Sanctions should be a reminder to Iran

Neither Iran — nor Turkey — can use the Khashoggi case to position themselves as champions of the truth or as defenders of journalists.

Source: The Arab Weekly


Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces march as they hold their flag and posters of Iraqi and Iranian Shia spiritual leaders in Baghdad, last June. (AP)

Iranian authorities are bracing for the next wave of US sanctions, which will target their oil exports. “On November 5th, all US sanctions against Iran lifted by the nuclear deal will be back in full force,” US President Donald Trump announced at a White House event October 25.

The same day, Trump signed the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2018, which imposes sanctions on the pro-Iran Shia militia.

It has become obvious that, despite all the manoeuvres, Iran will not be able to circumvent US sanctions nor can it protect its proxies from the pressures exerted by the international community.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) allies announced on October 23 that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and senior members of its al-Quds Force, including commander Major-General Qassem Soleimani, would be designated terrorist actors or supporters of terrorism.

The GCC list of Iranian individuals and organisations suspected of involvement in terrorist activity added nine names. At least three of them are officers accused by the United States in 2011 of involvement in a plot to kill Saudi Arabia’s former Ambassador to the United States and current Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. Not an unusual or unjustified suspicion considering Tehran’s long list of assassinations and attempted assassinations of its opponents.

On October 23, the Terrorist Financing Targeting Centre, a US-GCC initiative, imposed sanctions on two other al-Quds Force members for supporting Afghanistan’s Taliban.

This new indictment of the IRGC is another blow to Tehran as Hezbollah, its main proxy in Lebanon and Syria, is under scrutiny by the US Congress for drug-related and money-laundering criminal connections and for using civilians as “human shields” in times of conflict.

Iran has never managed to conceal its direct financing and supply of arms to proxies, including Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthis. US broadcaster Fox News disclosed that Tehran is using civilian aircraft to supply Hezbollah with equipment to upgrade its rocket arsenal.

Iran, which persists in deluding itself about leading an “axis of resistance” to the United States and pretends that all its problems stem from interference by the “Great Satan,” tries to ignore the reasons for mounting discontent at home.

Tehran was denounced a few days ago by a UN special rapporteur for carrying out death sentences on five minors this year. On October 24, the Tehran prosecutor announced that four Iranian environmental activists were charged with “corruption on Earth.” It is one of the most serious charges possible in Iran and is punishable by death.

Another environmentalist, university Professor Kavous Seyed-Emami, 64, died in prison in February. Authorities said he committed suicide.

Tehran has been trying to claim the moral high ground though its denunciation of the West’s “double standards” and US “protection” of Saudi Arabia in dealing with the Khashoggi case.

Saudi authorities have committed to getting to the bottom of the case of Saudi reporter Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared October 2 after entering their consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz described Khashoggi’s death as a “heinous crime that cannot be justified.”

Even so, the Iranian authorities, who have an abysmal record when it comes to the treatment of journalists, seem to be having a hard time weaning themselves off the Khashoggi crisis. They had hoped it would continue to serve as a convenient diversion from their behaviour at home and abroad.

Iranian Brigadier-General Esmail Kowsari, a senior IRGC officer, claimed the designation of IRGC members in terrorist lists was a ploy by Saudi rulers “to distract the world and the region from the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Iran’s conspiracy theories will not alter the fact that its repressive actions at home and destructive activities in the region will remain, as they should, at the top of the international community’s agenda.

Obviously that includes Iran’s mistreatment of its own journalists, who are often at the receiving end of implausible judicial sentences. Reporters without Borders ranks Tehran’s regime 164th out of 180 countries on the “World Press Freedom Index.”

A lot remains to be done in the region to protect journalists and uphold press freedom, but neither Iran — nor Turkey — can use the Khashoggi case to position themselves as champions of the truth or as defenders of journalists. It is not surprising that the word “hypocrisy” comes to commentators’ mind when discussing the two countries’ attitude in this case.

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