As Hassan Rouhani, the supposed "moderate" Iran President, is soon to visit New York to continue nuclear negotiations with the G5 + 1, it is important to remember that the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to be among the largest funders and promoters of terrorism worldwide, and remember as well the continuing human rights atrocities that the regime has committed against its people since it came into power in 1979.
The West should not accept any compromise on shutting down Iran's nuclear-weapons program or allow Iran any opportunity to blackmail the West into a compromise on it on the pretext of its "helping" to fight the Islamic State [IS].
Iran's interference in Iraq has always been, and will always be, negative. In the same way as IS, Iran's human rights atrocities against its own people should, by themselves, disqualify the regime from any part in negotiations either on Iraq or nuclear weapons capability.
If Iran's regime, with its unvarying track record of duplicity, continues to be appeased by the Obama Administration and the G5 + 1, any "deal" will only destabilize the Middle East -- and beyond -- even further, as well as strengthening the very terrorist jihadist groups the West is trying to counter.
The responsibility for disastrous results from any negotiation will lie firmly at the feet of the G5 + 1, and particularly at the feet of President Barack Obama personally, as another nail in the coffin of his until-now failed foreign-policy legacy.
Iran's Involvement in Iraq
The "cooperation" of Iran's Shia regime in Iraq has resulted in large swathes of the country being controlled by Iranian forces, especially near their common border in Iraq's south. Many towns and cities, and several provinces, such as Maysan Province, are under the total control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] and Quds Force. They intimidate the legitimate refugees from Iran, approved by UNHCR, and illegally force many back to Iran, where some have been executed purely on the basis of their ethnicity. The poet Hashem Shaabani, 32, for example, was executed after being forced back to Iran, and a teacher, Mohammad Ali Amouri, has now received a life sentence there. These men are both ethnic minorities from the Ahwazi Arab community, persecuted solely because of their origins. The situation in Iraq is so serious and lawless that even UNHCR workers have been threatened and have fled. (The authors of this article have the complete list of the names of the workers; they are, of course, frightened to have them publicized.)
The problems in Iraq, which have recently led to the rise of the Islamic State, began with the increasing Shia extremism, implemented by Iraq's former President, Nouri al-Maliki, supported by the Iran. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the IRGC has been a key player in Iraq since 2000, propping up the Iraqi Shia governments, as he has also done for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. He is described as "the Iranian general 'secretly running' Iraq."
Further, since the increasing extremism of the Shias led to the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in the first place, it is unlikely that the continuing interference of Iran will be perceived as positive by those, mostly Sunnis, fighting IS. For the U.S. to advocate Iran's involvement will also be seen, as pointed out by Mark Dubowitz, as a weakness by IS as well as by Khamenei's regime.
Islamic State in Syria and Iraq
For three years, Syrian civilians have been subjected to daily slaughter and starvation by their own government under President Bashar al-Assad, with firepower far superior to the resources of opposition groups such as the Free Syrian Army [FSA], which had only rudimentary weapons to defend their villages.
In 2009 the Iranian Shia regime acted with brutality, torture and murder against millions of its own citizens went out into the streets to demand democracy and an end to repression.
The Obama administration should have learned from its errors of judgement, including, in Syria, ignoring its own "red line," even when evidence of the use of chemical weapons by Assad was clear and incontrovertible. Evidently it did not.
The aim of the current Iranian regime is clearly to acquire a nuclear capability, and to retain as much territory in Iraq as possible under Shia Islamist rule, whatever the human cost. That aim is reason it has been supporting Assad with weapons and troops on the ground since the beginning of the conflict in Syria.
Those aims are also the reason Iran's regime is now trying to intervene in Iraq. The Iran regime is, of course, hoping that the smokescreen it has cast -- to portray its leaders as "moderate" under President Hassan Rouhani -- will persuade the West to believe, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently stated, that they have a "positive role to play" in any fight against the Islamic State.
For the U.S. Administration or anyone Western leaders actually to believe such claims would be a grave mistake. Many Iranians are stupefied by such statements. The Iranian regime has only a self-interested role. It will doubtless be demanding that any cooperation with the West be compensated by "concessions" permitting its nuclear weapons program.
