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A regime in disgrace: poisoning girls, raping protesters, smuggling arms

Iran-made weapons seized by the UK Navy from a boat in the Indian coast. (AFP)
Iran-made weapons seized by the UK Navy from a boat in the Indian coast. (AFP)
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06 Mar 2023 02:03:28 GMT9
06 Mar 2023 02:03:28 GMT9

As a confused and ailing Tehran regime lashes out, it is girls and women who have come under attack. Up to 60 girls’ schools, mainly in and around the theological stronghold of Qom, have been targeted with poison gas. Hundreds of girls have required hospital treatment, with 1,200 affected in Qom and Borujerd alone.

The scale and magnitude of these attacks demonstrate that this is an orchestrated campaign, but Iran’s leadership have been more concerned with downplaying the attacks and blaming foreign “enemies” than apprehending those responsible. President Ebrahim Raisi wildly accused unnamed foreign states of waging a “hybrid war” against Iran, making paranoid accusations in the same speech that the outside world was to blame for his government’s incompetent handling of the economy and the crash of the currency.

Who is he trying to fool? Deputy Health Minister Younes Panahi and Deputy Interior Minister Majid Mirahmadi have already acknowledged that whoever is behind the attacks is trying to prevent girls from going to school. After the death of Fatemeh Rezaei, an 11-year-old schoolgirl in Qom, the local prosecutor ordered her family not to talk to the media and to bury her without comment. Videos have circulated of police beating up parents protesting that their daughters were poisoned. Protesters outside the Education Ministry chanted: “Basij! Guards! You are our Daesh!” 

It can be no coincidence that girls’ education establishments were at the center of the revolt against the regime after the killing of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, when girls burnt their hijabs and called for an end to tyranny. It is widely believed that pro-regime hard-liners are now seeking to terrorize girls into dropping out of education, forcing schools to shut and demonstrating the cost of engagement in political activity. This fear of educated women is evidence of exactly the same regressive mentality as that of the Taliban and Boko Haram.

Yet Iran’s courageous women refuse to be cowed. It is now the norm for women to be out in public without hijab, in flagrant disregard of the religious police. They have breached the barriers of fear, and the regime can do nothing.

Research now shows how the regime systematically deployed rape, sexual assault and torture against thousands of women, men and even girls detained during protests. Just think! This is a regime supposedly based on Islamic principles (which triggered the protests in the first place through brutish attempts to enforce “modest” clothing), now resorting to the most disgusting ungodly methods to keep its restless population in line. Conservative pro-regime demographics were also repulsed by such methods, further undermining the ayatollahs’ legitimacy.

According to Amnesty International, Iran has already executed around 100 people so far in 2023, including many killed for political activism. In a sign that the regime has begun to devour its own, one of these executed was a prominent former Defense Ministry official, Alireza Akbari.

Western officials are furthermore warning that Iran is evolving into a global leader in the production and export of discount-price drones and missiles. The relative cheapness of Iran’s drones has altered the contours of the Ukraine conflict, allowing Russia to stage devastating attacks on civilians and economic targets. Ukrainian cities are now the murderous testing ground for further deadly Iranian innovations.

Iranian military intelligence officials gloat that they can reap billions of dollars by selling such weapons throughout Africa and Asia, to buyers including terrorists and insurgents. “Our power has grown to levels where China is waiting in line to buy 15,000 of our drones,” one official boasted. Copious revenues from such illegal exports will be reinvested back into enhancing Iranian war-making capacities, including bankrolling regionwide militancy. The scope, accuracy and destructive capabilities of Iran’s immense ballistic missiles program has advanced to the degree that parts of Europe are within easy range.

As the Tehran regime murders, poisons, tortures and rapes thousands of its own citizens, it simultaneously poses an existential threat to global security.

Baria Alamuddin

The vague promises of enhanced cooperation made to the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, are laughable; we have heard such meaningless pledges before when the regime comes under diplomatic pressure. And within hours of the latest joint IAEA-Iran statement, Tehran was already issuing denials that agreement had been reached on specific issues such as deployment of CCTV cameras and site visits.

In a further example of Iranian weapons proliferation, the British Royal Navy impounded a boat in the Gulf of Oman transporting Iranian-made anti-tank guided rockets and components of medium-range ballistic missiles to the Houthis — just one of hundreds of such shipments.

Iran, meanwhile, by its own admission, has enriched uranium particles up to just short of weapons grade, at 83.7 percent purity. I’ve been covering the Iran nuclear issue long enough to recall how alarm bells were sounded when Iran was enriching uranium at 5 percent purity … and then 20 percent … and then 60 percent … and at each juncture we heard strong-sounding denouncements from world leaders about how Iran wouldn’t be allowed to go any further.

The regime’s current state of non-cooperation with the IAEA means that we simply don’t know what Iran is doing at its nuclear sites. A Pentagon official said Iran now needs only 12 days to make sufficient nuclear material for a bomb, and is capable of making up to seven in three months. Just as with North Korea, we may awaken one morning to discover that Iran has tested a nuclear bomb capable of wiping out entire cities. 

CIA director Bill Burns complacently says he has no evidence that Iran is immediately preparing to build a bomb — but why does he think the ayatollahs are stockpiling 60 percent-enriched uranium that has no legitimate civilian use?

Nevertheless, Tehran should be unnerved by a flurry of recent nuclear-focused diplomatic activity between Israel and Washington, including regional visits by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley. The latter said his exceptional visit to Syria was worth the risk, given intensified activities by Daesh and Iran-backed militias, and prospects for regionwide conflict.

We may not be witnessing the end of the mullahs’ regime, but it is at least the beginning of the end, as the regime obsessively disgraces itself by taking all the wrong steps, and making a pre-emptive Israeli-US strike against nuclear sites all but inevitable.

The rapidity of these domestic and expansionist activities is disorientating: This is a regime spinning out of control, in defiance of the most pessimistic estimates of its capabilities for destabilizing the region, even as the symptoms of internal chaos and collapse become all too obvious.

As the Tehran regime murders, poisons, tortures and rapes thousands of its own citizens, it simultaneously poses an existential threat to global security. So what exactly is the world waiting for?

• Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

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