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December 28, 2015 1

Iran: While We Weren’t Looking

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium

Khamenei - Social Media Image

It’s been nearly two months since the so-called “adop­tion day” when Iran offi­cially began the process of scal­ing back its cen­trifuges and retro­fitting some its nuclear infra­struc­ture as part of the agree­ment with the world pow­ers to restrict its nuclear weapons pro­gram. Some have touted the agree­ment as a sign of Iran seek­ing to soften its poli­cies and join the world community.

Yet, for all of the fan­fare over the sum­mer about the con­se­quences of the Iran deal, it seems like lit­tle atten­tion has been paid to other Iran­ian poli­cies. Alas, with the world’s focus on the imme­di­ate dan­ger of the rad­i­cal extrem­ism ema­nat­ing from the Islamic State, Iran­ian actions in recent months have affirmed the regime’s unchanged agenda — pro­mot­ing illib­eral poli­cies that pro­foundly con­flict with our core val­ues and those of nearly every other mem­ber of the fam­ily of nations.

In recent weeks, some actu­ally have sug­gested that Wash­ing­ton “sep­a­rate its Iran pol­icy from Israel.” This is lit­tle more than a smoke­screen to divert atten­tion. Despite the impas­sioned rhetoric of some regime sup­port­ers, it’s not about Israel. It’s about the Islamic Repub­lic of Iran, a regime that con­tin­ues its author­i­tar­ian rule at home and one that enforces poli­cies over­seas that chal­lenge the core prin­ci­ples that cen­ter our country:

Dou­bling Down on Human Rights Vio­la­tions: Two years into the term of “reformist” Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani, the Islamic Repub­lic remains one of the world’s lead­ing human rights vio­la­tors. If any­thing, Iran has stepped up its abuses in recent months.

Activists and watch­dog groups report a harsh crack­down since Sep­tem­ber, with the Iran­ian Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard arrest­ing dozens of activists, artists, car­toon­ists and jour­nal­ists. Notable among these are the deten­tion of 170 “man­agers of groups active in mobile social net­works” in Ghazvin, accord­ing to the Iran­ian Fars News Agency, and the arrest of admin­is­tra­tors of groups on a mes­sag­ing app for spread­ing “immoral content.”

Iran is one of the most dan­ger­ous coun­tries in the world if you are an LGBTQ per­son. In Octo­ber, Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards arrested 17 peo­ple at a birth­day party, say­ing they were “a net­work of homo­sex­u­als and Satanists.”

And, while crit­ics rightly have decried ISIS’ per­se­cu­tion of reli­gious minori­ties, there is wide­spread reli­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion in Iran — includ­ing ban­ning wor­ship and fre­quent arrests. In Novem­ber, accord­ing to reports, more than a dozen Chris­tians in Varamin were arrested for the “crime” of attend­ing church ser­vices on a Sunday.

The Baha’i World News Ser­vice reported 20 Baha’i Ira­ni­ans were arrested in three cities across Iran in recent weeks for no dis­cernible rea­son. The Shi­ite theoc­racy holds par­tic­u­lar con­tempt for Sunni Mus­lims. Many human rights observers are mon­i­tor­ing the high-profile case of Shahram Ahmadi, a Sunni pris­oner of con­science who cur­rently lan­guishes on death row in Iran sim­ply because of how he prays.

Beyond reli­gious per­se­cu­tion, a U.N. Gen­eral Assem­bly human rights com­mit­tee res­o­lu­tion passed in mid-November con­demned Iran for its “alarm­ing high fre­quency of, and increase in the carrying-out of the death penalty….”

While ISIS has been derided for their bru­tal hap­haz­ard exe­cu­tions, Iran has sys­tem­atized the use of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment as a tool of the state against its per­ceived ene­mies, and has done so in com­plete dis­re­gard of inter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized norms. This includes wide­spread exe­cu­tions “under­taken with­out noti­fi­ca­tion to the prisoner’s fam­ily mem­bers or legal coun­sel.” Accord­ing to Amnesty Inter­na­tional, Iran’s “stag­ger­ing exe­cu­tion spree” in 2015 could reach 1,000 exe­cu­tions by the end of the year.

Anti-Jewish and “Anti-Zionist” Pro­pa­ganda: Fan­tas­ti­cal anti-Israel and anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries have been a main­stay in the state-run Iran­ian media since the Islamic Rev­o­lu­tion in 1979. Offi­cial sources reg­u­larly issue explicit and implicit threats against the Jew­ish State. Almost too fre­quent to men­tion, there are some notable new addi­tions to the canon of hatred:

Just days after the attacks in Paris, Iran’s Fars News Agency pub­lished a so-called report titled, “Paris Bomb­ings — Fin­ger­prints of the Zion­ists Are Found Again” that made a series of bizarre unsub­stan­ti­ated accu­sa­tions, includ­ing that “After the ter­ror­ist attacks in Paris, it was once again con­firmed that French Jews were informed that the tragedy would hap­pen. Just as it hap­pened in the Sep­tem­ber 11 attacks 14 years ago, when Jews work­ing in the Twin Tow­ers did not attend to work.” To add to this fic­tion, the account added that “Zion­ist offi­cials wanted to exploit [the attacks] to achieve their spe­cific goals,” albeit no fac­tual basis was pro­vided to explain this anti-Semitic con­spir­acy theory.

