More than two years after the drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad Airport on Jan. 3, 2020, the repressive Iranian regime is still licking its wounds and seeking revenge. Iran’s prosecutor-general Mohammad-Jafar Montazeri said last week that Tehran will not “abandon” the case “until those responsible for his death are punished,” even if it takes “years.”
He was of course referring to former President Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who ordered the drone attack.
The State Department listed Soleimani as an international terrorist. As the de-facto second in command in Iran’s military hierarchy, he was responsible for thousands of deaths among Iraqi, Syrian and Lebanese people as well as among U.S. military personnel. He controlled the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, their vicious military unit responsible for extra-territorial operations.
Soleimani was answerable only to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and, as such, was described by many as the second-most powerful person in the Islamic Republic. As Quds Force commander, he oversaw the theocratic regime’s proxy wars in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq, where he commanded all the Iraqi militias, known as the popular mobilization forces (PMF).
Following Soleimani’s killing, the Iranian regime responded days later by launching ballistic missiles at U.S. forces stationed in Iraq, although no American troops were killed in the attack.
Speaking on the second anniversary of Soleimani’s killing in January, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi threatened revenge against America if Trump and Pompeo were not “tried in a fair court for the criminal act of assassinating Gen. Soleimani.”
As an example of breath-taking hypocrisy, Raisi’s statement can hardly be surpassed. Dubbed “The Butcher of Tehran” for his key role as deputy prosecutor in Tehran during the massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners in 1988, mostly members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin of Iran/ Mojahedin e-Khalq (PMOI/MEK), Raisi was a member of the “Death Commission” that sentenced thousands to death by hanging after arbitrary three-minute “trials.”
Raisi has publicly admitted and even boasted about his involvement in the 1988 massacre. He is on record as saying: “As long as the MEK leadership is alive, anyone who supports the group in any way deserves to be executed.”
Raisi’s concept of a “fair trial” is therefore dubious! Indeed, Iran’s Prosecutor General Mohammad-Jafar Montazeri is himself a notorious violator of human rights, having boasted that the 1988 massacre of political prisoners by the judiciary was “a golden age in the history of this branch.”
He was also one of the main perpetrators of the shoot-to-kill policy that led to the death of over 1,500 peaceful protesters during a nationwide uprising in November 2019.
Criminals like Raisi and Montazeri calling for justice are like Vladimir Putin calling for Ukraine to join NATO! Nevertheless, the Americans have taken the mullahs’ threats seriously. In a report to Congress, the State Department reported it is paying more than $2 million per month to provide 24-hour security to Pompeo and former Iran envoy Brian Hook, both of whom, along with Trump, are considered prime targets for the theocratic regime’s assassins.
When the State Department admits that it recognizes the dangers faced by a former U.S. president and senior government officials at the hands of the Iranian regime, it is astounding that the Biden administration continues to seek a new nuclear agreement with the mullahs.
It is even more astonishing when Joe Biden wants Putin indicted for war crimes, that he should countenance a revised deal to which the Russian president would be a signatory. Biden seems relaxed about dealing with gangsters.
But talks in Vienna over a resurrected Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal have gone on almost since Biden entered the White House. Emboldened by the American president’s infirmity and his reckless abandonment of Afghanistan, the mullahs are now demanding the lifting of sanctions imposed by Trump and the de-listing of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.
They have even demanded that no future U.S. president should ever renege on any new nuclear deal, in a brazen move that demonstrates their lack of understanding of democratic politics. A current pause in the Vienna talks has ended with each side blaming the other for stalling.
Meanwhile the Russians claim to have written guarantees that any new JCPOA they sign will exempt Russian-Iranian trade deals from Ukrainian sanctions.
The original JCPOA was brokered by Obama in 2015 and designed to last for 10 years. Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the deal in 2018 and imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran, crippling their economy and seriously impacting on their funding of proxy wars in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
The mullahs responded by accelerating their enrichment of uranium to 60% purity, almost weapons grade. There is an abundance of evidence that they have also constructed secret underground plants where the development of a nuclear weapon will continue, hidden from International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) inspectors even if a new JCPOA is agreed.
The renewal of the deal would be for only three years and would do nothing to dampen the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions. It would, however, kickstart the moribund Iranian economy, enabling the regime to recommence its commercial exploitation of oil and gas and in the process to reinvest in terrorism, war and oppression at home and abroad.
President Trump wasn’t right about many things, but he was right about the JCPOA when he described it as “the worst deal in history” and “one of the most one-sided transactions the United States had ever entered into.”
The original deal failed to protect America’s security interests, it enriched the venally corrupt Iranian regime and allowed it to continue its malign behavior and did little to curb the regime’s development of a nuclear weapon. The terms for a revised JCPOA being demanded by the mullahs will be worse.
Struan Stevenson is the Coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change (CiC). He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). Struan is also Chair of the ‘In Search of Justice’ (ISJ) committee on the protection of political freedoms in Iran. He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).