Iran unleashed, unbowed

One of the Obama administration talking points is that it has weakened and isolated the Iranian regime. Aside from the economic beating Iran has taken, there really isn’t any evidence that has come about.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni- AFP/Getty Images

It is the United States that seems too timid too act. The Iranian regime has been able to prop up its ally Bashar al-Assad. It launched an assassination plot on U.S. soil. It continued to arm Gaza’s Hamas terrorists with missiles. It has had teams in North Korea to observe its missile tests. Now we learn of a plot directed out of Iran relating to a train from Canada to the United States. In addition, the Israelis discovered an Iranian casing the Israeli Embassy in Nepal with a fake Israeli passport. The Jerusalem Post reports:

The man was reportedly planning a series of terrorist attacks against both the embassy and Israeli tourists in Kathmandu, Channel 2 reported. The man, who was arrested on April 13, was identified as Mohsin Khosravian. He was handed over to the Kathmandu police.

Security officials at the embassy suspected the man, who was carrying a tourist map of the Lazimpat area, was scouting the facility with harmful intention. According to the report, the man made “frequent and suspicious visits” to the Israeli Embassy area.

He hid his Iranian passport and used a fake Israeli passport instead when arriving at the Tribhuvan International Airport on April 3.

And to top it off, Tehran’s influence in Iraq is growing now that the United States has pulled out entirely. None of this would suggest that Iran is deterred or cowed by the United States. And this is before it announces it has a nuclear weapons capability.

That said, it’s a bit of a mystery why the regime is striking out like this. Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies e-mails me: “If they are trying to cross the nuclear finish line, why not keep their heads down and quietly go about their business?  What do they gain from such attacks at this late stage in the game?  If anything, it will only heighten western alarm over their nuclear program. This most recent report of cooperation with al-Qaeda is a narrative that will only galvanize Western governments to act.”

Whatever the thinking behind these plots, three things are clear. First, the U.S. administration has done nothing to convince the mullahs that there will be serious consequences for these activities. Second, the notion that the Iranian regime is interested in operating as a peaceful state among the “community of nations” is fanciful. It has for some time and continues to use terrorism as an instrument of statecraft. And third, its internal oppression reflects a regime bent on retaining power through massive deprivation of  human rights.

The State Department’s own recenly released Human Rights Report on Iran documents:

The most egregious human rights problems were the government’s severe limitations on citizens’ right to peacefully change their government through free and fair elections; restrictions on civil liberties, including the freedoms of assembly, speech, and press; and the government’s disregard for the physical integrity of persons whom it arbitrarily and unlawfully killed, tortured, and imprisoned.

Other reported human rights problems included: disappearances; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, including judicially sanctioned amputation and flogging; politically motivated violence and repression, such as beatings and rape; harsh and life-threatening conditions in detention and prison facilities, with instances of deaths in custody; arbitrary arrest and lengthy pretrial detention, sometimes incommunicado; continued impunity of security forces; denial of fair public trials, sometimes resulting in executions without due process; political prisoners and detainees; the lack of an independent judiciary; ineffective implementation of civil judicial procedures and remedies; arbitrary interference with privacy, home, and correspondence; severe restrictions on freedoms of speech (including via the Internet) and press; harassment of journalists; censorship and media content restrictions; severe restrictions on academic freedom; severe restrictions on the freedoms of assembly, association, and religion; some restrictions on freedom of movement; official corruption and lack of government transparency; constraints on investigations of international organizations and nongovernmental organizations (NGO) into alleged violations of human rights; legal and societal discrimination and violence against women, children, ethnic and religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons based on perceived sexual orientation and gender identity; incitement to anti-Semitism and trafficking in persons; and severe restrictions on the exercise of labor rights.

Given all that, it is hard to argue that our sanctions and diplomacy policy has worked. If anything, the mullahs have become more oppressive at home and more daring internationally.

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