Iran President Hassan Rouhani
Despite the international persona of a more moderate regime that the U.S. can negotiate with, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is killing political opponents at a faster rate than the previous leader and should not be trusted at all, according to the man who first warned the West about Iran’s current nuclear ambitions.
“Rouhani was supposed to be the more moderate version of the Iranian president. He has killed more people under his watch than were killed under (former President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad during the same period,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which is the Iranian parliament in exile.
“Iran has the highest per capita executions in the world,” he said. “It’s close to 1,400 people executed under Rouhani since he became president.”
Rouhani has been president since Aug. 3, 2013. That calculates to more than 2.25 executions per day.
Jafarzadeh said while the United States and some of its allies may be convinced Rouhani is a different type of leader, the people of Iran know better.
“There has been no opening up of the society,” he said. “All the promises that Rouhani has made have not materialized. All Rouhani has done in the past year-and-a-half since he took office was negotiating on the nuclear issue, trying to get the sanctions lifted. That’s all he’s done.”
Jafarzadeh added, “In order to make up for the weaknesses of the regime and make sure that the population doesn’t stand up and raise their voice, Tehran has increased the level of repression and the killing.”
Can Iran be trusted on any level to honor a nuclear agreement?
“Absolutely not,” Jafarzadeh said. “Look at the way they have handled the negotiations. They say one thing during the talks, and when they get to Tehran they say something else. They can never be trusted, not just because of their nuclear behavior, but also in terms of their engagement in terrorism.”
However, he said, Iran’s past conduct in misleading the world about its nuclear program is also instructive.
“Every single nuclear site of Iran has been exposed by the Iranian resistance, not by the Iranian regime,” he said. “Tehran has been caught cheating continuously and consistently over the past 10-15 years when the inspections started in 2003, right after the revelation of the nuclear site in Natanz by the main opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.”
Jafarzadeh is also deeply concerned about reports this week revealing that Russia is now willing to sell missile systems to Iran, purportedly for defensive purposes. He said the change in policy not only adds a dangerous dimension to Iran’s military but gives Russia more and more incentive to thwart efforts to keep the Iranian ambitions in check.
“The other problem is, the more the Russians get invested in Iran, the more difficult it will become for them to vote against the Iranian regime’s violations in the future during the U.N. Security Council,” Jafarzadeh said.
The Iranian resistance is encouraged by this week’s Senate actions to give Congress a voice in determining whether Iran is actually adhering to any future nuclear deal and giving lawmakers the chance to bring back sanctions or keep them in place if Iran cheats on its commitments
“It was Congress from the beginning that understood the threat of the Iranian regime and the need to curb the threat and passed all the necessary legislation that led to sanctions. It was those sanctions that brought the Iranians to the table,” said Jafarzadeh, who argued that President Obama could use the legislation to press for greater demands from Tehran.
“If Congress doesn’t get involved, then the administration would be unilaterally in charge of the whole thing in dealing with Iran, and knowing the Iranian regime’s track record and history of cheating and their willingness to defy, you always want that additional leverage,” he said.
Jafarzadeh said Obama would be wise to use the bill as a way to press the Iranians for snap inspections of nuclear facilities and other major concessions.
While the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the legislation unanimously and it appears likely to become law, some are still frustrated that lawmakers are effectively giving up their right to hold a vote on a treaty that would require a two-thirds majority to approve, whereas this bill would only require Obama to cobble together 34 votes to sustain his veto of any attempt to reinstate sanctions on a cheating Iran.
Jafarzadeh testified before the Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. He said a full treaty vote would be ideal, but the mood Tuesday on Capitol Hill suggests even this new legislation could be enough to handcuff Obama.
“What I saw yesterday, both among the Democrats and Republicans, what I saw in terms of the resolve and focus of Congress, I think the president may have a difficult time to even get those 34 votes,” Jafarzadeh said.
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