The Poet Iran Executed

The Poet Iran Executed

The hanging of poet Hashem Shaabani tells you everything you need to know about Iran’s regime.

As Iranian poet Hashem Shaabani was dangling from a noose two weeks ago, desperately grasping for his last breath of air, one wonders what he would have thought about Western leaders who call President Hassan Rouhani a moderate.  What exactly is moderate, Shaabani could have thought, about a regime which brands a poet an “enemy of God” and strangles him to death?

The crazy thing is that by the logic of the Iranian government, Shaabani had to be killed.  He criticized God and the punishment for blasphemy is clear: death.  Technically, Shaabani criticized the regime by speaking out against repression of ethnic Arabs in the Khuzestan province, but since the regime sees itself as the representative of God on Earth, his fate was sealed.  It’s not called a theocracy for nothing.   

Islamic scholar and former Iraqi parliamentarian, Iyad Jamal al Din, once told me of Iran’s Supreme Leader:

Ayatollah Khamenei is a man just like me. He’s a cleric and I’m a cleric. But he says, “I am the representative of God.” From him, these words make me sleepless. You all [in America] sleep normally because you don’t know what that means. I know what it means. He means that he is right and the others are wrong. And wrong must not live. You should be defeated and destroyed.  

President Rouhani and foreign minister Mohamed Zarif are making quite a show of Iran’s supposed moderation.  They speak at ritzy conferences in Davos and Munich, maintain Twitter and Facebook accounts (despite banning them in Iran) and talk of Iran’s commitment to peace and justice.  But behind the soothing rhetoric is a regime which tortures journalists, imprisons bloggers and hangs poets.

As world powers attempt to negotiate an accord with Iran, they would do well to keep Shaabani in mind.  What does the hanging of a poet have to do with nuclear negotiations?  Everything. It gets to the heart of the nature of the regime.

Can the world trust a government which doesn’t even trust its own people?  Can the West rely on a regime which so fears dissidents that it puts them to death?  Can nukes be entrusted to the murderers of Neda, the young Iranian woman whose bloody death was captured on YouTube at a 2009 protest?  

Shaabani, and the more than 300 Iranians executed since Rouhani took power, are powerful reminders that the Iranian government remains as fanatic as it is dangerous.  The scores of students, bloggers and peaceful activists languishing in Evin prison are living testaments to Iran’s ongoing brutality.

When the Iranian government no longer fears its own people, then we will no longer have any reason to fear it.


Important Takeaway Notes from Congressional Events on Iran This Week

This week I covered the House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on Iran as well as a Senate Briefing on the Iranian Nuclear Deal. Here’s some important quotes and points from all of the distinguished panels. 

Representative Ros-Lehtinen: 

  • The two month delay in reaching the interim nuclear deal was calculated and planned by Iran to buy time. 

Representative Royce:

  • Stoning is still going on inside Iran for capital offences, so for a country that is stoning with one hand, they shouldn’t have nuclear capabilities in the other.
  • EVEN IF Iran dismantled 80% of their centrifuges, Fordow, and their light water reactor, Iran would STILL be 6 months away from nuclear breakout

Representative Poe:

  • We cannot plan to turn sanctions on and off like a light switch, it doesn’t work like that.
  • The Supreme Leader of Iran has NOT changed his ultimate goal, he still wants to see the end of Israel and the US.
  • “Iran is the mischief maker of the Middle East.” They’re sending rockets to Hezbollah, they’re responsible for attacks on Camp Ashraf, and they’re expanding their ICBM and war capabilities. Why would we believe they’re going to cut back? 

Representative Higgins;

  • Rouhani couldn’t have won without Khamenei’s approval and the US is currently getting played by the leaders of Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.

Mike Wallace, United Against a Nuclear Iran:

  • Sectarian tensions will be more volatile, or even worse, nuclearly volatile if Iran gets nukes.
  • Iran’s role in Syria is also being completely left out of the talks too. 

Gregory Jones, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center:

  • The biggest problem in the nuclear deal is that they can retain their centrifuge enrichment. Additionally the sunset clause is a huge issue that once the agreed-upon time period is complete, the Iranian nuclear program will be treated the same as any other non-nuclear weapon state party.
  • They can also import centrifuges, they’re not only making them themselves.
  • The Joint Plan of Action (JPA) is setting the stage for further enrichment.
  • When it comes to a nuclear-capable Iran, there are NO good options. Strikes will lead to war, so instead the NPT system needs to be strengthened, i.e. more disclosure from IAEA. 

David Albright, ISIS:

  • The real challenge comes in negotiating the long term agreement, as the interim deal is a “confidence-building measure.”
  • There must be a comprehensive deal with more verification and transparency, i.e. will they let the IAEA into Parchin?
    • Iran has been “very resistant to verification”
  • The IAEA has been denied access to Parchin for 18 MONTHS. Iran also needs to allow follow-ups, not just one time visits where Iran can manipulate the findings. There have been cases where inspections have worked, like Libya and South Africa and Iran needs to follow this path.

Ambassador Marc Ginsberg:

  • “Maliki has tied his wagons tightly to the mullahs of Iran”

Ambassador Robert Joseph:

  • The US must avoid “endless” negotiations and turn the “desperation of an illegitimate regime into leverage”.
  • Recommended that the US should “support the opposition” and stand for human rights. 
  • Iran is using nuclear technology to reach out to other countries, especially in South America (i.e. Bolivia).
  • Sanctions go beyond the economy, they threaten legitimacy. We are where we are because of sanctions.


“It is also tha…

“It is also that major national security decisions over Syria and nuclear enrichment are ultimately made by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards, who can very quickly and decisively overrule any assurances given by the likes of Zarif – and even, for that matter, Rouhani.”

Stated by Benny Avni in his Newsweek article, Ban’s Syrian Bungle Defriends Iran’s Mullahs.

Iranian TV shows musical instruments for 10 seconds — and religious controversy ensues

Iranian TV shows musical instruments for 10 seconds — and religious controversy ensues

Musical instruments were shown live on Iranian state television for the first time in decades — for 10 seconds — and the airing has caused a religious controversy in the capital.

“[The] spell … was finally broken,” the reformist daily Sharq newspaper ran its front page, the Los Angeles Timesreported.

The incident occurred on a show called “Good Morning Iran,” and now producers are calling the airing a technical error, according to the Times.

Normally, singers are not allowed to stand in front of musical instruments so that the cameras won’t pick up the taboo objects. When the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) is forced to cut away, stock images of the studio or nature are usually shown.

“The footage of instruments which was aired has nothing to do with a change in the approach or practice of IRIB, and it was just an unintentional mistake by us,” the show’s producer Gholamreza Bakhtiari was quoted as saying by Iran’s hard-line Fars news agency, the Times reported.

The mistake has prompted Iranians to wonder whether it was actually a salvo in a larger cultural battle between moderate and hard-line Islamists.

“It seems a decision was made at some level in the management [to show the instruments], but top managers did not dare to … defend the decision, and now they’re recanting,” Sobhan Hasanvand, a Sharq editor, told the Times.