Human rights abuse in Iraq & Iran ignored as West seeks nuclear deal.

As Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009-2014 I was able to travel many times to Iraq and to the wider Middle East. I met with leading politicians, religious leaders and leaders of civil society and they told me that lawlessness, terrorism, corruption and the systematic abuse of human rights were each a daily feature of life in Iraq. They told me that the former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was worse than Saddam Hussein and that he had turned Iraq into a dust bowl of violence and bloodshed, waging a genocidal campaign against his own Sunni population and fanning the flames of a sectarian civil war. 

The many ethnic groups who for generations lived in peaceful harmony side-by-side with the majority Shiia population, were now suffering systematic abuse, despite being guaranteed safety and security in a multi-faith society enshrined by the Iraqi Constitution. Maliki had become a puppet of Iran and its hardline mullahs, pursuing a sectarian agenda outlined by Tehran, ruthlessly removing all Sunni politicians from influential government positions and cracking down hard on dissent. The predictable Sunni backlash unleashed a storm of violence that ISIS was quick to exploit.

Iraq is now teetering on the brink of becoming a failed state. Under Maliki, billions of dollars in oil wealth simply disappeared into illicit bank accounts. It is estimated that $550 billion in oil revenues has poured into Iraq since 2006, but where has it gone? Last time I was in Baghdad, there was only 4 hours of electricity a day. Few people in Iraq have access to proper functioning sewerage systems or fresh, running water. The money has simply been stolen from the people. Transparency International now lists Iraq as the 6thmost corrupt country in the world. Only Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan, South Sudan and North Korea are worse.

In a country that won prizes for education under Saddam Hussein there is now 60% illiteracy. Unemployment is running at over 18% and with more than half the population under the age of 25, many young Iraqis are attracted to join the Shi’ite militias where they can earn $200 a week paid by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). State-condoned torture and mass executions are now commonplace. 

In fact Maliki created the perfect conditions for ISIS to enter Iraq from Syria in 2014, quickly capturing up to a third of Iraqi territory. Often the Sunni tribesmen preferred the IS jihadists to the marauding Iranian-led Shi’ite militias, who had raped, tortured, brutalized and murdered thousands of Sunni men, women and children in Fallujah, Ramadi, Tikrit and Mosul under Maliki’s guidance.

But it is madness for the Americans to support Iran in this catastrophic adventure. Instead of aiding and abetting the Iranian mullahs in their long-term plan to take over Iraq, Obama should be standing shoulder to shoulder with the beleaguered Iranian people who want an end to the theocratic fascist regime that has tortured, executed and oppressed them for the past thirty six years under their perverted version of Islam. 

The Iranian economy is facing collapse.  Plummeting oil revenues together with Western sanctions, have bankrupted the regime and yet President Rouhani in February ordered a 50% increase in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) budget, which funds Bashar al-Assad’s bloody regime in Syria, as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and the murderous Houthi rebels in Yemen. Add to this the massive cost of the mullah’s aggressive nuclear project and it is easy to see that Iran is no longer economically sustainable. 

Of course the mullahs know that their only hope of survival is to obtain a nuclear weapon, to enable them to dominate the Middle East. It is incredible that Barack Obama is seeking to conclude a deal with the fascist mullahs in Tehran, apparently to secure, alongside his breakthrough agreement with Cuba, his historic presidential legacy. For more than ten years the West has tried everything from appeasement to sanctions in a bid to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. But the framework nuclear agreement drawn up between Iran and the United States, France, Russia, China, Britain and Germany on April 2ndis already in tatters. The ink was barely dry on the deal before Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei threw down the gauntlet, stating that all sanctions would have to be lifted the minute the final treaty is signed at the end of June and that all Iranian military bases were off limits to nuclear inspectors.

Undeterred and desperate for a legacy agreement with Iran, Obama ordered John Kerry to press on with negotiations. Kerry had argued forcefully for a phasing out of sanctions as Iran implemented the conditions of the agreement clause by clause. Now Obama says that agreeing to lift all the sanctions on day one shouldn’t be a problem, so long as they can be instantly restored if the Iranians are caught cheating on the deal. Obama also knows that virtually all of Iran’s nuclear installations are based in military sites. Prohibiting inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from accessing these key sites would surely constitute an impossible impediment to any final deal. 

But Khamenei and the Iranian regime have played a devious cat and mouse game with the West.Tehran is desperate to have sanctions lifted to aid its crippled economy and it is a past master at duping the West.The theocratic regime knows that appeasing Iran has been the benchmark of Western Middle East policy for years. The West literally allows Iran to get away with murder. That’s why, throughout the talks in Switzerland, scant mention has been made of Iran’s appalling human rights record, where it now executes more people than any other country in the world apart from China. 115 people were hanged in Iran over a two week period in April, in a wave of mass judicial killings designed to create an atmosphere of fear in a population increasingly dismayed at rising food and fuel costs, while their fundamentalist rulers pour billions into brutal foreign wars. 

The EU’s new foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, must distance herself from the failed appeasement policies of her predecessor – Baroness Ashton. She must tell Barack Obama that no deal with Iran is better than a bad deal. The mullahs cannot be trusted and the world will become a safer place when their tyrannical regime is consigned to the dustbin of history.