Meet the “Moderates” the EU Is Trying to Empower in Iran
The appointment of Ebrahim Raisi as head of Iran’s judiciary is the latest proof that the country’s moderates and hardliners are united in the main goal of the regime: its survival through repression at home and export of terrorism abroad.
Recently, two events that have taken place at the highest level of the Islamic Republic of Iran have once again demonstrated the failed strategy and the massive misreading of Tehran by the European Union. Earlier this month, we witnessed the farce enacted by the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who threatened to quit his post only for his resignation to be rejected by the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The threat, prompted by a non-invitation to meet the Syrian dictator and war criminal Bashar al-Assad when he visited Tehran, ended with the confirmation that the Foreign Ministry of the Islamic Republic acts with the explicit blessing (and of course guidance) of the supreme leader. Wasn’t Zarif the face of the supposed moderates confronting the faction of those close to Khamenei — the hardliners?
This fake rift — separated on minor issues but united as a block in the survival of the system on which they all depend — has been more troublingly exposed with the shameful confirmation this month of Ebrahim Raisi as head of the judiciary of Iran. According to Amnesty International’s recent damning report, Blood-Soaked Secrets: Why Iran’s 1988 Prison Massacres Are Ongoing Crimes Against Humanity, Raisi was actively involved in the massacre of thousands of Iranian political prisoners, most of them members of the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) — the main opposition to the mullahs. This new head of the judiciary was, in 1988, the deputy prosecutor general of Tehran and member of the “death committee” that sent tens of thousands of political prisoners to the gallows, denying the families even the basic right of knowing where the bodies had been buried after the secret executions.
This case, widely recognized as a crime against humanity, was brought back to the front pages when in the summer of 2016, the son of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who in 1988 was the appointed successor to Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini, published an audio tape recorded during the months of the massacre where his father openly denounced it as “the biggest crime in the Islamic Republic.” Directly addressing the “death committee” in Tehran, of which Raisi was a member, Montazeri said: “History will condemn us. The worst crime has been committed at your hands, and they’ll write your names as criminals in history.”
But in a country ruled by religious hardliners, this crime against humanity is not only insufficient cause for investigation and punishment of the perpetrators, but a source of pride for its instigators. When in 2015 Raisi ran, unsuccessfully, for president, he boasted about his role in the massacre and said that he was proud to have executed the members of the MEK. Now he will lead the judicial system of the regime. Weren’t the European Union’s efforts to appease Iran and all these years of dialogue and concessions supposed to empower moderate figures and isolate the hardliners?
All this is the result of a fundamentally flawed policy, based on a bad reading of the internal composition of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The European External Action Service has conducted a strategy based on a mirage of a rift between two sides that are “in confrontation,” falling into a trap set by Tehran by appeasing and conceding benefits to the mullahs’ regime, hoping naively that all this would lead to a change of behavior that never came. These two sides, while ferociously competing for internal parcels of power, are united on the main goal of the regime: its survival through repression at home and export of terrorism abroad.
Last week, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the case of Nasrin Sotoudeh and other human rights defenders in Iran. Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer, winner of the Sakharov Prize and a mother of two, was condemned to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes this month for defending the human rights of her compatriots. The resolution also raised attention to the case of Maryam Akbari Monfared, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2010 for so-called “enmity against God” and denied medical care despite suffering from various illnesses. Her three brothers and sister, who all supported the MEK, have been executed by the regime of Iran, two of them during the 1988 massacre.
So far, the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has failed to speak out against the appointment of a mass murderer as Iran’s judiciary chief. Ebrahim Raisi and other officials responsible for human rights abuses in Iran should be added to the EU sanctions list. Europe must work forcefully for the right of Iran’s people to live in freedom and democracy.
The EU was founded on the principle of human rights. It is high time for the EU to understand its failure and to rethink the way we deal with this inhuman theocracy.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.