Aid and arms should immediately be immediately given to the Free Syrian Army in Syria and the Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq; they must not be diverted to the Iranian regime, which has murdered, raped and tortured all who ask for democracy and human rights. Both IS and the Iranian regime persecute religious minorities such as Christians, Bahai's and Yazidis. They both commit atrocities such as amputations, floggings, and forcing women to cover and convert, or face rape.
The West should not forget this barbarity. Not only will compromises by the Obama Administration be regarded with contempt by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the real leader of Iran; worse, involving Iran further in Iraq at this point will merely alienate any Sunni allies whose assistance is much needed to defeat IS.
Attempts to Portray a New "Moderate" Iran
The Iranian propaganda machine, which went into overdrive when Hassan Rouhani replaced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president in 2013, would now like the West to believe that its country is ruled by more "moderate" leaders. Sadly this is not true. Not only have the promises made by Rouhani to the UNHCR never been kept, but executions, persecution and human rights violations have significantly increased. Even those who report on these violations are increasingly in danger of the growing reach of Iran's regime: Seyed Jamal Hosseini, a UNHCR-registered refugee in Turkey, and one of the founders of the human rights NGO, HRANA, was murdered in 2014.
The smiling mask of Iran's regime: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (right) meets with European Council President Herman Von Rompuy and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security policy, Catherine Ashton at the United Nations in New York, September 26 , 2013. (Image source: European Union)
The Iranian regime and its lobbyists, such as the National Iranian American Council [NIAC] in the U.S., continue their attempts to influence the Obama Administration on sanctions relief and nuclear concessions. Time and again negotiations have been delayed, foiled and extended by Iran, and concessions have been made by the G5 + 1, including billions of dollars in sanctions relief -- for what?
Of course, to Khamenei, this burlesque just makes Obama and his administration look weaker and weaker; further concessions will only reinforce that perception.
Even more disturbing is that many people inside Iran have alerted the U.S. Administration for more than two years about other industrial facilities being secretly built in Iran, which have not been declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA]. So far, all of the intelligence provided from within Iran has been wilfully ignored by the Obama Administration. At this point, it is not possible to believe that this information is being ignored out of ignorance. That leaves, as other possibilities, either the successful influence of Iran's lobbyists or perhaps also commercial interests exerted by individuals or companies eager to reap millions from doing business with Iran.
It is also revealing to note the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Obama Administration. Its presence may provide at least some explanation as to why Obama and others consistently seem to apologize for Islam, even after three recent beheadings, and the threats publicly to behead "random" Australians.
In a similar fashion, Iran's human rights atrocities are ignored by the Obama administration, in favor of sitting down at the negotiating table with the perpetrators, presumably to hand them the nuclear weapons capability they are determined to acquire. Ex-CIA agent Clare Lopez has written extensively about this issue.
Given that Iran currently holds in its prisons American citizens such as U.S. Marine veteran Amir Hekmati, Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and former FBI agent Robert Levinson, as well thousands of innocent political prisoners, it is noteworthy that the Obama administration has deliberately separated all human rights issues from its nuclear negotiations.
This situation remains, despite the determined attempts of many members of Congress, including Representatives Ed Royce and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, as well as Senators Ted Cruz and Mark Kirk.
All calls by international human rights organizations and non-governmental organizations for negotiations to be dependent the cessation of all nuclear enrichment activity -- and on Iranian assurances to release innocent political, religious and ethnic minority prisoners -- have been ignored by both the G5 + 1 and Obama.
Instead, John Kerry on September 20, 2014 cordially invited Iran to play a role in arresting the momentum of IS in Iraq and Syria: "There is a role for nearly every country in the world in turning back the militants and debunking their ideology, including Iran".
The invitation is like asking the cat to guard the milk.
Dr. Gill Gillespie is Director of the Iranian Refugees Action Network, and is based in the U.K. Shabnam Assadollahi is a Human Rights activist and freelance journalist from Canada.
Appendix: Iran's Recent Terrorist Activities and Crimes Abroad: