Iran News ...


9/22/06

Iran's Reliable Partners in UNSC

By Jalal Alavi

 

Historically speaking, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been the source of much international as well as domestic tension.  From the 1979 hostage crisis to the development of a suspicious nuclear programme (according to the International Atomic Energy Agency) to the draconian treatment of its subjects, the clerical regime has managed to endure as an important source of unacceptable behaviour both in and outside its borders.  How could this endurance be explained?  Though I think a proper discussion of the issue would be impossible within the limited scope of one article, the exercise of severe suppression at home and the establishing of politically motivated commercial networks abroad seem to top the list of reasons behind the Islamic Republic's deplorable endurance for so long.  

 

As far as its domestic policy of repression is concerned, the Islamic Republic's years of severe human and civil rights violations, which include the torture and killing of numerous dissidents and political prisoners, can speak for themselves.  These records have been meticulously documented over the years by such humanitarian organizations as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Reporters Sans Frontieres, and are readily available to those who may, hopefully some day, be interested in reviewing them.  To this one should also add, of course, the recent government closures of various print media (e.g. Shargh and Nameh), and plans to purge Iranian universities of student activists and many of Iran's most distinguished academics labelled by the regime as liberal or secular in orientation.  Trade unionism has also very much suffered as a result of more intensified crackdown policies recently introduced by the regime, not least for fear of further national strikes of the kind the public transportation industry was involved in a few weeks ago.     

 

As far as its international commercial ties are concerned, the Islamic Republic has been the source of many lucrative contracts for countries and regions as diverse as Russia, China, Japan, Europe and Africa - mainly as a way of securing both livelihood and longevity.  It is interesting to note that, according to news accounts, many such contracts have never made it to Parliament for public scrutiny and have thus remained classified to this very day, especially those related to the oil and gas sectors.  A quick review of local newspaper accounts covering the disputes between Iran's Guardian Council and the local oil industry's management apparatus during the latter years of the Khatami presidency would serve as a good example, among many, of the above account.

 

These disputes, which were later censured from above as improper discussions (exposÚs), once more reflected not only the entrenched nature of rival economic camps within the regime's corrupt power structure, but also the Islamic Republic's overall strategy of employing commercial and financial institutions abroad as a way of buying international influence and securing a tight grip on power.  A careful analysis of recent remarks made by figures representing the major powers over Iran's defiance of the United Nations would clearly reveal the strength of Iran's global commercial links, on the one hand, and the profiteering attitude of many Security Council members, on the other.  It is, after all, mainly as a result of this same sort of dynamic that the international community has yet to come up with a meaningful response to the Iranian regime.  

 

In contemplating the reasons behind its endurance for 27 long years, one should also take note of the important correlation that exists between the regime's success in exploiting its commercial and financial ties globally and its maltreatment of Iranian citizenry.  In this respect, quite a large segment of the democratic community, because of its hitherto insatiable interest in doing business with the clerical regime, is at least partially responsible for the Islamic Republic's ill behaviour towards its subjects.  In other words, and despite traditional calls by realists to the contrary, had this segment of the democratic community and it leaders at some point set respect for human and civil rights as an explicit precondition for doing business with the non-democratic world, neither the people of Iran nor the international community would be facing the kind of crises they are facing today.  As it stands, the intense adversity associated with this historical short-sidedness has not only affected the lives of billions of people worldwide, but also has made a mockery of that community's purported subscription to democratic ideals.

 

In relation to the above, one should also take note of the fact that it is partially as a result of such short-sightedness that Iran is now being ruled by a small clique of incompetent clerics obsessed with despotism in the name of Islam and a hatred of all that seems Western in origin.  Had the democratic community - as a matter of principle - prevented the Iranian regime (or any other authoritarian regime, for that matter) from exploiting its relationship with the West as a means for silencing voices of dissent and democratic accountability, Iran would not be the pariah state it is today.  This indeed is a major dilemma of our day in need of urgent rectification.    

 

In all, the world has become a much smaller place, and what this means for the democratic community (liberal and social, alike; Venezuela included) is that it can no longer ignore the adverse consequences of its unqualified relationship with the non-democratic world.  In the case of Iran, the democratic states (especially members of the European Union and Japan) should consider taking advantage of the opportunity provided by the nuclear crisis in order to re-evaluate their commercial and financial ties to Iran based on the above discussion.  Again, this would, in the long run, prove much more beneficial to them than if they were to solely focus on the finding of a win-win solution to the nuclear standoff. 

 

As for the United States, it is the duty of its citizens and grassroots organizations somehow to force the Bush administration, as well as future administrations, to show an aversion to the use of force and violent regime change, and, instead, capitalize on the US's years of lack of relations with the Iranian regime by leading the democratic community to heed the call made above.  In short, the community of democratic nations must strive to keep its contacts (commercial or otherwise) with the Iranian regime at the lowest level possible until such time the Islamic Republic either gradually crumbles or matures into showing full respect for the human and civil rights of the Iranian people.  Should the community decide to ignore the above concerns altogether, it will be doing so at its own peril.  

 

About the author: Jalal Alavi is a sociologist and political commentator residing in Britain.  This article, save for the title, was first published by the Mail & Guardian Online on 19 September, and is partially related - in argument as well as evidence - to an article published by The Wall Street Journal Online on 20 September titled "Nations' Rich Trade With Iran Is Hurdle For Sanctions Plan."

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