Written by Y. Mansharof, E. Kharrazi, and Y. Lahat
In early April 2014, the European Parliament ratified the statement on the EU strategy towards Iran, the main points of which are support for arriving at a final nuclear agreement with Iran and installing a permanent European representative in Iran by the end of the year. The EU statement also condemns Iran's human rights violations and its elections, which it says do not meet European standards, and calls on Iran to release political prisoners and to end capital punishment; to stop torture of prisoners and unfair trials; to cooperate with UN Special Rapporteur on Iran Ahmed Shaheed; to give European inspectors access to Iranian social activists and Iranian political prisoners; to use its influence in Damascus to stop the war in Syria, and more.
Following the European Parliament resolution, the U.K. Foreign Office announced, on April 10, 2014, that Britain would head the international front to persuade Iran to improve its human rights record.
The resolution enraged many in Iran, both in ideological circles close to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, including Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the Majlis, and religious institutions, and in the pragmatic camp, including government and Foreign Ministry circles close to Expediency Council chairman Hashemi Rafsanjani.
In general, the ideological circles called for a harsh response to the EU and to what it said was EU interference in Iran's internal affairs; they even called for rejecting the current trend towards a renewal of Iran-Europe relations. Some said that an EU office in Iran would be a new "spy nest," similar to the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in the Shah's era prior to its takeover by students in 1979, and added that such an EU office would serve the U.S. and do its bidding. A major theme in Iran's criticism of the resolution was Europe's demand for rights for homosexuals in Iran, with opponents of such a concept saying that such rights are against Islamic culture and that this demand humiliates both Iran and the EU.
In contrast, government circles and those close to the Rafsanjani camp, while expressing criticism, also sought to downplay the importance and influence of the European Parliament, and of the resolution. Claiming that it is a weak and marginal organization, they said that there was no need to harm ties with Europe because of it. Some even tried to point out the positive aspects of the resolution for Iran.
It should be stressed that despite Iran's threat to act harshly against Europe, and its symbolic cancellation of meetings with European delegations, there are recent reports that such meetings have been renewed and that in them Iran's position is asserted.
Also in evidence in the wake of the resolution is the struggle between Iran's ideological camp – the Foreign Ministry, the daily newspaper Kayhan, and the regime ayatollahs – and the moderate, pragmatic camp – Hashemi Rafsanjani and his associate President Hassan Rohani and their supporters. IRGC spokesmen from the ideological camp used the criticism of Europe as further leverage in their attempts to settle accounts with the Rohani government and the policy of the moderate camp. They are claiming that it is the Rohani government's doctrine of rapprochement with the West that encouraged the EU to criticize Iran's human rights record and to cast doubts on the integrity of Iran's elections.
This paper will review the main points of the reactions to and condemnation of the EU by Iran's ideological and pragmatic camps following the European Parliament resolution.
In an April 7, 2014 speech to Majlis members and government officials, President Hassan Rohani called the European Parliament's resolution "valueless," saying: "The European Parliament is too small to be able to insult the great Iranian nation." He added that in the past four years the body had issued 60 resolutions "full of even more extremist rhetoric than this last one, and none had any value and none sparked any uproar... The European resolution includes sections emphasizing the [nuclear] negotiations and [European] help with a political solution for the nuclear program – which conflict with statements by several U.S. statesmen noting that all the options [against Iran] are on the table."
At an April 6 Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee meeting, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the European Parliament had no "moral standing allowing it to opine on the situations of other states. This parliament is low-status in relations within Europe and is highly marginal in international relations... It has no legitimacy to preach to others about human rights, because of its own conduct towards foreigners and Muslims in Europe and because of its handling of the Muslim countries' requests to join [the EU]."
Zarif added that the Iranian people would not permit "groups chosen in the recent elections, that had no impact and had average voter turnout of only 43%" – that is, the European Parliament – to judge the "enthusiastic" elections in Iran, where turnout was over 73%. He said, "The [Iranian] government will not allow any parliamentary delegation from Europe to visit Iran under the conditions noted in the European Parliament resolution." Iran, he noted, seeks reciprocal relations with other countries based on mutual respect and equal standing, "and will not tolerate insults and interference."
