Iran Sanctions Have Ended – and the Mass Executions Have Restarted
The crippling global sanctions on Iran cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars and decimated the economy. Inflation rose to over 40 percent and unemployment levels reached 33 percent. Consequently, the majority of citizens experienced an astronomical cost of living and lack of government services. Therefore, news of negotiations and lifting of sanctions was very well received by Iranians and generated optimism for a life of less hardship after sanctions.
However, since the agreement ending sanctions was signed between the Islamic Republic (IR) and the international powers last January, nothing has improved regarding the everyday life of the Iranian people. Not even one of the critical civil issues that was promised by the so-called “moderate”, “pragmatic” president, Hassan Rouhani, to be addressed after sanctions ended, has been opened for discussion by the IR officials.
Regardless of the rather rapid increase in Iranian crude oil and petrochemical sales and the release of billions of dollars of frozen money by a number of international oil companies and foreign governments, the nation-wide tax in all categories remarkably increased, and a limited welfare to needy senior citizens has been discontinued.
Despite the rosy promises of the IR’s authorities, especially Hassan Rouhani, to bring justice for all and raise the standards of living of the people, amazingly nothing has been done to improve Iranians’ living conditions, and no social freedom and justice is on the horizon. On the contrary, tougher repression and mass executions are the only gift by the IR to the Iranian people after sanctions ended.
Release of Assets
US officials claimed that IR had more than $100 billion of frozen assets abroad during the sanctions era, the equivalent of 28 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, which has been returning to the IR after sanctions ended. A good portion of this money was balance payments of crude oil sold by IR to its customers during the sanction years, including Royal Dutch Shell, Italy’s Saras, Greece’s Hellenic, Emirates National Oil Company, the Indian Reliance and Essar oil refiner, the Netherlands and Japan. All unfrozen money has been transferring to IR’s Central Bank by way of the SWIFT global transactions network. President Hassan Rouhani announced last March that the government of IR has access to all unfrozen assets.
Further, according to the International Energy Agency, IR is currently exporting about 2.14 million barrels of crude and over 200,000 barrels of gas condensates daily. The IR’s oil ministry reported the oil revenues from 2016 until mid-July were about $20 billion.
During negotiations with the IR last year the Obama administration agreed to pay $400 million plus interest of $1.3 billion to settle a failed arms sale to Iran that was initiated during the monarchical government before 1979. The first payment equivalent of $400 million in cash in the form of Swiss francs and euros was airlifted from Geneva, Switzerland to Tehran on January 17, and in return four Iranian-American hostages in IR’s jail were released. Further, officials of the State and Treasury departments confirmed on September 6 that two remaining installments of the $1.3 billion were sent to Tehran in the same manner through Geneva on January 22 and February 5.
With all this windfall money nothing tangible in terms of infrastructure renovations, civil reform and the rise of standard of living has taken place in the country. On the contrary, poverty has increased, over one-third of Iranians presently live under the poverty line, and thousands of citizens escape the country everyday to find a safer place to live. Worst of all, in testimonies of various human rights advocates and organizations, the ignoring of human rights by the IR is always an ever-growing issue in Iran, particularly after the ending of sanctions.
Human Rights Issues
The level of repression inside Iran has increased since Hassan Rouhani took office as president in 2013. Since then, the number of executions has grown rapidly. In 2014, the number of death sentences in Iran reached the largest number of executions in the world except for China. In 2015, according to Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, the number exceeded 1,000.
The U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee passed a resolution last November that expressed its deepest concern about human rights violations by the Islamic regime. Amnesty International has also called on regime authorities to stop the hanging, particularly of juvenile offenders who are convicted on dubious evidence. Amnesty International time and again has published reports on physical and psychological torture in Iran, saying that the number of torture and ill-treatment cases is increasing in Iran, making it clear that these violations of human rights not only continue in this time of a moderate President, but are noticeably becoming widespread and in most places systematic.
In January of 2016, finally the expected moment of change arrived, and sanctions were lifted. But immediately, political pressure and religious discrimination began increasing daily. The penalty for apostasy is still death. Any female regardless of age that does not wear veils is arrested and faces harsh punishments. Cultural dissidents, artists, and homosexuals on most occasions would receive capital punishment. Mass executions for political prisoners which were common practice for over a decade after the so-called revolution have now restarted primarily for non-Shi’a citizens.
There was a hanging of 20 innocent Sunni-Kurdish citizens in Karaj, a suburb of Tehran on August 3, 2016, the execution of an Iranian nuclear scientist on August 7, the hanging of 5 minority citizens in the western province of Azerbaijan on August 14, and another hanging of 3 minority citizens accused of exploding the oil pipeline in the southwest province of Khuzestan on August 16. Although U.N. Representative Ahmed Shaheed firmly requested the IR stop the systematic executions, 12 more allegedly accused of possession of illegal drugs were hanged in Karaj prison on August 27. There were a total of 41 executions officially of innocent citizens just in one month. In addition many young male and female citizens disappear every day, and their decomposed bodies are occasionally found in the remote parts of their hometowns. These systematic executions reveal that the nature of the Islamic regime has not changed at all, sanctions or no sanctions. IR claims they were executed for “purported terrorism and related activities” as reported by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Ed Royce, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced on September 6 a bill to censure President Obama for his rewarding a terrorist government for its hostage taking as IR presently still has three Iranian-Americans in prison.
It is inhuman for these executions to take place after an unfair trial, absent of any attorneys on behalf of defendants, and obviously based entirely on coerced confessions. In most cases such executions take place without any trial at all, and the Islamic regime has never allowed Ahmed Shaheed to visit Iran to make a precise assessment on human rights violations.
Iran as a member of the United Nations and other international human rights communities has systematically violated nearly every provision of these institutions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. IR’s officials have openly opted to ridicule the concept of universal human rights, and they brand the principle of human rights as a tool of the “Great Satan” and Western imperialism.
Where does the money go?
Evidently, the released money after sanctions ended was not intended for citizens’ welfare and the improvement of the living conditions in Iran. The IR officials have been apathetic since the welfare and health of the Iranian people is of the lowest priority in their eyes, considering the huge expense of their active terrorist groups in the Middle East. The money has already reached the IR’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for their efforts to export the Islamic revolution to neighboring countries and carry on the IR’s hostile engagements in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, arming and financially supporting terrorist groups around the world including Hamas in Gaza, Hezb’llah in Lebanon, Shi’a groups in Bahrain, Houthis in Yemen, and the drug traffickers in South America. The IRGC is the most powerful extralegal organization and richest entity in Iran. The associated IRGC units own over one-third of the listed companies of the Tehran Stock Exchange. Further, according to Bloomberg, the IR Supreme Leader Mullah Khamenei is the owner of an economic empire of about $95 billion.
Now we know where the money goes.
Mansour Kashfi, Ph.D., is president of Kashex International Petroleum Consulting and is a college professor in Dallas, Texas. He is also the author of more than 100 articles and books about the petroleum industry and its market behavior worldwide. firstname.lastname@example.org