Iranian human rights activists blast Congress’s sanctions push

Ali Gharib writes: Many Iran hawks in Washington claim the mantle of human rights advocacy in their push for ever harsher measures against the Islamic Republic, up to and sometimes including the use of military force against Iran’s nuclear facilities. But there’s a disconnect: While D.C.’s Iran hawks never relent in their push for more sanctions, human rights activists working inside and outside Iran feel that sanctions are impinging on their work. That’s the backdrop for the push by the Obama administration to get Congress to hold off on more sanctions. But Members of Congress, especially from the Republican right, appear poised to press on in their quest to further cripple the Iranian economy.

“Adding more sanctions at this stage in the negotiations, when there is a lot of hope about the fate of nuclear talks with Iran, is tantamount to sabotage,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the head of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, in a statement released by the group today. “The idea of adding more sanctions at this crucial point in the negotiations disappoints millions of Iranians who are hopeful these talks will lead to a compromise and help lift the sanctions, and sounds like a drumbeat leading to war.”

The release singled out a statement by Sen. Mark Kirk, one of Congress’s most avid Iran hawks, to reporters: “How do you define an Iranian moderate? An Iranian who is out of bullets and out of money.” The line refers to Iran’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani. While Iran’s elections are deeply flawed—only regime-approved candidates can run—it’s worth noting that Rouhani was not Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s choice for president. “The 18 million Iranians who defied the odds and voted for change in this year’s presidential elections might take issue with Senator Kirk’s insulting characterization,” noted Jamal Abdi, of the National Iranian American Council, a U.S.-based group that opposes new sanctions, in a press release.

Laying bare Kirk’s cynical attack on Iranian moderates requires only remembering his plea for Iran to free the Green movement leaders under house arrest; both Mir Hossien Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, while reformers, were also stalwarts of the Islamic Republic. And Kirk has made impolitic statements before: In 2011, he said, “It’s okay to take the food out of the mouths” of ordinary Iranians to punish them for the acts of their government. [Continue reading…]

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