On April 7, 2014, Iranian Vice President Majid Ansari implored members of Iran's ideological camp who were leading the criticism of the European Parliament and who also opposed the Rohani government's policy of compromise with the West not to sabotage the government's policy, even though the European Parliament had indeed harmed Iran. He said that the European Parliament resolution was "nothing new, and includes incorrect points based on misinformation and permanent resentment." Ansari said that the parliament "is not an official, executive, influential body with any legislative or executive capability, and basically its decisions and resolutions have no great value, either legally or in implementation... This is not the first time that the European Parliament has acted this way... This last resolution can [even] be seen as the most positive of the 60 anti-Iran resolutions that preceded it, in both text and content... Our past disregard of European Parliament resolutions was correct."
He also mused over why there had been no reaction to the 60 previous anti-Iran resolutions, while now the reaction was very extreme: "Some [of those protesting against this resolution] even turned to the government and the Foreign Ministry, while the [Iranian] government's positions vis-à-vis the world, [and] particularly [towards] the EU, hinge on respect."
He said that measures by the Rohani government aimed at developing relations with the EU were "highly influential," that there was a definite improvement in relations with "the most important countries in [the EU]," and that "some of them are willing for [their representatives] to travel to Iran. At a time when the government leading the move towards neutralizing the Zionists' plot against the Islamic Republic of Iran and their anti-Iran propaganda, we must not weaken our diplomatic apparatus and the government, [which] are attempting to secure our national interests by means of effective and strong diplomacy...
"A reasonable response, which shows the people's defense of its values, its religion, and its independence, is appropriate, [but] it is not [appropriate] for us to present an institution with no influence [such as the European Parliament] as an institution [capable of] taking a [meaningful] resolution, and to turn to the EU so as to scold it and every so often to insult it. The EU is a legal institution with many members, and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is today trying to develop its relations with the entire world, and particularly [with] important countries that are EU members; so far it has been successful in this endeavor."
On April 6, Majlis speaker Ali Larijani called the European Parliament resolution "political" and "infected by propaganda." He noted that while the resolution welcomed the nuclear talks and the Geneva paper, as well as continued cooperation among the sides, and that it also expressed hope for progress in the negotiations for "more constructive" Iran-EU relations on important issues such as the crisis in Syria and the fight against terrorism, it also included "interference in the democratic system in Iran, in [its] elections, in human rights [issues], and in deviant sexual ideas..."
He continued: "Due to the odd statements regarding Iran's presidential elections, as if they were not held according to the democratic standards that the Europeans consider valuable, it appears that the members of the European Parliament suffer from narrow-mindedness and think that they have advanced standards in democracy and elections. We do not recommend these standards, and we will never accept them. We will never allow presidential candidates or high-ranking regime officials to be [individuals who are] sick and coarse and who will seek a life of pleasure instead of solving the country's problems. We see this conduct – in which politicians make illegal deals with several dictatorial Arab rulers [such as] accepting money to run for office – as an embarrassment to democracy. We reject this worn-out, sick democratic system... We have no motivation to imitate such a democracy and its deficient standards... This democracy has lost its attractiveness... In the 20th century alone, when [the Europeans] launched two world wars, the number of killed was greater than [the number of those killed] in the 39 previous centuries in the history of human civilization. With such an image, the West is worried about human rights and fighting terrorism?"
At an April 3, 2014 Basij conference, Basij commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi attacked the EU, saying: "They are setting conditions for us, allowing homosexuals [to live] freely – while even if we freed wild animals they wouldn't have homosexual relations. Europe and America nurtured the drug dealers and expanded Afghanistan's drug production tenfold. They offer drugs to Iran's youth at a hundredth of what the[se drugs] cost in Europe so that the ones who were undefeated in the Iran-Iraq War will lose their identity. The EU was wrong to seek to open an office in Iran, because Iran [already] has a ruler. If the Europeans are sincere, let them bring their scientists and their elites to Iran, so that we can debate them on Europe's human rights record.
