The Looming Nuclear Agreement Is Expected to Lift Sanctions on Iran’s Human-Rights Abusers

March 17 2022

As discussions over a new nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic seem to be coming to a close, the Biden administration appears poised to grant sweeping relief not only from nuclear sanctions, but also from terrorism- and human-rights-related sanctions on specific individuals. Orde Kittrie argues that “sacrificing human-rights concerns to achieve arms-control objectives is both unnecessary and counterproductive.” By contrast, he notes, Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan “maintained strong human-rights pressure on the Soviet Union while successfully negotiating major arms-control agreements.” Kittrie warns of the grievous implications of such a decision, and urges Congress to take action to block it:

The Iranians who will reportedly be freed from all sanctions under the nuclear deal include Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Ebrahim Raisi, Vice-President Mohsen Rezaei, and Hossein Dehghan, a former brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Each has a horrific record of personal responsibility for human-rights abuses and terrorism.

Khamenei was Iran’s president from 1981 until 1989 and has been its supreme leader since then. As such, Khamenei is ultimately responsible for four decades of Iranian human-rights abuses and support for terrorism. A U.S. federal court held Khamenei personally responsible for the deaths of nineteen U.S. servicemembers in the bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. Federal courts have also held Khamenei personally responsible for the deaths of U.S. civilians in three terrorist bombings in Israel—two on public buses and one at an outdoor market in Jerusalem.

Raisi is responsible for the execution of thousands of political prisoners and the unlawful torture and execution of hundreds of peaceful protesters. All sanctions will likewise reportedly be lifted on Rezaei, a former IRGC commander-in-chief who is wanted by Argentina for organizing a 1994 attack on a Jewish community center that killed 85 people.

Lifting sanctions on these Iranian human-rights abusers and terrorism sponsors would send a dangerous message of impunity to Vladimir Putin and his henchmen at a time when they are committing war crimes in Ukraine and human-rights abuses in Russia. Such a decision is contrary to America’s values, would wrongly abandon the Islamic Republic’s many victims—including hundreds of current political prisoners and detainees—and would also weaken deterrence against future abuses in Iran and make it harder for the Iranian people to liberate themselves from the Iranian regime.

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Read more at National Interest

More about: Cold War, Iran nuclear program, Jimmy Carter, Joseph Biden, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Foreign policy

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine