Friday, May 19, 2006

Human Rights Added to the Incentives Package

Hamid Ahadi, Rooz Online:
Even though the European incentives package designed to lure Iran into accepting a moratorium on Iran’s nuclear enrichment activities has not yet even been finalized, let alone submitted to Tehran, Iranian officials have already aired their rejections of it, in particular the section that deals with human rights. They have asserted that the demands of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly that are part of the human rights demands are in fact the groundwork for toppling the Islamic Republic of Iran. READ MORE

The Passdaran Revolutionary Guards former commander Mohsen Rezai, for example, had said some time ago that if Iran accepted the West’s proposals, the Europeans would then make new demands on human rights issues. And just last Wednesday, the main headline of Iran’s ultra-hardline daily close to the country’s leadership Jomhuri-e Eslami read: the EU has added human rights to its package as the trigger to the nuclear issue. The newspaper, which also acts as a security advisor to the Islamic Republic announced its strong objection to the latest EU proposal. Another conservative newspaper close to the establishment, Keyhan, also carried a strongly worded editorial against the EU incentives package and while accusing it of containing “poisoned words” said that “their issue with the Islamic Republic was in fact much larger than what they claimed.” Jomhuri-e Eslami went even further and accused the West of being involved in the violent incidents of recent months in the southern and western parts of Iran, and claimed that these were only parts of a larger conspiracy to overthrow the regime.

Observers have said that while the nuclear issue seems to be approaching its closing date, adding human rights issues to the final settlement simply provides ammunition to those inside the Iranian regime who are against resolving the issue. What makes the next few days very critical for Iran is that if the latest EU proposal were rejected, the only remaining alternative would be to accept the Russian proposal.

But concurrent with the criticism by Iran’s hardliners and their outlets such as Jomhuri-e Eslami and Keyhan regarding the human rights issue now added to the incentives package, the more moderate elements in Iran’s political landscape have increased their warnings about accepting the Russian proposal. For example, Sharg editorialized that Russia is unhappy about the agreements under way between Iran and Europe, because it ends its monopoly in Iran’s nuclear field, thus depriving it of the huge profits that potentially come through business deals. It further argues that an agreement with Europe would be the first step towards an entente with the US, which would in turn also end the Russian influence in and over Iran, thus shifting the strategic competition between the two big powers onto Russian territory. Another website, Aftab-e Yazd too has written that Moscow has demonstrated to be an unreliable economic partner by not delivering on its promises, which was best demonstrated in their latest postponement of completing the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

The Europeans decided to add human rights issues to the current incentives package they plan to propose to Iran - which is recognized as the last attempt to lure Iran to end its enrichment activities - because human rights groups in Europe and Iran have accused them of forgetting about democratizing the world, something that these governments are committed to.

So it appears that Iranian decision-makers have only one option left if they wish to escape US threats and sanctions. In the words of one political observer, they can either accept the European critical dialogue and consequently improve the human rights situation in Iran, or be subject to Russian dependence by accepting the Russian enrichment proposal.

And on this subject, there are plenty of hardline and conservative groups and individuals in Iran who believe that if Iran accepts to give in to European human rights demands, then a Pandora’s box would be opened to all kinds of colorful revolutions and ultimately the collapse of the Islamic regime.

The question that now remains the hottest is that while the US is not interested in engaging Iran in direct settlement talks, only two alternatives remain: European or Russian. Which way will Iran’s decision go?

Iranian hardline ideologues are less vocal these days. They are the ones who argued not too long ago that the nation should get ready for a military confrontation and thus not waste its energy on other issues that only weaken the image of the Islamic Republic. And while this group has on some occasions had a very loud voice, in fact its support among decision makers in Iran is very limited.