which reflect the regime’s longstanding practice of blackmailing the world with escalating its malign activities.
Every time the international community fails to take serious, assertive action in response to Tehran’s duplicity, the regime is emboldened to continue utilizing the same strategy.
The Western signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal should keep this in mind, and they should proceed to impose serious economic sanctions and other penalties for the regime’s deliberate threat of nuclear weapons development. Furthermore, this should be understood not just as deterrence against further threats in this one area, but rather as a challenge to Tehran’s impunity with respect to nuclear activities, foreign terrorist threats, and human rights oppression
This comprehensive approach to deterrence reflects the NCRI’s recommendation, in a recent report on “Iran’s Military Nuclear Program,” that the international community “link the regime’s nuclear weapons ambitions and ballistic missile development, its domestic human rights violations and repression, its terrorism against dissidents abroad, and its destabilizing export of terrorism and conflict, and recognize that these are all interdependent parts of a comprehensive regime strategy and behavior aimed at imposing its intolerant and totalitarian ideology and rule anywhere it can.”