Iran con­sis­tently uses war-mongering rhetoric in its cam­paign against the Jew­ish state. Iran has accused Israel of cre­at­ing ISIS, despite the clear lunacy of such a sug­ges­tion. It is trou­bling to even repeat such a mon­strous fic­tion, but also seems ironic in light of the fact that arguably the Islamic Repub­lic of Iran has ben­e­fited more than any other gov­ern­ment in the world from the dis­tract­ing capa­bil­i­ties of ISIS. In this year’s annual com­mem­o­ra­tion of the anniver­sary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, the Iran­ian gov­ern­ment launched a new pub­lic rela­tions cam­paign that declared: “Israel will be destroyed within 25 years.” This came on the heels of the Supreme Leader’s repeated use of social media to threaten Israel with destruc­tion, includ­ing his announce­ment in Novem­ber 2014 of a new “9-point plan to destroy Israel.”

In a recently released open “Let­ter to West­ern Youth,” Iran’s Supreme Leader, Aya­tol­lah Khamenei charged that Israel’s “ter­ror­ism” is worse than the attacks in Paris. He wrote of Israel, “In today’s world, do we know of any other vio­lence on this scale and scope and for such an extended period of time?” Alas, this was not writ­ten with any hint of irony.

Finally, whether we can credit the Supreme Leader or those around him, Iran recently revived one of for­mer Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ahmadinejad’s favorites: the Holocaust-themed car­toon con­test. The 11th ver­sion of the “event” which has attracted extrem­ists and pro­pa­gan­dists from around the world promises to fea­ture much of the same. Best of all, orga­nizer Masud Shojai-Tabatabai told an Iran­ian news ser­vice, “[This year] we are also wor­ried about the con­tem­po­rary holo­causts in which a great num­ber of women and chil­dren are being killed in Iraq, Yemen, and Syria.” It is unclear whether this was intended to be ironic since he failed to point out that Iran is at the root of these con­flicts, sow­ing unrest in Yemen and per­haps more involved than any other state actor in sus­tain­ing the bru­tal­ity and loss of life in Syria.

Ter­ror­ism: Iran’s state spon­sor­ship of ter­ror­ism is well doc­u­mented. While the world focuses on responses to ISIS and other rad­i­cal Sunni groups includ­ing Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram, Iran main­tains its finan­cial and oper­a­tional sup­port for equally vio­lent ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions such as Hezbol­lah, Hamas and the Houthis in Yemen. And, although ISIS just recently has shifted its focus out­side its local the­ater of oper­a­tions, Iran long has exported ter­ror beyond its bor­ders. Its litany of crimes spans con­ti­nents from Latin Amer­ica to Europe and includes an attempted assas­si­na­tion in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Iran has also expanded to Africa: just a few weeks ago, Kenyan author­i­ties announced the arrest of two local men who were described as hav­ing “links to Iran” for plot­ting attacks against West­ern tar­gets in the country.

Anti-Americanism: Dur­ing the sum­mer, many observers mar­veled at the fact that Amer­ica and Iran seem­ingly over­came decades of dis­trust to forge a diplo­matic agree­ment. Yet, despite the accord, Iran­ian lead­er­ship con­tin­ues to rail against the “Big Satan” with­out penalty or even oppro­brium. In a recent tele­vised address, Aya­tol­lah Ali Khamenei inex­plic­a­bly alleged that the U.S. is try­ing to “infil­trate Iran” using sex and money.

Iran con­tin­ues to imprison Amer­i­cans with­out any legal basis for doing so. The list of cap­tives includes Wash­ing­ton Post cor­re­spon­dent Jason Reza­ian, who, accord­ing to reports in the Iran­ian media, recently was sen­tenced to a prison term of inde­ter­mi­nate length. But Reza­ian is not alone. There are five oth­er­im­pris­oned Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, includ­ing Sia­mak Namazi, a Dubai-based busi­ness­man with dual U.S. and Iran­ian cit­i­zen­ship who was detained by the author­i­ties just last month for unsub­stan­ti­ated crimes.

