This weekend marks the start of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which coincides with the spring equinox and includes many traditions such as a spring cleaning of one’s home, visiting with family and friends and feasting. It is regarded as the most important holiday in Iran and is always a prime opportunity for the Iranian regime to make a strategic and public point each year.
This year, top mullah Ali Khamenei did not disappoint in delivering a Nowruz message that could be considered an annual laundry list of grievances and perceived slights against the regime by the U.S. and was a reminder of just how ridiculous the Iran lobby’s contentions were of spurring a new “moderate” Iran after the nuclear deal.
Khamenei on Sunday said sanctions continue to bite the country’s economy, and again warned against trusting the U.S. — further indicating that the nuclear deal has not changed the mullah’s behavior towards West.
“They removed the sanctions in paper only,” Khamenei said in a televised address. “We don’t have any problem with the American people. What we are dealing with here is the politicians. They are the enemies.”
Khamenei’s remarks came after President Obama delivered his own Nowruz message to the Iranian people with his hopes for a more peaceful future. It obviously fell on the deaf ears of Khamenei.
“In Western countries and places which are under U.S. influence, our banking transactions and the repatriation of our funds from their banks face problems … because (banks) fear the Americans,” he said.
“The U.S. Treasury … acts in such a way that big corporations, big institutions and big banks do not dare to come and deal with Iran,” Khamenei added. The Central Bank of Iran has also said remaining U.S. sanctions have scared off European firms.
To drive the point home, the stage on which Khamenei sat carried a giant banner reading “the year of the Resistance Economy: Action and Implementation”, his chosen slogan for the Iranian year 1395 that began on Sunday. The banner was a not-too-subtle declaration of how the mullahs view the relationship the regime will have in the upcoming year with the rest of the world and it isn’t one of moderation.
“The candidates for the American presidency have competed to vilify Iran in their speeches, and this is a sign of hostility,” he added as he portrayed all of the candidates running for office as enemies of the regime.
Khamenei’s comments come also following an announcement that the regime’s Revolutionary Guard intends to build a statue commemorating the capture of ten U.S. sailors by the regime.
“There are very many photographs of the major incident of arresting US Marines in the Persian Gulf in the media and we intend to build a symbol out of them inside one of our naval monuments,” said Ali Fadavi, the head of the Guard’s naval forces in comments made to Iran’s Defense Press news agency.
It is expected the statue will built on Kharg, a small Iranian island in the Persian Gulf close to where the servicemen were captured, the Telegraph reported.
The regime never seems to miss an opportunity to publicly troll the U.S. and announce its antagonism and vitriol with almost child-like glee. It is a remarkable affirmation of how incredibly silly the Iran lobby’s positions on moderating Iran have been over the past several years.
Another example of that hypocrisy came in the form of an editorial published by the National Iranian American Council discussing Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, in which Shervin Vahedi lauded his most recent report criticizing the regime for brutal human rights abuses as somehow showing it was making clear progress towards improvements.
Vahedi bases those comments on a lone section discussing how the regime’s Supreme Court signaled it might take up the issue of executing citizens over drug-related offenses since the bulk of executions are said to be for similar offenses.
What Vahedi – and the most of the Iran lobby – ignore is how the regime uses trumped up drug offenses as a convenient means of executing and eliminating political dissidents, religious minorities and anyone else that opposes their rule.
Vahedi also reiterates much of what Shaheed has already cited in terms of the abuses and crackdowns aimed at journalists and artists, but does not make any comment condemning the abuses, nor calling for changes in Iran’s policies or in the regime’s leadership.
He only gives a limp and half-hearted endorsement from NIAC of continuing Shaheed’s mandate. You can almost imagine how difficult it was for the NIAC to utter even that small concession in the face of such overwhelming evidence.
For many languishing in the regime’s prisons, this is not a happy Nowruz for them or their families. The NIAC would do better to acknowledge their suffering and call for an end to it.
By Michael Tomlinson