Raisi realized that, unlike his predecessors, he is unable to travel freely to the West, or indeed to any civilized nation, due to his pariah status as the “Butcher of Tehran”.
His humiliating climbdown may be because he has woken up to the fact that as president, he has inherited a poisoned chalice. He is the zombie president of a dying regime.
The Iranian economy has collapsed due to corruption and incompetence. There is mass unemployment, stagflation and household incomes are plummeting. In a disastrous attempt to repair the damage, the theocratic regime has attempted to manipulate the foreign-exchange rate, drained resources from the central bank, sold state-owned companies and factories, and plundered the stock market. They have even begun to deal in bitcoins.
The Iranian regime’s policy of aggressive expansionism and its financing and direct involvement in proxy wars across the Middle East have a seriously destabilising impact on the region and have cost tens of thousands of lives.
As a result of this looting of the peoples’ wealth, 70 per cent of the population now struggle to survive on weekly incomes below the international poverty-line. The regime’s economic collapse has been exacerbated by its deliberately bungled handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 460,000 people and is now entering a sixth wave.
The mullahs’ degenerate misogyny is also reprehensible. The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently ordered that even animated female characters in cartoons must wear the hijab and cannot reveal their hair!
Raisi has tried to hide his embarrassment by claiming that he had not been invited to attend COP26 in Glasgow. That lie has been exposed by the fact that there is a team from Iran present at the summit.
Of course, Raisi wanted to come himself to rub shoulders with world leaders who are in Scotland. But he knows that the UN, the Swiss Federal Court, the courts in Sweden, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and a list of other international organisations, governments and legislatures are actively discussing his involvement in the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, mostly from the People’s Mojahedin of Iran/Mojahedin e-Khalq (PMOI/MEK), in 1988.
He knows they are examining his role in the murder of 1,500 young protesters during the nationwide uprising in Iran in November 2019. He knows they are investigating the hundreds of executions that took place while he was head of the judiciary, executions that are accelerating now that he has become president, as he attempts to frighten the restive population into servility.
Raisi also knows that even as a serving president, following his sham election in June, he cannot rely on diplomatic immunity to avoid arrest. He knows he could still be indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and charged with crimes against humanity, torture, murder and genocide.
The news last month that the ICC had launched a full probe into Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, for his involvement in crimes against humanity and murder, sent shockwaves to Tehran.
Duterte’s extra-judicial killings in his so-called “war on drugs” may now lead to his indictment, arrest and appearance in the ICC as a serving president, paving the way for a similar indictment against Raisi. There is a cell waiting for the Iranian president at the ICC in the Hague.
In any case, it is simply a joke that the mullahs’ regime should pretend that they have the slightest interest in COP26. The head of the regime’s Environmental Protection Agency recently said that an enemy could never have damaged Iran’s natural resources and environment the way the mullahs have.
The regime’s rank incompetence, venal corruption and voracious profiteering have increased the risk and the incidence of natural disasters in Iran. The devastating floods, raging forest fires, toxic air pollution, uncontrolled desertification and grave water shortages have all pushed the Iranian environment to the edge of destruction. The mullahs’ Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) are playing a key role in this environmental catastrophe thanks to their institutionalised corruption and destructive policies.
In the last five years alone, 60,000 hectares of the country’s forests have been destroyed due to fire, pests, disease, dams, road building, other construction activities and timber smuggling, much of it under the control of the IRGC.
Rapid desertification, due to the IRGC’s reckless dam-building programme, has caused Iran to lose more than two-thirds of its agricultural land through drought and subsidence. Sand and dust storms now wreck crops. Air pollution is so severe in Tehran and most large cities that schools, businesses and government offices must be regularly closed because of dangerously high levels of toxins. Tehran and other large Iranian cities are among the most polluted cities of the world.
As delegates at COP26 in Glasgow discuss the global climate emergency, 80 million Iranians are already suffering the consequences of environmental degradation at the hands of the theocratic regime.
During its 40 years of power, the mullahs have not only slaughtered the Iranian people, violated human rights and spread terror around the world, they have also caused irreversible destruction to the Iranian environment.
The answer to the environmental crisis in Iran, as well as the answer to the economic crisis, the answer to the social crisis, and the answer to the security crisis across the Middle East and worldwide is the downfall of the mullahs’ totalitarian regime.
Struan Stevenson is coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change, chair of the In Search of Justice committee on the protection of political freedoms in Iran and a former member of the European Parliament representing Scotland