Iranian-American activists press Biden to be tough on Iran’s new president in UN speech
Call for Iranian president to face trial for crimes against humanity
Yahoo News | John Bowden | Sep. 16, 2021
Several hundred Iranian-American activists have signed a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to strike an aggressive tone against Iran’s new president when the US leader delivers his first address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) next week.
In the letter shared with The Independent, just over 400 Iranian-Americans across a wide range of fields wrote that Mr Biden should state that Ebrahim Raisi should “should stand trial before international tribunals for crimes against humanity”, in particular his role in a series of state-sponsored executions of thousands of political dissidents in 1988.
The letter also urges the US president to point out the historically low turnout in Iran’s recent presidential election, which the activists have attributed to a boycott campaign organised by opponents of Iran’s government.
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While primarily addressed to Mr Biden, the letter’s authors also offered criticism for the UN Secretary-General, who was copied on the letter, regarding Mr Raisi’s upcoming speech to the UNGA.
“Allowing Raisi to address the UN Assembly will be an insult to humanity and in particular to the family members of his victims, as well as the values that this country was founded on,” the authors argued.
Iranian political dissident groups including the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) have kept up a steady campaign of pressure aimed at the new Biden administration over the past several months, including holding a rally on the grounds of Capitol Hill where a memorial was erected for dissidents killed by Iran’s government.
The group’s goal has been aimed at urging Mr Biden and the US to continue a campaign of sanctions and other actions aimed at weakening the Iranian government and in particular Mr Raisi, who they have characterised as taking over a regime in its weakest position in decades. That campaign was begun during the Trump administration, and presented a radical shift from the policies pursued under former President Barack Obama, when Mr Biden was last in the White House.
A senior Biden administration official told The Independent in an email that Mr Biden’s address next week to the UNGA would include messages about “promoting human rights and defending democracy and the rules-based international order,” but did not give any specifics about potential rhetoric addressing Iran or its new president.
The NCRI’s events and statements as a result have largely attracted attention from US politicians on Capitol Hill aligned with calls to significantly change or abandon the 2015 agreement signed between the Obama administration, Iran’s government, and several European countries aimed at providing oversight of Iran’s nuclear program, typically meaning conservatives as well as centrist Democrats such as former House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel.
At the rally hosted by the NCRI outside the Capitol in early August, Mr Engel told The Independent that despite no longer being in Congress he would continue publicly calling on President Joe Biden to pursue “a new deal, a better deal, one that brings Iran closer to democracy” rather than return to the agreement negotiated in 2015.