Why Iran’s opposition movement muddles nuclear talks
After more than five months of going it alone, Iran’s opposition Green Movement is reaching out to the United States for help. Via public and private channels, the Obama Administration has received several appeals in recent weeks to take a stronger stand against human-rights abuses in Iran, avoid military action and impose more aggressive and rapid-fire sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards and its vast business interests.
The opposition’s outreach comes as the Administration weighs the next move in its diplomatic effort to resolve the nuclear standoff with Iran. Tehran has effectively rebuffed a confidence-building deal that would ship out the bulk of Iran’s enriched-uranium stockpile to be converted into fuel rods for a medical-research reactor — which would also have added about a year to the time frame within which Iran could weaponize nuclear material. The deal would have offered more time for longer-term diplomatic negotiations. As a result, President Obama has begun trying to rally international support for a new round of sanctions. (See pictures of people around the world protesting Iran’s election.)
Washington has struggled since the disputed June 12 presidential election to figure out how to engage the regime without undermining the opposition. Now it has begun to hear answers from the Green Movement itself. [continued…]
Iran’s death penalty is seen as a political tactic
A flurry of executions and death sentences in Iran has raised concern that the government is using judicially sanctioned killing to intimidate the political opposition and quell pockets of ethnic unrest around the nation, human rights groups and Iran experts said.
In Iran, where there is precedent for executions to surge in the wake of a crisis, human rights groups said there was mounting evidence that the trend had emerged in response to the political tumult that followed the June presidential election. This month, a fifth person connected to the protests was sentenced to death.
In at least one instance, a Kurdish activist was hanged after the government added a new charge, raising concerns that cases with political overtones were drawing more serious penalties.
In the short period between the disputed June election and the inauguration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August, 115 people were executed, according to statistics compiled by human rights groups from Iranian news agencies. Though the executions mostly involved violent criminals and drug dealers, the number and pace of the killings appeared to be sending a message to the opposition, said human rights groups and Iran experts. [continued…]