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Margaret Scott/NewsArt

Margaret Scott • NewsArt,

Iran, trustworthy? Read this and doubt

  • Article by: Steve Hunegs
  • November 28, 2013 - 2:00 PM

“Zionist officials cannot be called humans, they are like animals, some of them. … The Israeli regime is doomed to failure and annihilation.”

Iran Supreme Leader AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI, Nov. 20, 2013

As the United States enters an agreement that likely falls short of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon in the near future, it is worth pausing for a moment to consider the televised genocidal screed of Iran’s supreme leader. In light of this background, we are concerned that the United States may have traded its maximum leverage with Iran — earned through unprecedentedly effective and coordinated international sanctions — for an interim agreement that leaves Iran’s nuclear program mostly in place.

The Obama administration’s pursuit of a diplomatic solution is understandable as it tries to negotiate any number of difficult problems in the Middle East. Perhaps this interim deal is a first step toward a long-term accord with Iran in which it will agree to: (1) dismantle its capacity to build a nuclear weapon; (2) allow for permanent, credible international inspections, and (3) stop arming Hezbollah and Syria’s Bashar Assad, as well as end its campaign of incitement against the United States and Israel.

If not, we are deeply concerned that Iran will continue on its path as a rogue nation, emboldened by its newly acquired nuclear umbrella, which will empower the Islamic Republic to increase its support for international terrorism and threaten its neighbors.

Since the election of President Hassan Rowhani, there has been much discussion about his supposed moderation, which may make this interim agreement look more promising than it really is. While the rhetoric might be less vitriolic, Iran’s notorious human-rights record and support for international terrorism has not improved under Rowhani. The rate of executions in Iran has increased and Rowhani even appointed Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, implicated in the 1988 massacre of 5,000 political prisoners, to be his justice minister. The use of torture, including beatings and rape, continues under Rowhani. Additionally, the persecution of the Baha’i and other religious minorities — as well as women, gays and lesbians, and journalists — continues. Recall, too, that it was only this past September when Rowhani addressed a parade that featured Shahab-3 missiles and the messages of “Death to the USA” and “Israel should cease to exist.”

Notably, while none of these iniquities are addressed in the Geneva agreement, the deal does not prevent the United States and other nations from implementing needed additional sanctions to curb Iran’s ongoing criminal behavior unrelated to its nuclear program.

Given the recent genocidal rhetoric from Iran, the potential shortcomings of the Geneva agreement and the lack of substantive progress on multiple fronts under Rowhani, it is encouraging that a strong bipartisan coalition of senators have vowed to introduce a new round of economic sanctions on Iran in December. For example, top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer lamented that he was “disappointed” and argued the “disproportionality of this agreement makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will join together and pass additional sanctions when we return in December.” Likewise, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez stated: “I do not believe we should further reduce our sanctions, nor abstain from preparations to impose new sanctions on Iran should the talks fail …”

We strongly applaud the bipartisan and bicameral leadership in holding Iran accountable and ensuring that a robust sanctions regime remains in place until a deal that verifiably dismantles Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities and addresses its rogue behavior toward its own people and their neighbors.

Steve Hunegs is the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.

© 2014 Star Tribune