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Raisi versus Jansa - obscenity versus courage

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On 10 July, the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa (pictured) broke with a precedent that was regarded as a taboo by “professional diplomats”. Addressing an online event of the Iranian opposition, he said: “The Iranian people deserve democracy, freedom, and human rights and should be firmly supported by the international community.” Referring to Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi’s role in executing 30,000 political prisoners during the 1988 massacre, the Prime Minister said: “I therefore once again clearly and loudly support the call of the UN investigator on human rights in Iran who has called for an independent inquiry into allegations of state-ordered executions of thousands of political prisoners and the role played by the President-elect as Tehran deputy prosecutor,” writes Henry St. George.

These words caused a diplomatic earthquake in Tehran, some EU capitals and were picked up as far away as Washington as well. The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif immediately called Joseph Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, and pushed the EU to denounce these remarks or deal with the consequences. The regime’s apologists in the West, too, joined in to help with the effort.

But there has been another front that strongly welcomed Janez Jansa’s remarks. Two days after the Prime Minister spoke at the Free Iran World Summit, among others, former Canadian Foreign Minister, John Baird said: “I am really pleased to be able to recognize the moral leadership and courage of the Prime Minister of Slovenia. He has called to hold Raisi to account for the 1988 massacre of 30,000 MEK prisoners, he has angered the zealots and the mullahs, and friends, he should wear that as a badge of honor. The world needs more leadership like this.”

Giulio Terzi, former Italian Foreign Minister, wrote in an opinion piece: “As a former Foreign Minister of an EU country, I believe that the free media should applaud the Prime Minister of Slovenia for having the courage to say the impunity must end for Iran’s regime. The EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell should end ‘business as usual’ with a regime led by mass murderers. Instead, he should encourage all EU member states to join Slovenia in demanding accountability for Iran’s greatest crime against humanity.”

Audronius Ažubalis, former Lithuanian foreign minister, said: “I just want to express my sincere support to the Slovenian Prime Minister Jansa, later supported by Senator Joe Lieberman. We have to push for President Raisi to be investigated by the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity, including murder, forced disappearance, and torture.”

And Michael Mukasey, former Attorney General of the United States, stated: “Here I join Prime Minister Jansa of Slovenia, who courageously called for Raisi to be tried and incurred the wrath and a criticism of the Iranian regime. That wrath and criticism does not stain the Prime Minister's record; he should wear it as a badge of honor. Some people suggest that we should not demand that Raisi be tried for his crimes because that will make it difficult for him to negotiate it or impossible for him to negotiate his way out of power. But Raisi has no intention of negotiating his way out of power. He takes pride in his record, and he claims that he is always, in his words, defending the people's rights, security and tranquility. In fact, the only tranquility that Raisi has ever defended is the tranquility of the graves of the 30,000 victims of his perfidy. He does not represent a regime that can change.”

Mukasey was referring to Ebrahim Raisi’s statement in his first press conference after being declared winner in the globally disputed presidential election. When asked about his role in executing thousands of political prisoners, he proudly said that he has been a protector of human rights all his career and he should be rewarded for removing those who stood as a threat against it.

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Considering the Iranian regime’s record of human rights, its behavior towards its neighbors and also contemplating the very rationale that the world is trying to reason with the regime in Vienna, it might be appropriate to digest what the Slovenian PM did.

Is it a shame for a head of a state to take a stance against another state while not a shame to install someone like Ebrahim Raisi as head of a state? Is calling for an investigation by the UN into crimes against humanity and challenging the systemic “impunity” that keeps taking its toll in Iran wrong? Is it wrong to speak at a rally where an opposition group that has shed light on Tehran’s human rights violations, its numerous proxy groups, its ballistic missile program, and its entire Quds Force hierarchy and also exposed the very nuclear program that the world struggles to defuse?

In history, very few leaders have dared to break traditions as Mr. Jansa did. As World War II began, US President, Franklin Roosevelt, rightly understood the great danger that the Axis Powers were posing against the world order. Despite all the criticism and being called a “warmonger”, he found ways to help Great Britain and the Chinese Nationalists in their struggle against the Axis. This criticism was largely silenced in the public arena after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but still some persisted in the belief that Roosevelt knew of the attack beforehand.

Indeed, no one can expect that those who benefit the most from the status-quo put conscience before interests and take the hat off for political bravery. But perhaps, if historians would care enough to calculate the stunning number of deaths and the amount of money that could be saved by preventing a strongman to become strong, world leaders might be able to pay tribute to courage and dismiss obscenity.

Do we need a Pearl Harbor to realize the Iranian regime’s true malign intentions?

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