- From The Tower: As Deadline for Nuke Deal Nears, Iran Doubles Down on Demands for Enrichment, Plutonium Sites
The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran asserted on Monday that executions and human rights violations have actually increased under President Hassan Rouhani. UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed asserted that executions have increased to “753 known executions last year, the highest annual figure since 2002.” Iran has one of the highest rates of execution in the world and this year, more than 200 people have been executed.
At a House hearing last month, experts and representatives on both sides of the aisle aimed to bring attention to Iran’s systematic human rights violations including the suppression of freedom of speech, oppression of women’s and gay rights, government-sanctioned discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, and the imprisonment and torture of dissidents. All three experts testified that contrary to the popular perception of President Hassan Rouhani as a moderate, Iran’s human rights violations have actually increased under Rouhani’s presidency.
Shayan Arya of the Constitutionalist Party of Iran lamented that Iran’s human rights abuses have “unfortunately been overlooked by the international community in light of current negotiations between Iran and the P5+1.” Insisting that the “regime’s actions speak louder than words,” Arya explained that Rouhani should not be seen as a moderate because as a former representative of the Ayatollah Khamenei in the Supreme National Security Council and as head of its Political, Defense, and Security Committee, Rouhani “has been an integral part of every aggressive move the Islamic Republic has made since 1982.” Arya argued that it’s a mistake to think of Rouhani as separate from the regime.
President of the Research Institute on Contemporary Iran, Mohsen Sazegara, echoed Arya’s points, stating that “human rights abuses have not only continued, but also increased in many respects.” In particular, he noted the “persistent and pervasive assault on women on a continued basis on the pretext of disrespecting Hejab, education and employment segregation.” The experts also remarked that Rouhani appointed a man responsible for the “extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners,” as his Minister of Justice. Responding to a question about whether Rouhani had the power to change the situation in Iran, Sazegara stated that “he can do many things by the tools that he is in executive power… and support at least the basic freedoms of the people of Iran but he has not done anything.” Regarding discrimination against Baha’is, a religious minority heavily persecuted in Iran, Director of the U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs Anthony Vance stated that “the situation has worsened during the year and a half since Iran’s new and self-described reformist President, Hassan Rouhani, took office.”
As the deadline for a political framework deal over Iran’s nuclear program approaches at the end of the month, the Islamic Republic is doubling down on demands to allow hundreds of centrifuges to continue operating at the Fordo site and keep the Arak heavy water reactor, according to a report today in The Times of Israel.
Yet as Kerry arrived in Switzerland Sunday for several days of discussions with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, no one was promising a breakthrough. One diplomat said new differences surfaced only in the last negotiating round of what has been a 15-month process, including a sudden Iranian demand that the Fordo nuclear facility, buried deep underground, be allowed to keep hundreds of centrifuges that are used for enriching uranium — material that can be used in a nuclear warhead. Previously, the Iranians had accepted that the plant would be transformed into one solely for scientific research, the diplomat and others have said.
On Saturday, Iranian Atomic Energy Organization jead Ali Akbar Salehi said that Iran was “determined to make use of” Fordo, near the city of Qom, “according to the guidelines of Iran’s supreme leader,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported. Salehi also insisted that Tehran would seek to retain its heavy water reactor in Arak, despite fears that it could present an alternative route to a nuclear weapon.
Over the course of nuclear negotiations with Iran, Iran has often promised certain concessions, only to renege later. Iran may have offered concessions on both Fordo and Arak earlier in the negotiations, but appears to be returning to its earlier position regarding these facilities. Iran demanded last year to keep Fordo open and keep the heavy water reactor at Arak, prompting commentator Fareed Zakaria to express doubts if a deal could be made if these were Iran’s “opening positions.”
Iran admitted to the existence of the Fordo enrichment facility only after the United States, France, and Britain gave evidence of its existence to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Islamic Republic only admitted to the Arak heavy-water reactor after a dissident group revealed the existence of the facility.
Iran has successfully kept any discussion of its ballistic missile development off the table, even though this research was prohibited by United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Negotiations following the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action have been marked by Iranian intransigence, combined with Western acquiescence to Iranian demands. An editorial last month in The Washington Post commented that “a process that began with the goal of eliminating Iran’s potential to produce nuclear weapons has evolved into a plan to tolerate and temporarily restrict that capability.” (via TheTower.org)