The Obama administration may believe that Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is a “moderate,” but he has presided over a wave of executions, the latest being of Iranian-Arab poet and activist Hashem Shaabani, according to the Jerusalem Post. The 31-year-old was arrested in 2011 on charges of belonging to a terrorist group, which he denied. He was executed along with activist Hadi Rashedi. Iran routinely executes political prisoners.
President Barack Obama has turned a blind eye to Iran’s violations of basic human rights norms, as well as to the specific abuses endorsed and carried out by his “partner” in the nuclear negotiations that have thus far done more to prop up Iran’s nuclear program than to limit it. The administration fears that addressing human rights concerns will risk the fragile relationship between the two governments and make negotiations impossible.
History proves otherwise. The efforts of the U.S. in confronting the Soviet Union only gained real traction once human rights issues became part of the agenda, pursued with vigor nearly equal to that of geopolitical concerns. Furthermore, Iran has only been willing to negotiate and offer concessions to the U.S. when it feels threatened, either militarily or economically. Human rights issues–valuable in their own right–also offer unique leverage.
That is not how the Obama administration sees it. The White House neglects human rights for a number of reasons, including the fact that human rights were high on George W. Bush’s foreign policy agenda, and also because of a preference on the left for Third World dictators who share a skepticism of American power. Yet the evil of the Iranian regime cannot be contained in domestic affairs, and will eventually threaten us as well.