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Without human rights, Trump’s security strategy won’t measure up


President Trump is laying out his national security strategy today, Dec. 18. It focuses on a potential return to Cold War days between Washington and Moscow. There is a focus on “hard power,” rather than “soft power,” like leadership on human rights.

Earlier this month, on Dec. 10, was Human Rights Day. Was this a day for celebration or mourning? Such a day should be for festivity; but, this day was not a normal one. Why? The Iranian regime was and is a source of human rights abuses. The Ayatollahs do not a rule a normal state. They have trappings of normality. But, the regime is anything but ordinary. Rather than theology, they are experts in an ideology of detention of political detainees.

Bottom Line up Front

Human rights need to be incorporated into the National Security Strategy and the Iran Policy Review.

{mosads}First, bring the Ayatollahs responsible for mass murder to a global court to prosecute human rights violators. The International Criminal Court (ICC), located in The Hague, is one place. The ICC is the court of last resort for prosecution of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.


Second, have the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights create a special commission of inquiry.

Third, implore President Trump to pay attention to human rights violations by the Ayatollahs. But, we should not forget about their ballistic missiles tests, as a state sponsor of terrorism, and creation of an Iraq that is a virtual satrap of Iran.

Human Rights Day gave the commissioner an occasion to state that enshrined documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were and are under assault and must be defended by the major powers. It cannot be left to bodies like the ICC to carry out defense of human rights.

Where is Washington? We are missing in action, “AWOL” in defense of human rights. Instead, Trump believes national security interests are defined by “hard power,” instead of “soft power,” like human rights. This situation is intolerable.

The Ayatollahs regularly respond to disobedience — both when the offense occurs in public or by their so-called “citizens,” who are in the regime’s detention facilities. One notorious one is Evin Prison in Tehran.

The Evidence: 1988 Massacre in Iran

Political prisoners were incarcerated, and eventually killed, at Evin Prison in the 1988 massacres. Some 30,000 dissidents were murdered across Iran, but particularly in Evin. Assassins carried out their deeds under direct orders of then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini. He instructed guards to execute all those who opposed the regime.

After the execution, corpses would be transported in the dead-of-night to one of the numerous mass graves, which came in the form of deeply dug channels, secretly excavated in various isolated locations across the country, areas dubbed by their executioners as The Place of the Damned.

But to this day, little has changed at Evin. Abuses still take place, while the words of human rights activists fall on deaf ears. Rather than denouncing the regime with harsh condemnations it rightly deserves, the world has virtually ignored abuses carried out in its prisons and streets; instead the major powers provide the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) lucrative transactions like the Iran Deal of 2015, rather than hard-hitting sanctions that cut deeply. Fortunately, in July 2017, the State Department designated the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies takes note of Dec. 10, and how the U.N. memorializes Human Rights Day. It commemorates when the General Assembly, adopted in 1948 a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This landmark document gives Trump an occasion to suggest we consider human rights as national security interests. But he has not done so, and is unlikely to do so in the National Security Strategy unveiled Dec. 18.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) volume “How Iran Fuels Syria War,” demonstrates how the IRGC engages its troops in Syria by drafting others and dividing Syria into military zones. By challenging the operations of IRGC human rights violations, Trump can advance our interests because he would discredit the ideology that animates the Ayatollahs’ conduct in other places.

The Way Forward

First, Trump should revise the National Security Strategy to include human rights as a strategic national interest.

Second, the president should take heed of the words spoken in anticipation of Human Rights Day, on Dec. 7, by the Organization for Iranian-American Communities (OIACUS). It sponsored a session in the Kennedy Caucus Room the Russell Building of the U.S. Capitol. There were welcoming remarks in a video message from NCRI President-Elect Madame Maryam Rajavi. One of her themes was a need for regime change from within.

Former U.S. officials and sitting members of Congress — Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and John Bozeman (R-Ariz.) — spoke against the Ayatollahs.

Another speaker, former Speaker of the U.S. House Newt Gingrich, emphasized growing capabilities of the main opposition group in Iran, the NCRI. Its largest unit is the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, commonly known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq or MEK. Gingrich highlighted lack of moderation anticipated by President Obama and how President Trump needed to accelerate his pressure on the Iranian regime with new sanctions on Tehran.

Former national security adviser to President Obama, Gen. Jim Jones, echoed the remarks of others, in focusing on regime change from within. Jones decried that Obama had not authorized an attack against Assad in Syria, as Trump later did, and thus assisted moderate Syrian oppositionists before they could be defeated by Assad. But now even Trump has begun to turn his back on the dissidents by denying them arms Obama had authorized.

Retired Ambassador Lincoln Bloomfield Jr. closed the briefing with a defense of regime change from within, new sanctions on Iran, and growing capabilities of the NCRI to bring about regime change from within.

Third, Trump’s White House speech rolling out his Iran Policy Review does not target Tehran’s human rights record and hence to expose the regime’s intolerable abuses. A related State Department document only discusses topics, such as nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and Iran as a State Sponsor of International Terrorism.

For Trump’s national security strategy to truly make a difference, we have no choice but to incorporate consideration for human rights.

Prof. Raymond Tanter (@AmericanCHR) served as a senior member on the Middle East Desk of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration, personal representative of the secretary of Defense to international security and arms control talks in Europe, and is now professor emeritus at the University of Michigan.

Editor’s Note: This column originally misidentified Gen. Jim Jones’s role in the Obama Administration. He is a former national security adviser. The column has been corrected.

Tags Ben Cardin Donald Trump Evin Prison Foreign policy of Donald Trump Foreign relations of Iran Government Human rights Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action National Council of Resistance of Iran Politics Presidency of Donald Trump Sanctions against Iran

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