Beyond unpro­voked arrests and pub­lic threats, the Islamic Repub­lic employs increas­ingly sophis­ti­cated tools in its efforts to tar­get Amer­ica. U.S. offi­cials have reported a “surge” in cyber-attacks ema­nat­ing from Iran, includ­ing a series of attempted hack­ing attacks that tar­geted State Depart­ment offi­cials, the very same indi­vid­u­als with whom the Islamic Repub­lic allegedly was nego­ti­at­ing in good faith on the nuclear deal. Admit­tedly, the reported hack­ing attack of Bow­man Avenue Dam near Rye Brook, NY took place two years ago before “good faith” was the norm. But it seems an indi­ca­tor of what we can expect in the future.

We still are months away from “imple­men­ta­tion day” — the date when the IAEA must cer­tify that Iran has met the require­ments spelled out in the nuclear agree­ment before inter­na­tional sanc­tions are lifted, and world atten­tion might shift back to Iran and its behav­iors. Mean­while, com­mer­cial del­e­ga­tions blaze a trail to Tehran and ana­lysts con­tem­plate a new era for Iran and the West.

But just as the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity is com­mit­ted to mon­i­tor­ing for poten­tial vio­la­tions in the nuclear realm, the Islamic Repub­lic ongo­ing human rights vio­la­tions and its exter­nal aggres­sions must be taken into account when con­sid­er­ing the prospect of nor­mal­ized relations.

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November 3, 2015 Off

Iran’s New Anti-Israel Slogan Recycles Old Hate

“Israel will be destroyed within 25 years” appears to be the new mantra pro­moted by Iran’s pro­pa­ganda machine ahead of Iran’s “National Day to Fight Global Arro­gance” on Novem­ber 4. It marks the anniver­sary of the takeover of the US embassy in Tehran by the Iran­ian stu­dents in 1979.

An image circulated on social media

An image cir­cu­lated on social media

Posters to pro­mote the slo­gan, cir­cu­lated recently by insti­tu­tions affil­i­ated with the Iran­ian gov­ern­ment, demon­strate an effort to pop­u­lar­ize the motto as its new anti-Israel slo­gan. The words echo a state­ment by Iran’s Supreme Leader Aya­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, which proph­e­sized the destruc­tion of Israel within the next 25 years.

In early Sep­tem­ber, Khamenei said, “After [the nuclear] nego­ti­a­tions [ended], in the ‘Zion­ist regime,’ they said they were not con­cerned about Iran for next 25 years. I’d say, firstly, you will not see the next 25 years. God will­ing, there will be noth­ing called the ‘Zion­ist regime’ within the next 25 years.”

The new slo­gan, which recy­cles the same hate­ful mes­sage of the infa­mous “Death to Israel” slo­gan, may indi­cate an attempt by Iran’s elite to invig­o­rate anti-Israel sen­ti­ments among the Iran­ian peo­ple, and specif­i­cally the younger gen­er­a­tion who have grown weary of the old rhetoric. While the “Death to Israel” slo­gan con­tin­ues to be used in Iran, the new slo­gan intro­duces a more tan­gi­ble goal and a timed promise of victory.

Pro-government media out­lets are also using the new slo­gan on social media plat­forms. Sev­eral accounts which appear to be affil­i­ated with gov­ern­ment con­trolled media have shared images pro­mot­ing the new slo­gan and cre­ated a hash­tag in an attempt to make it trend.

The slo­gans of “Death to Amer­ica,” “Death to Israel” and “Israel will be destroyed within 25 years” are part of the Iran­ian regime’s ongo­ing attempt to pro­mote and jus­tify its hos­tile poli­cies to audi­ences inside and out­side Iran.

Below are a few exam­ples that demon­strate the media cam­paign to pro­mote the new slogan.

An image circulated on social media

An image cir­cu­lated on social media

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An image circulated by the office of the Supreme Leader

An image cir­cu­lated by the office of the Supreme Leader

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A billboard of the slogan outside the University of Tehran

A bill­board of the slo­gan out­side the Uni­ver­sity of Tehran

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

iran 1

A street sign in Tehran pro­mot­ing the slogan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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March 2, 2015 Off

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei Propagates Anti-Semitism

On the eve of the Israeli Prime Minister’s address to the U.S. Con­gress warn­ing about the threats posed by a nuclear-armed Iran, the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader, Aya­tol­lah Khamenei, is once again using Twit­ter to prop­a­gate age-old anti-Semitic charges of Jew­ish domination.

Khamenei.ir, the twit­ter han­dle used by the Supreme Leader’s office, posted a series of tweets Mon­day on the theme of  “Zion­ist dom­i­na­tion” of the U.S. and world governments:

Khamenei Tweet 1

Khamenei Tweet 2Khamenei Tweet 3The tweets also fea­ture the hash­tag #Shut­Dow­nAIPAC, the ral­ly­ing cry for anti-Israel groups protest­ing out­side the annual con­fer­ence of the Amer­i­can Israel Pub­lic Affairs Coun­cil, includ­ing SJP, Code Pink, the US Cam­paign to End the Occu­pa­tion and the Answer Coalition.

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