This is no time to ease policy toward the Iranian regime

This is no time to ease policy toward the Iranian regime

(File/AFP)
Iranian people, especially women and the younger generation, have refused to halt their resistance movement (File/AFP)
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The ongoing and persistent protests in Iran seem to have a different character in comparison to previous waves of demonstrations. The Iranian people, particularly women and the younger generation, have refused to halt their resistance movement for more than two months now, with crowds continuing to chant “death to the dictator,” “death to (Supreme Leader Ali) Khamenei,” and “this year is a year of blood, Seyyed Ali (Khamenei) will be gone.”

As a result, one of the most ineffective and counterproductive policies that the US and the EU can pursue is to ease sanctions and pressure on the Iranian regime through deals such as reviving the nuclear agreement or by doing trade and conducting business agreements.

Such an uninformed approach would send the wrong message to the Iranian people: that the West does not care and does not have any interest in standing with the Iranians and their aspirations for establishing a democratic system of governance, rule of law and justice, the freedoms of speech, press and assembly, and promoting women’s and human rights. The West must avoid engaging in any negotiations with the Iranian regime that can lead to economic, financial or political benefits to the theocratic establishment.

In other words, this is not the time to sit down at the same table as the Iranian leaders and shake hands, as it would only legitimize their brutal crackdown and suppression of the Iranian people. As Amnesty International’s regional director Heba Morayef pointed out last month: “The Iranian authorities’ reckless and unlawful use of firearms against protesters, including live ammunition, reveals yet again the tragically high cost of international inaction. All member states of the UN Human Rights Council must take decisive action now and immediately convene a special session on Iran in order to prevent further loss of life. Failure to act decisively will only embolden the Iranian authorities to further crack down against mourners and protesters.”

On the other hand, one of the most effective tools that the West could employ is to immediately start the process of restoring UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic. This can only be done through the nuclear deal platform. When the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka the Iran nuclear deal, was struck in 2015, the signatories agreed to lift the UN sanctions against Tehran as a reward for the ruling clerics’ promise to restrict their nuclear activities and comply with the terms of the deal.

The West must avoid engaging in any negotiations that can lead to economic, financial or political benefits to the theocratic establishment

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

The sanctions were significant, as they threatened the hold on power of the ruling clergy and ultimately brought the Iranian leaders to the negotiating table between 2013 and 2015. One of the rounds of sanctions came through UN Security Council Resolution 1929, which tightened the grip on Iran’s financial dealings and banned Iran from buying heavy weapons. Another round of sanctions, UNSC Resolution 1803, imposed restrictions on Iranian bank transactions and called on countries to inspect Iranian ships and cargo planes where there were reasonable grounds to believe that the regime was smuggling prohibited products.

Reimposing these sanctions would send a strong message to the protesters that the international community stands with them. There is a provision within UNSC Resolution 2231 that would allow such a course of action. In order to invoke this provision, “a JCPOA participant state” can notify the UNSC that there has been a “significant non-performance of commitments under the JCPOA.”

According to this resolution, any signatory party can trigger a 30-day countdown to a “snapback” that would restore all UN sanctions on Iran, including an arms embargo, if Tehran is found to be failing to meet its obligations. Other members cannot veto such a move. In other words, the US, Germany, France or the UK could trigger the snapback provisions of the nuclear deal. Once this has been done, the UNSC would have 30 days to restore sanctions against the Iranian regime.

But since the US is no longer considered a JCPOA participant state because the Trump administration pulled it out of the deal, Washington ought to persuade one of its European allies that it is still a party and can initiate the process.

In a nutshell, the West ought to refrain from negotiating with the Iranian leaders or making any deal that could bring financial and political victories for the theocratic establishment. Such a course of action would only legitimize the Iranian regime’s aggression and brutality and would isolate Iran’s protesters. Reimposing the UN sanctions is currently one of the most effective ways to counter the Iranian regime.

  • Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
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