A great deal of international attention remains focused on Iran’s nuclear program and the possible restoration of the 2015 agreement, a highly flawed deal that was meant to keep that program in check. This situation suits the regime to just find because as long as the world is fixated on discussions over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it is barely talking about the mullahs’ other malign activities at all.
All of those activities are expected to accelerate in the coming weeks and months, as the agenda of the regime’s President Ebrahim Raisi gets underway. That agenda would have dire consequences for Western interests, global security, and especially the welfare of the Iranian people. And while some of those consequences may stem from an upsurge in nuclear provocations from the Raisi administration, the truth is that the regime’s potential nuclear breakout is not the most pressing issue.
The regime’s authorities have been making a conscious effort to keep the world’s attention focused on the JCPOA by stepping up a well-practiced strategy of brinksmanship since Raisi’s “selection” in June. On Thursday, the new head of the regime’s Atomic Energy Organization condemned inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency as “unprofessional,” even while preparing for talks with the agency head in the coming week. Mohammad Eslami’s remarks accused the IAEA of being hung up on “insignificant old issues” even as he acknowledged that surveillance cameras had been removed from an Iranian nuclear facility, thereby further obscuring the world’s view of both current and historical activities.
Such actions, accompanied by rhetoric that portrays the regime as the victim of Western “arrogance,” are clearly indicative of the regime’s sense of freedom from consequence. The forthcoming IAEA meeting came shortly after the release of the agency’s quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program and the status of the nuclear agreement. The report highlighted substantial advancements in that program over the course of about three months, including the expansion of Tehran’s stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium from 62.8 kg to 84.3 kg. It also emphasized that Tehran has refused for more than two years to provide satisfactory answers about the presence of nuclear traces at three undeclared sites.
This is the “insignificant old issue” that Eslami dismissed on Thursday. But the lack of a resolution to that issue means the international community still has no baseline understanding of the nature and extent of nuclear activities the regime had performed prior to the negotiations that led to the JCPOA. Unfortunately, by implementing that agreement in absence of that understanding, the international community sent a message to Tehran that it can escape consequences and reap rewards while continuing the same deceptive or provocative activities as in the past.
This message has been reinforced by the European signatories clinging to the JCPOA in spite of the regime’s systematic and ultimately comprehensive violations, which have moved the regime’s nuclear program to its highest stage of advancement so far. Tehran has faced no new sanctions and no greater diplomatic isolation on account of those violations, and negotiations over the JCPOA’s restoration remain technically active despite the fact that the regime has rejected all plans for a new session since June, after having previously rejected all concrete proposals while insisting that all US sanctions be removed before the regime even considered reversing its provocative measures.
Succumbing to the regime’s nuclear extortion is a dangerous move. Tehran’s provocations won’t be expected to come to an end – in the nuclear sphere or in any other area – unless the international community first challenges the regime’s impunity. But in recent months, that impunity has only expanded, fueled in large part by the international reaction, or lack thereof, to Raisi’s presidency and the confirmation of his cabinet appointments.
Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, described the new administration in August 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.”
Mrs. Rajavi noted that many of Raisi’s advisors are officers in the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and are subject to sanctions by the United States and the European Union and that at least one of them is subject to an Interpol arrest warrant for his role in terrorism. But each of these details pales in comparison to the fact that the regime’s new president has long been recognized as one of the leading perpetrators of a massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988 – a massacre for which no one has been held accountable at the international level.
Since it became clear that he would be installed to the presidency by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the Iranian Resistance has been calling out for Western powers to finally demand accountability from Raisi and from the regime as a whole for the incident that experts have described as the worst crime against humanity since World War II.
The regime’s provocations are made possible by the message of impunity it has received from abroad. Perhaps the greater recent reminder of that impunity was the presence of a European delegation at Raisi’s August 5 inauguration. In sending that delegation, the European Union not only turned a blind eye to the outcry from Iranians but also helped to legitimize the rule of a criminal who helped to kill 30,000 men and women in the summer of 1988 and thousands of others since then.
If the international community is so willing to embrace a human rights abuser and perpetrator of what might be called genocide against moderate Muslims and other opponents of religious fascism, then how can Tehran ever be expected to take the word community seriously when they condemn the regime for lesser crimes? In comparison to the 1988 massacre, one could rightly say that recent nuclear advancements and the lack of answers on suspect sites are indeed “insignificant” issues. In the long run, those issues could still have the most devastating consequences of any of Tehran’s malign activities, but if this happens it will not be the result of Western powers’ failure to effectively negotiate with the regime; it will be the result of those powers refusing to convince the regime that it will face serious reprisals for continued provocations.
If the international community expects the regime to engage in serious negotiations, it must demonstrate that the cost of not doing so is too high, because Tehran’s impunity is finally at an end. This can be accomplished, first and foremost, by sanctioning Raisi for crimes against humanity, launching a formal international inquiry into his role in the 1988 massacre, and exploring the prospect of having him prosecuted at the International Criminal Court.