Experts say Western governments are quick to criticize ‘morality police’ for the brutal crackdown on protests, but are reluctant to blame the Iranian government as they try to revive the nuclear deal
With Western nations engaged in an uncertain process of negotiations to renew Iran’s nuclear activity restriction agreement, they found themselves tempering their response to the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of the Islamic Republic’s ‘morality police’, which sparked a local and global wave of protests against the regime’s draconian treatment of women.
Protests in Iran, which have lasted for more than two consecutive weeks and have been met with a crackdown by government security forces, have left at least 92 people dead, according to the International humanitarian aid Iranian human rights organization and group.
On September 16, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian-Kurd died in the custody of the “morals police” a few days after being arrested in Tehran for not wearing her hijab correctly.
Demonstrations have also taken place outside the Iranian Embassy in many countries around the world in solidarity with the protesters’ cause. Other forms of support for the protests materialized on social media, with people around the world sharing footage and images of the unrest as well as videos of women cutting their hair in solidarity with Iranian women resisting the demands of the regime. .
According to Thomas Gratowski, a geopolitical expert who heads Global Counsel’s MENA office in Doha, such a massive global reaction is due to “the brutal nature of [Amini’s] death.”
Moreover, says Joe Macaron, an American political analyst who focuses on the Middle East, how the Iranian regime is perceived globally plays a role in the amount of media coverage and social media engagement surrounding Amini’s death and its aftermath.
The recently concluded United Nations General Assembly, an annual gathering of world leaders at the UN headquarters in New York, served as a platform for many to express their condemnation of the notorious “police of the moral”. International energy and policy consultant Dr Ramu CM told The Media Line.
Among those who condemned the violence against protesters was US President Joe Biden, who told the General Assembly: “Today we stand with the brave citizens and women of Iran who are demonstrating at this very moment to guarantee their fundamental rights”.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called the crackdown on protests “an attack on humanity”, while Australia said it was concerned about “Iran’s significant discrimination against women”.
But, CM told The Media Line: “Many of these government leaders and representatives lamented this heinous act, but refrained from direct blame [President Ebrahim] Raisi’s government.
He said the “morality police” have been widely condemned for their actions, but the international community has been more circumspect in its criticism of the Iranian regime itself.
Some governments are speaking up and even taking action, agreed Macaroon, but “Ultimately, how to react to this story depends on the interests of the government concerned and the nature of its relationship with the Iranian regime.”
Many Western countries are already struggling to balance their own interests when it comes to autocratic rulers and upholding human rights in the Middle East, he said.
Gratowski posited that the protests around the world are serving to coerce Western powers trying to revive the agreement to restrict Iran’s nuclear activity.
“There is protest pressure on Western governments who are facing a complicated balancing act because of the nuclear talks they would like to see through,” he told The Media Line.
This is especially the case for Europeans, as the continent’s energy crisis means possible dependence on Iranian oil, Gratowski said. He also pointed to President Biden’s desire to get the nuclear deal done before the midterm elections in November, when Democrats could lose their majority in the House and Senate.
Overall, he added, “it’s a complicated atmosphere to strike a deal that could give Iran billions of dollars in oil revenue.”
If the Iranian response to the protests becomes more violent, Gratowski thinks that could prevent the United States from concluding a nuclear agreement soon.
“I don’t see the regime showing restraint. But that makes it politically difficult for the United States to pursue the path of nuclear talks,” he said.
CM stressed that the nuclear deal is still vital for Western powers. “The United States and the EU, especially the latter, must stay the course in terms of negotiating with the Iranian government on the JCPOA,” he said, referring to the Iran deal.
Once an EU embargo on Russian oil triggered by the invasion of Ukraine takes effect on December 5, it is crucial that the West finds a mechanism – either through a complete or gradual lifting of sanctions. Iranians – to allow the replacement of lost volumes of Russian oil. crude and petroleum products with those of Iran, he explained.
Because of that, CM believes that the US State Department will likely use the internal situation in Iran and the issue of women’s rights as a small “bargaining chip” in the JCPOA negotiations, which he says could serve as a catalyst for renewal of the agreement.
“At least the United States is expected to increase its pressure on the Raisi government to stop brutally suppressing uprisings as has always happened before,” he said.
On the other hand, he considers the possibility that “even the Iranian regime may want to show progress in the JCPOA talks to create a practical distraction from the protests and uprisings in the country.”
macarons, however, believes that at present, the negotiations on the nuclear agreement are not affected by this issue.
Concluding a nuclear deal remains a priority for the Iranian regime and Western governments, he said, adding that protests in Iran had so far had no positive or negative impact on the talks. already complicated and blocked.