Iranian Dissidents Criticize Obama’s Nuclear Diplomacy

Claim White House ignoring human rights, working with murderous regime

U.S.-Iranian nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland / AP
March 17, 2015

JERUSALEM—A group of Iranian dissidents and political prisoners have lashed out at the Obama administration, lambasting its ongoing diplomacy with Iran, according to two open letters sent to the White House in recent days.

As Tehran and the United States move closer to a final deal aimed at stalling Iran’s nuclear breakout time at around one year, opponents are stepping forward to register their skepticism and anger over the agreement, which they say does little to address the Islamic Republic’s poor human rights record.

In each letter, the dissidents—most of whom are currently political prisoners in Iran—criticize the White House for ignoring the issues of human rights and democracy in Iran as they push to finalize a deal with a regime that the dissidents says is murderous and untrustworthy.

Iranian reformers and those seeking a change in the country’s leadership say they do not view the agreement as representing the plurality of Iranians.

"Any deal in which the real representatives of Iranian people are not present and human rights are ignored, is basically a deal between President Obama and Khamenei’s agents, and Iranian people will not consider it to be legal," 21 Iranian political prisoners wrote in an open letter to Obama that was translated from Persian for the Washington Free Beacon.

As the Obama administration negotiates with Iran, the Islamic Republic continues to execute scores of political prisoners and dissidents each day, the letter states. An American pastor, Saeed Abedini, also continues to be imprisoned in Iran.

"In this chaos, Iranian people, human rights, and basic civil rights are absent without any representation," they write. "During President Obama’s negotiations for a profitable deal with the non-democratic Regime of Iran, the number of people executed increases everyday; freedoms of speech, religion, women, and journalists are restricted more and more, and civil, labor, and political associations are suppressed heavily."

On Sunday, another Iranian dissident currently in jail for leading protests against the regime sent his own letter to Obama.

Heshmat Tabarzadi says that the Obama administration has been ignoring human rights issues in order to placate the Islamic Republic in talks.

"When the people of Iran asked you to support them against the tyranny of the Shia clerics over five years ago you, the president of the most powerful country on earth, were secretly writing letters to the dictator of Iran," he writes in the letter, which was smuggled out of Iran by human rights activists and provided to the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, an advocacy group.

Obama’s outreach has only empowered Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, writes Tabarzadi, who says he shares a prison cell with Saeed Abedini.

"In June 2009, as Khamenei ruthlessly ordered his paramilitary forces to kill people on the streets and on university campuses, imprisoning and torturing journalists, intellectuals, the young and the old mercilessly, your friendly communications with the tyrant of Iran continued in the name of the people of the United States, ignoring the human rights of the people of Iran," the letter states. "You helped Khamenei to continue his Islamic tyranny in the name of Allah and Islam."

"The Islamic clerics have taken our nation hostage to their fanatical Islamic tyranny," he adds. "In 2009 when the people of Iran loudly and clearly asked for your support for their freedom and sovereignty, you ignored us and empowered the tyrants to imprison, torture, and kill us."

Nations such as the United States should be supporting "the People of Iran, not the tyrants," according to Tabarzadi.

Obama has intimidated Americans into going along with his diplomacy by forwarding "misinformation" about the talks, Tabarzadi writes.

"You claim that the only choice that you have is either to make a deal with Khamenei—which I believe means surrender—or war," he states. "I dare say this claim is a form of misinformation and intimidation of the people of America."

Tabarzadi calls on Obama to enact greater economic sanctions on Iran, rather than unravel them.

"Please sanction and weaken the illegal regime of Khamenei, and empower the people to overthrow this tyranny," he writes. "You know that you can support the people in many ways, such as giving us Internet access that the Khamenei regime cannot police. This would allow us to organize and rise up against these godless tyrants."

The White House declined to comment on the letter.

Saeed Ghassiminejad, an Iranian dissident and expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that the letters reflect growing frustration with the Obama administration among reform-minded Iranians.

"When President Obama came into power many did hope that because of his background he would be more compassionate toward the oppressed citizens under the rule of dictators around the world and would help them to liberate themselves," Ghassiminejad said. "However he has shown that he does not care at all about human rights and democracy. Whether it is Cuba, Iran, or Syria he and his secretary of state are either neutral or on the side of dictators."

Meanwhile, Iran and the United States are close to finalizing an agreement. Iran is pushing on the United States to permit it to retain thousands of its nuclear centrifuges and to lift sanctions the moment a deal is reached.