The #ISIS threat and question of human rights in #Iran

Some of my colleagues believe that a nuclear deal with Iran is likely to improve the human rights situation there. A major reason which I often hear to justify this view is: by reaching a deal, the threat of a U.S attack against Iran will fall substantially, thus leading to Iranian politics becoming less security oriented, or as some say “securitized”. And the less securitized the political atmosphere in Iran is, the less the regime can abuse human rights.

Yes, but no.

Yes, a deal is likely to significantly reduce the chances of war with the U.S. But, Iranian hard liners are likely to find another excuse to replace the threat posed by the US to securatize Iranian politics: namely the threat posed by ISIS to Iran.

So when it comes to the question of human rights and post nuclear agreement Iran, the best scenario is likely to be short term improvements in human rights. Not much more.

Abusing human rights is an existential necessity for Iran’s hard liners who rule the regime. And soon after a nuclear deal with the U.S, the threat posed by ISIS is likely to give them another excuse to crackdown against human rights activists in Iran, again. They’ll be back to their old tricks in no time.

On Iranian Diaspora, Sanctions and Democracy

There have been a number of interesting developments regarding Iran and US in the last couple of days which caught my eye. 

Foremost among them was the survey by the The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA).

The 2013 PAAIA survey of Iranian Americans had some notable results.

The attitude of Iranian – Americans towards sanctions imposed against the Iranian regime shows that majority of Iranian Americans are not against current sanctions. According to the survey’s findings:

 A large majority of sixty-eight percent (68%) would support the removal of sanctions on Iran if the Iranian regime reached an agreement with the U.S. and the international community concerning its nuclear program.

Note the words: “if the Iranian regime reached an agreement with the U.S. and the international community concerning its nuclear program”.

That means 68% of Iranian – Americans support the sanctions as a tool to pressure the Iranian regime to reach an agreement with the US and the international community over its nuclear program.

This view is supported by another finding of the survey:

Iranian Americans want to see change in Iran. The survey indicates that from among a list of seven issues relating to U.S.-Iran relations, the greatest number of Iranian Americans, fifty-six  percent (56%), cited the promotion of human rights and democracy as the most important, followed by thirty-one percent (31%) who chose promotion of regime change.

Again here it seems that that calls for removal of current sanctions is not the top priority.

This is despite the fact that many Iranians inside and outside of Iran have friends and family who have been affected by the current sanctions.

What could explain this phenomenon?

Its quite possible that after the 2009 mass arrest, torture and execution of Iranian demonstrations, Iranian – Americans see the sanctions as a tool to punish the Iranian regime, which is becoming more unpopular by the Iranian diaspora every day.

The fact that the Obama administration has not imposed sanctions against the sale of food and medicine has probably had an impact as well. This has given the sanctions a less punishing perception, despite the fact that in some cases sanctions have increased food prices. In some cases they have also made some specialized medicines more difficult to acquire inside Iran. Although it is notable that in at least one case, the Iranian regime sent specialized blood medicine which is scarce and in much demand – to its allies in Syria. It seems that the lives of Assad’s forces are more important to Iran’s rulers than the lives of ordinary Iranians.

The desire for the US to pressure the Iranian regime to improve human rights has also now been echoed by a recent letter by Iranian dissidents, many of whom have been inside regime jails.

In my opinion Iran’s supreme leader Khamenei would much rather make compromises on the nuclear program than on human rights, simply because the abuse of human rights is far more important to the survival of his regime than the nuclear program.