HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRAN & IRAQ
PANEL DEBATE – HOTEL RELAIS SPA
FRIDAY 12thJUNE, 2015, 17.00hrs.
As Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq I was able to travel several times to Baghdad, Erbil and the Middle East. I met with many 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 then 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 and Sunni communities, 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 were 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 6th most 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. Often the Sunni tribesmen preferred the IS jihadists to the marauding 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.
I used my position as Chair of the Delegation for Relations with Iraq to expose Maliki as a corrupt murderer and thug and I repeatedly asked the Americans and the EU to stop supporting him. Sadly they ignored all warnings until it was too late. The damage was done. When Haider al-Abadi finally took over as Iraq’s Prime Minister, ISIS had already seized one third of the country. But having failed to learn the lessons of history, America and the EU are now once again backing the wrong side in Iraq.
The recapture of Tikrit by 30,000 troops, two-thirds of whom were members of the brutal, Iranian-led Shi’ite militias, took almost a month. Tikrit was the home of Saddam Hussein. It is a Sunni stronghold and it was recaptured by a force commanded by Iran’s most famous general, Qassem Suleimani, leader of the terrorist Iranian Quds Force. ISIS overran Tikrit last summer. They were deeply embedded in the local Sunni population.
The bizarre situation that developed during this battle was the fact that America, Britain and Jordan mounted airstrikes on ISIS targets around Tikrit, becoming the de factoally of the Iranians.
With Tirkrit recaptured, now the battle for Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, has begun. There are over two million mostly Sunni men, women and children trapped by ISIS in Mosul. Thousands will be killed in the ensuing aerial and artillery bombardment. The Iranian-led Shi’ite militias will delight in their annihilation. This looming battle suits the purpose of Tehran in many ways. First and foremost, they have manipulated the current crisis to spread their theocratic domain across large swathes of Iraq, under the pretext that they are protecting sacred Shi’ite shrines and fighting a war against terrorists. Secondly, the collateral damage during the ensuing battle, which will kill and maim thousands of innocent Sunni civilians, will not cause the mullahs in Tehran to lose any sleep.
It is time for Obama to wake up. It took 8 years of bloodshed and disaster to get the Americans to recognize the catastrophic mistake they made in supporting Nouri al-Maliki’s genocidal, sectarian dictatorship. The White House must recognize the Islamic State for what it is, a tetra-headed monster that involves al-Qaeda, the Taliban, al-Shabab, Boko Haram and a plethora of other jihadist outcrops that represent a clear and present danger to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan, Libya, Lebanon, Afghanistan and East Africa and thus to fundamental American national security interests.
The barbarism of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, together with their wanton destruction and bulldozing of the ancient world heritage sites at Nimrud and Hatra, provide the clearest indication of how they plan to create a blood-soaked desert as their fundamentalist caliphate, where nothing that existed before the sixth century birth of Mohammed will be allowed to survive. Yet, ironically, the inspiration for all of these jihadist groups is the theocratic regime in Iran.
The fall of the mullahs in Tehran will mark the end of Islamic fundamentalism just as assuredly as Hitler’s death brought the Nazi’s Thousand Year Reich to a juddering halt.
The only way to eradicate ISIS is to recruit the Sunni tribes. They rose up once before and defeated al-Qaeda during the American ‘surge’. They can do so again, but only if their hated enemies - the Shi’ite militias are driven from Iraq. ISIS will not be defeated by allied air strikes. You cannot defeat an ideology by aerial bombardment. Even if the combined Iraqi military and Shi’ite militias eventually recapture Mosul, it will be at such cost in Sunni lives that the flames of sectarian conflict will be fanned and may engulf the Middle East. 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 regime is teetering on the brink. The collapse in oil revenues together with Western sanctions, have bankrupted the Iranian economy 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. The price of bread in Iran rose by 30% in January, causing widespread protests.
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. The world is going to pay a high price for Obama’s place in history.
For more than ten years the West has tried everything from appeasement to sanctions in a bid to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. But how easily the West allows itself to be repeatedly duped by the fascist rulers of Iran. Past masters at the art of deception, they have defied world opinion and continued apace with their uranium enrichment programme. Indeed, in March, the National Council for Resistance in Iran (NCRI), who first alerted the world to the mullah’s covert nuclear sites way back in 2002, held a press conference in Washington, where they revealed yet another top-secret nuclear facility, buried deep underground at a military base in the suburbs of Tehran. This facility, known as Lavizan-3, is using advanced centrifuge machines to enrich weapons-grade uranium. It has been entirely hidden from international inspectors up until now.
But even this evidence has failed to put the brakes on Obama’s determination to reach a deal with the Iranian regime. The framework nuclear agreement drawn up between Iran and the United States, France, Russia, China, Britain and Germany on April 2nd is 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.
But Obama, desperate for a legacy agreement with Iran, ordered John Kerry to press on with negotiations, despite the fact that the Ayatollah’s interjection undermined all of Kerry’s key principles. 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 lifting 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. However, Khamenei is equally determined to avoid true scrutiny of his nuclear programme by the West. To walk this negotiation tightrope, Khamenei has deployed the smiling President Rouhani in the hope that he can keep negotiations going and dupe the West into ending crippling sanctions.
Khamenei’s cat & mouse tactics are having some success. Vladimir Putin has now enraged Israeli and Western leaders by stating that progress with the nuclear talks have spurred his decision to renew a contract to deliver advanced S-300 surface to air missile systems to Iran. Of course Putin is a close ally of the Iranian mullahs. He supports Iranian policy in Syria and Yemen, where the theocratic regime has propped up Bashir al-Assad’s blood-soaked government and armed and funded the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
But even this provocative move by Moscow has failed to deter Western appeasers. Speaking in The Hague, the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that the Russian actions were a “complication”but that they would not derail progress towards a final accord with Iran. "The understanding that we reached a couple of weeks ago in Switzerland is solid enough to allow us to continue the drafting of the final agreement," she said.
Appeasing Iran has been the benchmark of Western Middle East policy since the debacle following the invasion of Iraq. There are three major power centres in the Middle East, namely Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly warned that Israel will not stand for a nuclear-armed Iran.
Alarmed at events in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has formed an impressive coalition of Arab nations to counter the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. But meanwhile the venomous Iranian spider has taken every opportunity to weave its menacing web across great tracts of the Middle East, fomenting the spiraling conflict between Shiias and Sunnis, destabilising the region and threatening world peace. Acquiescing to any deal, which turns a blind eye to Iran’s race to develop a nuclear weapon, would enable the theocratic regime to become the dominant force in the Middle East, with dire consequences for us all.
It seems remarkable that 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 recent bread riots and protests by schoolteachers have caused panic amongst the ruling mullahs, leading to further savage crackdowns that have failed to attract a word of criticism in Lausanne.