Iran’s prosecutor-general Mohammad-Jafar Montazeri said in March that Tehran will not “abandon” the case “until those responsible for his death are punished”.
He was referring to former US President Donald Trump and former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who ordered the drone attack on Soleimani, listed by the State Department as an international terrorist.
As the de-facto second in command in Iran’s military hierarchy, he was responsible for thousands of deaths of Iraqi, Syrian and Lebanese people as well as US military personnel.
He controlled the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, a vicious military unit responsible for extra-territorial operations. Soleimani was answerable only to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and as such, was described by many as the second most powerful person in the Islamic Republic. As Quds Force commander, he oversaw the theocratic regime’s proxy wars in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq, where he commanded all the Iraqi militias, known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).
Speaking on the second anniversary of Soleimani’s killing in January, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi threatened revenge against America if Trump and Pompeo were not “tried in a fair court for the criminal act of assassinating General Soleimani”.
As an example of breath-taking hypocrisy, Raisi’s statement can hardly be surpassed. Dubbed ‘The Butcher of Tehran’ for his key role as a prosecutor during the 1988 massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin of Iran/Mojahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK), Raisi was a member of the ‘Death Commission’ that sentenced thousands to death by hanging after arbitrary three-minute ‘trials’.
Raisi has publicly admitted and even boasted about his involvement in the massacre. He is on record as saying: "As long as the MEK leadership is alive, anyone who supports the group in any way deserves to be executed.” His concept of a ‘fair trial’ is therefore dubious!
Indeed, Iran’s prosecutor-general Mohammad-Jafar Montazeri is himself a notorious violator of human rights, having boasted that the 1988 massacre of political prisoners by the judiciary was “a golden age in the history of this branch”.
He was also one of the main perpetrators of the shoot-to-kill policy that led to the death of over 1,500 peaceful protesters during a nationwide uprising in November 2019. Criminals like Raisi and Montazeri calling for justice is like Vladimir Putin calling for Russia to join Nato.
Nevertheless, the Americans have taken the mullahs’ threats seriously. In a report to Congress, the US State Department reported it is paying more than $2 million per month to provide 24-hour security to Pompeo and former Iran envoy Brian Hook, both of whom, along with Trump, are considered prime targets for the theocratic regime’s assassins.
When the State Department admits that it recognises the dangers faced by a former US president and senior government officials at the hands of the Iranian regime, it is astounding that the Biden administration continues to seek a new nuclear agreement with the mullahs.
It is even more astonishing that, when Joe Biden wants Putin indicted for war crimes, he should countenance a revised deal to which the Russian president would be a signatory. Biden seems relaxed about dealing with gangsters. But talks in Vienna over a resurrected Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal have gone on since Biden entered the White House.
Emboldened by the American president’s infirmity and his reckless abandonment of Afghanistan, the mullahs are now demanding the lifting of sanctions imposed by Trump and the de-listing of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organisation.
Farcically, they have even demanded that no future US president should ever renege on any new nuclear deal. A current pause in the Vienna talks has ended with each side blaming the other for stalling.
Meanwhile the Russians claim to have written guarantees that any new JCPOA they sign will exempt Russian-Iranian trade deals from sanctions imposed following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The original JCPOA was brokered by then US President Barack Obama in 2015 and was designed to last for ten years. Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the deal in 2018 and imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran, crippling their economy and seriously impacting on their funding of proxy wars in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
The mullahs responded by accelerating their enrichment of uranium to 60 per cent purity, almost weapons’ grade.
There is an abundance of evidence that they have also constructed secret underground plants where the development of a nuclear weapon will continue, hidden from International Atomic Energy Authority inspectors, even if a new JCPOA is agreed.
The renewal of the deal would be for a period of only three years and would do nothing to dampen the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions. It would, however, kickstart the moribund Iranian economy, enabling the regime to recommence its commercial exploitation of oil and gas and reinvest in terrorism, war and oppression at home and terrorism abroad.
President Trump wasn’t right about many things, but he was right about the JCPOA when he described it as “the worst deal in history” and “one of the most one-sided transactions the United States had ever entered into".
The original deal failed to protect America’s security interests, it enriched the venally corrupt Iranian regime, allowed it to continue its malign behaviour and did little to curb the regime’s development of a nuclear weapon. The terms for a revised JCPOA being demanded by the mullahs will be worse.
Struan Stevenson is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change, an international lecturer on the Middle East, and president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association