Week of January 30th, 2023 | Iran Unfiltered is a digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council
Conflicting Views on EU’s IRGC Terror Push
70 political activists inside and outside Iran – including Lotfollah Meisami, Abbas Abdi, Hamidreza Jalipour and Nemat Ahmadi – released a letter condemning the EU for its push to include the IRGC on the list of terrorist organizations.
The European Parliament had passed a resolution 589-9 on January 18th encouraging the European Union to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. However, while the European Union designated additional IRGC officials for human rights abuses, it has not moved forward with the designation, citing legal concerns.
According to the Iranian activists letter, “the European Parliament does not have the authority to interfere in the political military structure of countries outside the Union, this act is unacceptable to us as an obvious threat…By relying on the struggles and efforts of its national forces, based on historical experiences, the Iranian nation stands against foreign interference.”
However, the designation of the IRGC by the European Union has been a major ask for many activists and experts, particularly those outside of Iran. In a letter signed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, among others, urged the IRGC to be designated for terrorism. It also included a number of additional policy prescriptions, including support for Iranian protesters to circumvent online censorship and repression.
Iran’s parliamentarians responded to the European Parliament vote by threatening to take steps including closing the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait of Hormuz is a strategically important waterway and its disruption would impact global energy prices, though political observers in Iran have noted that closing the waterway would also impose heavy costs on Iran.
Tensions flare over Drone Attack, deadly attack on Azerbaijani embassy
Iranian government officials announced that they disrupted a drone attack on a military compound inside of Iran. Two of the three drones were shot down by Iranian forces, while a third failed to cause significant damage to the munitions factory being targeted, according to Iranian officials.
U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal that Israel was responsible for the assault, while a Ukrainian adviser to President Zelensky appeared to celebrate the strike, tweeting “Explosive night in Iran… did warn you.”
Also, tensions flared after a man assaulted the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran, killing the security chief and injuring two others. The attacker is said to have been demanding the return of his Azerbaijani wife from the Baku government for more than 9 months.
Tensions have been running high between Azerbaijan and Iran amid the former’s assault on Iran’s neighbor, Armenia.
Aikhan Hajizadeh, the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, announced that Iran is fully responsible for the armed attack on the country’s embassy in Tehran. He also announced that the Baku government intends to evacuate its embassy in Iran in the near future.
With Turkey’s support, the Azerbaijani government is seeking to create the “Zangzor-Lachin” corridor, which has caused tension between the two countries in recent years. Azerbaijan’s control of this corridor would destroy Iran’s land border with Armenia.
The solidifying relationship between Azerbaijan and Israel has been another area of tension, as Iranian officials do not want a growing Israeli presence so close to its borders.
Tajzadeh’s Letter from Evin Prison
Mostafa Tajzadeh, a former reformist politician who has served lengthy prison sentences inside Iran, released a letter from Evin Prison outlining a roadmap to securing democracy. In Iran, Tajzadeh is one of the most prominent reformist figures.
During the 2009 presidential election, Mr. Tajzadeh was arrested and imprisoned for 7 years. Two years ago, Tajzadeh ran for president, but the Guardian Council rejected his qualification. Tajzadeh aims to change Iran’s constitution and turn it into a democratic state. On July 8, 2022, Mr. Tajzadeh was arrested for the second time and has been in prison ever since.
“The first step is to remove the sanctions,” declared Tajzadeh’s letter. “Planning, effort, organization, groundwork, coalitions, resistance, and sometimes civil disobedience are all necessary for a sustainable transition to democracy and comprehensive development.
“We have a long and hard road ahead of us. As a first step, it is imperative to remove the sanctions so that the society can breathe fresh and open the way for other reforms,” continued Tajzadeh. “The stormy ship of the country can only be saved by returning sovereignty to the people and obeying their vote and opinion, not just the minority supporting the leader.”
Musafa Tajzadeh argued that the goal of preserving the government at all costs has justified the “Iron Fist” policy, as well as suppressing, imprisoning, confiscating, and executing protesters. As a result, national and public security have been sacrificed.
The goal of the overthrow of the government at any cost also invites more sanctions and military intervention by great powers in internal affairs. While both of these strategies have devastating consequences for Iran and Iranians, neither is the only path to democratic development, according to Tajzadeh.