By Shahriar Kia
As we wind down the highly turbulent year of 2016, a look back at Iran’s record in these 12 months is quite necessary. And rest assured there is nothing to brag about.
The approach Iran adopted domestically and abroad, especially following the nuclear deal, provides the necessary navigation needed to confront this regime and how to realize peace and security not only in the Middle East but across the globe.
The slate involves continuous human rights violations, expanding policies terrorism and sectarianism focusing on regional intervention, boosting efforts to gain Middle East hegemony, and neglecting numerous United Nations resolutions and the highly boosted Iran nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the representatives of the international community and Iran.
From a human rights perspective, 2016 was the stage where Iran resorted to some of the worst atrocities from 1979 to this day. Tehran, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, increased group executions of minorities while imposing a much heavier crackdown against rights and political advocates, as reported by Human Rights Watch. Iran remains the world’s leading executioner per capita and tops the ranks in juvenile executions, according to Amnesty International.
As unveiled in a sound file of the late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, in line to lead the regime following founder Ruhollah Khomeini, perpetrators behind the summer 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners–mostly members and supporters of the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK)–are currently enjoying senior regime posts in the Rouhani cabinet.
The U.S. State Department once again designated Iran as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Across the region, Tehran enjoyed JCPOA-provided revenue to purchase new weaponry and gained a heavily armed status.
This rendered increasing meddling and lethal military intervention in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and beyond, including the recent horrific scenes of Aleppo. Tehran also supported the Bashar Assad regime through intensified advisory, financial, intelligence and weapons support to notorious Shiite militias and what was left of the crumbling Assad army.
Iran took advantage of 2016 to supposedly expand and strengthen its so-called Shiite empire, all the while seeking to safeguard its very existence. Like it or not, these heavily undermined efforts to establish peace, security, and democracy, as millions of people across the Middle East have risen for. Failure to act appropriately may plunge the region into the abyss of instability for decades to come.
The JCPOA, blessed and nurtured by U.S. President Barack Obama as his foreign policy legacy, provided desperately needed billions for Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Despite arguments made by the pro-Iran engagement camp in the West, Tehran did not budge at all to transform into a moderate, let alone a rational state. The Obama administration could not even prevent Iran from refraining from violating the JCPOA.
In July 2016 the German domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution stepped forward–and not the U.S. intelligence community–in reporting Iran’s first violation. Known as the BfV, the agency unveiled how the Iranian regime sought a secret method to obtain “a quantitatively high level” of illicit nuclear technology and hardware from companies across Germany. Iran was criticized by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, yet no further measures were adopted.
Iran is obligated, under the nuclear deal, to seek U.N. Security Council permission for any purchase of direct nuclear use goods. Of course, Tehran did not oblige, indicated clearly in a report filed by the Institute for Science and International Security, which unfortunately only raised eyebrows.
Iran “made an attempt to purchase tons of controlled carbon fiber from a country,” creating concerns over how such a purchase would be “providing an advantage that would allow [Iran] to quickly build an advanced centrifuge enrichment plant if it chose to leave or disregard the JCPOA during the next few years,” the report reads.
Iran once again violated the JCPOA in February 2016 by exceeding its heavy water threshold, a very sensitive subject as the substance can be used to produce nuclear weapons. As the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, reported in November 2016, Iran once again breached JCPOA regulations by stockpiling heavy water above the permitted level. On both counts, Iran walked free without suffering any consequences.
Iran again violated U.N. resolutions by escalating its ballistic missile production efforts, sounding alarm bells across an already flashpoint Middle East region. In 2016 Iran also test-launched at least eight different ballistic nuclear-capable missiles, caring less how such measures violated the JCPOA and U.N. resolutions 1929 and 2231.
The JCPOA specifically calls on Iran to refrain from undertaking any activities related to ballistic missiles for a period of eight years after the JCPOA signing. Iran refused to abide despite the concession nature in this JCPOA article provided by Obama and his administration.
One can hardly argue against the fact that Iran enjoyed eight years of appeasement from the Obama administration, providing much needed financial relief for Tehran. Despite all this, the regime also needed to continue to portray an anti-American image for its dwindling domestic base. Accounts continued throughout 2016 of Iranian forces harassing U.S. Navy ships, detaining American sailors and even kidnapping numerous American citizens under bogus charges.
The international community must end its silence and inaction over Iran’s crimes inside the country and throughout the Middle East, as advocated by Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group of numerous organizations seeking peaceful regime change in Iran.
The policies adopted in 2016 by the West, and especially Washington, provided Iran the money and opportunity to pursue its domestic and foreign policies. The international community should take the opportunity of a new U.S. administration in 2017 to launch a new and principled approach vis-à-vis Iran. This will pave the path to resolve humanitarian and political crises engulfing the Middle East, bring an end to Iran’s meddling and support the Iranian people.
Kia is a political analyst and member of the Iranian opposition, the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, also known as MEK). He graduated from North Texas University.