October 19 was “adoption day,” one of the markers of the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers in July. It is the date by which Iran says it will voluntary adopt measures governing inspections of its nuclear sites, while the United States and Europe will begin the process of removing nuclear sanctions on Iran.
Iran has portrayed the agreement as giving international legal legitimacy to its illicit nuclear program. In March, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote that the nuclear deal with Iran would be binding under international law, asserting “that according to international law, Congress may not modify the terms of the agreement at any time as they claim, and if Congress adopts any measure to impede its implementation, it will have committed a material breach of US obligations.”
In recent weeks, Iran has consistently shown its contempt for international law, even as it seeks legitimacy in that same code.
1) Jason Rezaian – Earlier this month, Iran convicted Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian on charges of espionage. Rezaian’s trial took place in secret, and he was only able to meet with his defense lawyer once during the proceedings. “Iran has behaved unconscionably throughout this case, but never more so than with this indefensible decision by a Revolutionary Court to convict an innocent journalist of serious crimes after a proceeding that unfolded in secret, with no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing,” Post executive editor Martin Baron said in a statement. The case against Rezaian was brought by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a powerful state institution that answers directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and which stands to benefit greatly from the nuclear deal. Zarif said in May that “the Islamic Republic doesn’t imprison journalists or dissidents over their views.”
2) Ballistic Missiles – Iran test-launched a precision-guided ballistic missile earlier this month in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Power publicly stated last week that the launch was in fact a violation of Security Council resolutions. The United States has said that it will bring up the violation at the Security Council.
3) Executions – United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon expressed concern on Monday over the escalating rate of executions carried out by the Iranian regime. Ban’s statement called attention to Iran’s executions of minors and of those convicted of drug-related offenses, both in violation of international laws governing executions. Justice minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi has the nickname of “Minister of Murder,” acquired for his role in thousands of summary executions in the late 1980s.
4) Syria I – The Washington Post reported Monday that Iran is coordinating its proxies forces, including Iraqi Shiite militias, to prop up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad as part of a joint Iranian-Russian offensive against anti-Assad rebels. The general in charge of coordinating the proxies is IRGC-Qods Force commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who is currently under international sanctions for his nuclear proliferation and terror activities. Soleimani flew to Moscow in July to plan the offensive, in violation of an international travel ban.
5) Syria II – The French are investigating war crimes violations committed by the Assad regime, basing their case on photographs smuggled out of Syria by a former military police photographer known as Caesar. Assad’s backers, including Russia and Iran, could potentially be held liable for war crimes violations if Assad or other Syrian officials are found guilty.
6) Mahan Air – Benjamin Weinthal and Emanuele Ottolenghi, fellows at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, reported last month that Mahan Air, a sanctioned Iranian airline, was flying to Syria to ferry military personnel and weapons to defend Assad. Iran purchased new airplanes for Mahan in May, in violation of sanctions against the airline. It was later reported that the United States had been warned about Mahan’s efforts to buy the planes, but did nothing to stop the purchase.
7) Hezbollah – “Iran supplied Hezbollah with precision-guided surface-to-surface missiles and attack drones so it can accurately hit any target in Israel,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged in his speech before the United Nations General Assembly at the beginning of the month. This is a violation of Security Council Resolution 1701, which prohibits transferring weapons to any entity in Lebanon except the central government.
8) United Nations Security Council Resolutions – In addition to the instances mentioned above, top Iranian officials have said that Iran refuses to be bound by United Nations Security Council resolutions. “To follow our defense programs, we don’t ask permission from anyone,” Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said after the test-launch of ballistic missiles last week. Dehghan’s statement echoed an earlier and more explicit boast by President Hassan Rouhani: “We will buy, sell and develop any weapons we need and we will not ask for permission or abide by any resolution for that.” Rouhani has claimed that Iran may violate UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which governs the nuclear deal, without violating the nuclear deal itself.
9) Destruction of Israel – Although it is prohibited under the 1948 Genocide Convention to incite to commit genocide, the nuclear deal has not stopped Iran’s leaders from threatening Israel’s destruction. Khamenei said last month that Israel will be gone in 25 years. “We are glad that we are in the forefront of executing supreme leader’s order to destroy the Zionist regime,” Major General Ataollah Salehi, the commander of the Iranian army, boasted two weeks later. A week before the nuclear deal was agreed upon, former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is often describes as a “moderate,” said that Israel would one day be wiped off the map.
10) Civil Rights – While releasing the State Department’s annual report on international religious freedom last week, Secretary of State John Kerry singled out Iran as one of the worst violators of those rights. “Sadly, the pages of this report that is being released today are filled with accounts of minorities being denied rights in countries like Burma, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, many others,” he said. The State Department’s 2014 Report on Human Rights Practices for Iran summarized some of the worst abuses of the regime: “The most significant human rights problems were severe restrictions on civil liberties, including the freedoms of assembly, speech, religion, and press; limitations on the citizens’ ability to change the government peacefully through free and fair elections; and disregard for the physical integrity of persons, whom authorities arbitrarily and unlawfully detained, tortured, or killed.”
Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explained the peril of not forcing Iran to abide by its international obligations in an interview with Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin today. “During the negotiations over the Iran deal, the Obama administration created a dangerous precedent when it caved to Iranian threats to walk away from the table if new sanctions were imposed,” Dubowitz said. “Now the Iranian regime has made it clear in a recent letter to the UNSCR that it will treat the imposition of any sanctions, whether nuclear or not, as grounds to walk away from the JCPOA. If the administration does not enforce UNSCR 1929, the resolution that explicitly forbids the recent missile test, this will only embolden the regime that it can act with absolute impunity. It is long past the time for the administration to show resolve that violations have real consequence.”