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September 24, 2014 6:00 pm

Opinion: Extremist Iranian Regime Has No Business Promoting ‘World Against Violence & Extremism’ Initiative at UN

avatar by David Ibsen, Gabriel Pedreira, and Brian Stewart

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Irani President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations. Photo: Screenshot.

Irani President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations. Photo: Screen shot.

In his inaugural speech before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani launched his “The World Against Violence and Extremism” (WAVE) initiative ostensibly to promote “tolerance over violence, progress over bloodletting, justice over discrimination, prosperity over poverty, and freedom over despotism.”

An Iranian-sponsored UN resolution in support of WAVE soon followed, and Rouhani and his foreign policy team have promoted WAVE throughout the year as an example of his supposedly more “moderate” Iranian regime.

At the time, too many were insufficiently skeptical of Rouhani’s WAVE rhetoric of peace, justice and tolerance considering Iran’s record of fomenting violence, extremism and repression. Many of the very states forced by UN protocol to sit through Rouhani’s cynical call for moderation have in fact been victimized by extreme Iranian regime policies over the past 35 years.

Now, following a year in office, Rouhani’s words have proven hollow. The Iranian regime’s violent oppression of Iranian citizens, sponsorship of terrorist groups and sectarian militias, support for the brutal Assad regime in Syria, and refusal to roll back its illicit nuclear program has continued. Indeed, since his last appearance in New York, Iranian partners and proxies across the region, including in Syria and Gaza, have engaged in extreme action directly resulting in tremendous turmoil and thousands of violent deaths.

Not surprisingly, the promise of domestic moderation under Rouhani has also proven empty. In its annual report to the General Assembly on human rights in Iran released just this month, the UN declared that regime clampdowns on human rights and freedom of speech have not lessened under Rouhani’s tenure while legalized discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities persists. For example, members of the Baha’i community remain barred from access to higher education and government employment. And according to the UN, executions in Iran have actually risen under Rouhani, with between 624 and 727 executions in the last year.

The UN must not allow nations like Iran to come to UNGA and lecture the world on how to conduct itself. The UN was founded on universal principles of human rights and human dignity, principles for which the Iranian regime has scant regard. The Iranian theocracy under President Rouhani has an established record of persecuting women, political dissidents and religious minorities. This is not a record in line with the principles of justice and tolerance.

Rouhani’s rhetoric is also telling of how little regard Iran’s leaders have for the UNGA and its members. Apparently Rouhani and his speechwriters expect the collective memory of Iranian regime misdeeds and mendacity on the world stage to be immediately forgiven in response to cursory “charm offensives” (who can forget the overwrought reaction to Rouhani’s supposed Happy Rosh Hashanah tweet), and the coining of disingenuous acronyms.

This cannot be the case. Members of the UNGA must speak candidly about the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime. Rouhani’s past year in office has confirmed beyond all doubt that Iran continues to sponsor global terrorism, abuse the rights of its people and violate the solemn international treaties respecting the development of nuclear weapons. This is hardly the “World Against Violence and Extremism” movement that Rouhani so proudly proclaimed at last year’s UNGA. While donning the disguise of a moderate, Rouhani has not departed from the illiberal, aggressive policies that marked the Iranian regime during the Ahmadinejad era.

All members of the international community should come to grips with this grim truth – both for the sake of an increasingly endangered global order and for the liberal values that animated the UN at its birth.

David Ibsen is Executive Director of the non-partisan advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI). Gabriel Pedreira is UANI Communications Director, and Brian Stewart is a UANI staff member.

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