Obama’s Iran Deal Gives a Free Pass to a Rogues Gallery
Policy + Politics

Obama’s Iran Deal Gives a Free Pass to a Rogues Gallery

The deal the Obama administration and its international partners struck with Iran to curtail the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program may be a breakthrough that insures a generation of nearly unprecedented peace in the Middle East. It might also be the first step down a short, slippery slope to Armageddon. It’s not hard to find people claiming both extremes and most positions in between as the details of the 159-page accord are digested. 

One thing that is clear from the document is that the agreement requires the United States and its partners to provide sanctions relief to some people who, according to U.S. and international officials, are responsible for, or at least complicit in, some pretty horrific behavior. 

Related: Clinton Cautious in Praise of Nuclear Deal She Helped Orchestrate 

Of course, if Iran were run by peace-loving humanitarians, there probably wouldn’t be much need for a nuclear deal in the first place. But even granting that fact, there are people and organizations on the list of those getting sanctions relief who many reasonable people might argue don’t deserve it.

Take, for example, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi. The U.S. Department of State, in a release explaining the imposition of sanctions in 2011 noted, “As commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Basij Forces, Naqdi was responsible for or complicit in Basij abuses occurring in late 2009, including the violent response to the December 2009 Ashura Day protests, which resulted in up to 15 deaths and the arrests of hundreds of protesters. 

Worse, the release notes, “Prior to his appointment as commander of the Basij in October 2009, Naqdi was the head of the intelligence unit of the Basij responsible for interrogating those arrested during the post-election crackdown and was in charge of an interrogation team at the Kahrizak detention center. Naqdi extracted forced confessions from high-ranking reformist leaders that were broadcast on Iranian state-run television. At least three demonstrators are reported to have died as a result of injuries sustained at the Kahrizak detention center.” 

Naqdi appears on the list of those getting relief from sanctions under the deal. 

Related: Iran’s Frozen Assets – Where Are They, Exactly? 

Former Revolutionary Guards Commander Ahmad Vahidi is another prominent Iranian politician who would be removed from international sanctions lists. Vahidi has been wanted by Interpol since 2007, for his suspected involvement in the bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires in which 85 people were killed. 

In fact, the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps organization, which has long been subject to U.S. sanctions for human rights abuses, is being removed. In 2012, the U.S. Treasury Department explained that the IRGC was being sanctioned, in part, because “Individuals arrested by the IRGC have been subjected to severe mental and physical abuse in a ward of Evin Prison controlled by the IRGC.” 

The IRGC is believed to be responsible for the death of an untold number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq during the war that followed the U.S. invasion of that country in 2003. 

The list, alas, gets longer. It includes Mostafa Mohammad Najjar who, according to the U.S. State Department “was in charge of the government response to protests on Ashura, one of the holiest days in Shia Islam, which in 2009 coincided with December 27, 2009.   State media reported 37 dead and hundreds arrested. He is currently the Minister of Interior and, as such, has authority over all police forces, Interior Ministry security agents, and plain clothes agents.” 

Related: 8 Things You Need to Know About the Iran Nuke Deal 

Individuals aren’t the only ones getting relief. The National Iranian Oil Company, which the U.S. Treasury had designated for “providing, or attempting to provide, financial, material, or other support for and services in support of the IRGC” is also on the list. 

So is Brigadier General Hossein Salami, who recently said that Iran would “welcome” war with the United States. 

"We have prepared ourselves for the most dangerous scenarios and this is no big deal and is simple to digest for us; we welcome war with the US as we do believe that it will be the scene for our success to display the real potentials of our power,” he said in an interview with Iranian state television in May. 

The list of individuals and companies getting relief from international sanctions is 60 pages long, and likely contains others whose relief from sanctions might raise some eyebrows. The many questions for U.S. officials and others considering this deal include whether its benefits outweigh the distastefulness of providing relief to some people accused of abhorrent behavior. Whatever the ultimate decision, in a highly politicized environment, many of these names are likely to become something approaching household words in the coming months.