"Socially, economically, and politically, all the countries that acceded to Europe and America are in shambles. No country has found peace by reconciling with America. Europe and America demand commitments from those countries, such as building military bases [for them], spreading corruption, acting licentiously, [permitting] homosexuality, becoming servants of the Zionists, spying, and imprisoning youths and circles opposed to the arrogance [i.e. the U.S. and the West]. Any country that seeks good relations with Europe and America must carry out all these demands at home...
"Europe's story is over; they have been defeated politically and culturally, as well as economically and in terms of the people's wellbeing – their two biggest promises. Anyone who strays from the path of resistance will themselves be defeated, because the rule [of the jurisprudent] is the standard-bearer on the path of justice. Today, dear Imam Khamenei, who ascended [to power] after the Imam [Khomeini], is not backing down at all from his positions, and carries on with all the principles and values of the revolution."
At an April 9 meeting, judiciary head Sadeq Larijani attacked the Europeans, saying: "You erred by adopting these standards. You intend to impose your standards on other countries and nations. The Islamic Republic of Iran absolutely does not execute children under 18 – this claim by the European Parliament is totally false. If you claim that [we are] executing children under 18, why don't you release their names?
"In Iran, members of other religions live alongside Muslims, just as Sunnis live alongside Shi'ites, and there never was and is not now any aggression against them.
"Baha'i is an artificial religion created by the West to harm the Islamic countries. Despite this, there is no [institutional] aggression [in Iran] against Baha'is simply because they are Baha'is. What happened [in the past] was legal prosecution of those who spied for foreign elements or who worked against national security...
"How can several European countries see themselves as the protectors of human rights and freedom while using violence, and even using their courts to remove the hijab from the heads of sinless [Muslim] girls and prosecute those who express an opinion about the Holocaust, [all while] the world witnesses their crimes at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib?... The European countries need to realize that these attitudes and statements will not lead the Iranian people and officials to permit them to open an office in Tehran."
On April 6, 2014, 100 Majlis members submitted a bill on "the Iranian strategy in light of the EU resolution," stating that the resolution contradicts the spirit of international cooperation as well as governments' commitment to not interfere in the affairs of other countries, and that the resolution was passed because of "Zionist incitement." The bill calls on the Iranian government:
- To reconsider its political and economic ties with the European countries that voted to approve the EU resolution on Iran unless they withdraw their votes.
- To bar any European figure from meeting with Iranian officials without regime authorization and coordination.
- To reconsider Iranian cooperation in Europe's war on the drug trade.
- To reject the EU bid to establish a mission in Iran.
- To reconsider Iran's cooperation with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
- To sanction European officials or expel them from Iran, in response to similar moves in Europe against Iranian officials there.
- To demand that international forums cover the expenses of the three million Afghan refugees in Iran.
On April 3, 2014, Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Alaa Al-Din Boroujerdi called the resolution "contemptible and blatant interference" in Iran's internal affairs. He condemned foreign delegations' meetings with Iranians whom the Iranian regime claims were behind the unrest following the 2009 presidential election – that is, Green Movement members and human rights activists – saying, "No foreign delegation, parliamentary or not, has the right to meet with these [people]."
Boroujerdi rejected the idea of opening an EU office in Iran, saying that this rejection was because of "the unforgivable sin committed by [European Union foreign policy chief Catherine] Ashton and the European Parliamentary delegation" – a reference to Ashton's unauthorized meeting with Iranian activists in March 2014 – and said that there is no point in discussing the possibility of UN Special Rapporteur on Iran Ahmed Shaheed coming to Tehran.
According to Boroujerdi, Iran is willing to talk to the Europeans on topics such as human rights violations by the U.S., which he said has "the largest torture center of the 21st century, meaning Guantanamo prison," and on explaining the Islamic concept of human rights to them. He stressed that the European Parliament plan to legalize a homosexual lifestyle contradicts the divine religions, including Christianity, and that "legalization of this ugly phenomenon is a stain on Western societies" and is not worthy of discussion. Finally, Boroujerdi said that the Majlis should set new criteria for European visits to Iran.
Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Spokesman Hossein Naqavi Hosseini said on April 3, 2014: "Had the government expelled Ashton and condemned her meeting with the [men of] fitna of 2009 so that her visit was interrupted, we would never have seen [the EU] pass a resolution like this that interferes in our affairs and indicates that they are not interested in improving relations with Iran."
Majlis National Security And Foreign Policy Committee Deputy Chairman Haqiqat-Pour: Let Drug Dealers Pass Through Iran On Their Way To Europe
On April 2, 2014, Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Deputy Chairman Mansour Haqiqat-Pour called on the regime to allow drug dealers to go to Europe; he was responding to Europe's criticism of Iran for executing them. He said: "Iran should reconsider preventing drugs from getting to Europe, since [Iran] is neither the traffickers' origin nor their destination. Smugglers pass [through Iran] and transfer drugs to Europe for distribution."
During Tehran Friday prayers on April 4, 2014, Ayatollah Ali Mohavedi-Kermani said, addressing the EU: "It has been revealed that you are servants of the Americans. You are not independent, and you will do whatever your masters order you to do..."
He continued, "Do they want people to do as they please without us being able to punish them? Do they expect us to allow the spread of homosexuality in Iran? Those who say that we should allow European delegations to hold meetings seek to spark fitna. The people will not allow the establishment of a new spy nest in the form of an EU office in Tehran. We will not relinquish our independence and we will not permit interference in our internal affairs. We do not trust the Americans."
During an April 8 protest by religious students in Qom, Tehran Friday prayer leader and Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said that Iran would not allow the EU to open an official espionage office in the country: "The Europeans support the men of fitna, which is why they issued this resolution, but the men of fitna should know that this resolution is shameful for them, because anyone who supports them supports homosexuality. They insolently demand that Iran grant freedom to homosexuals and seek to infect us with that filth... but they will take those wishes to their grave."
On April 6, Guardian Council secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said that the Iranian people consider the resolution to be valueless, because it was thought up by "idiots who talk of Iran's human rights violations" while they themselves "are committed to no human values and shamelessly permit forbidden homosexual relations." He added that the EU's support of the "men of fitna" is merely another "medal" in its "collection of medals of shame" and that "if the men of fitna had any shame at all they would have died of shame."
On April 7, Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Hassan Mamdouhi said that "Europe's way is monstrous and bestial" and that this was not the first time that "the dominant powers [the U.S. and the West] have taken oppressive stances vis-à-vis Iran." He said that throughout history the West had been merciless, even with its servants such as Saddam Hussein; that it had abandoned Libya; and that it was "a duty to fight the tainted powers" in accordance with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's dictates and warnings. He added: "Support for homosexuals, which is always brought up by the West, reveals [the West's] filth... God will surely eliminate them, just as he punished the family of Lot."
Kayhan editor Hossein Shariatmadari said on April 6, 2014: "Europe will take its anti-Iran ambitions to its grave. Europe has no standing; its status is equal to that of one U.S. state, and it obeys the White House." At the same time, he called on the regime to respond firmly to the resolution, so that the world would know how to address Iran and how to act towards it.
On April 5, Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee member Mohammad-Hassan Asfari called on the regime to end nuclear negotiations in response to the resolution.
Majlis member Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel said on April 6 that the EU's statements on human rights in Iran prove that Europe has "not [yet] forgotten its imperialist nature, and still thinks that the entire world should follow the European masters. We will not relinquish our beliefs, and we will run ourt country and society according to the dictates of the religion and of God. The Europeans speak of human rights and democracy, but trample them when it suits them."
He added that today's Iran bears no resemblance to the Iran of the Qajar or Pahlavi eras, "when [the Europeans] could do as they pleased; instead, it is an independent and Islamic Iran, and they must change their attitude towards it."
An April 6 article in the daily Javan, which is close to the IRGC, blamed the Rohani government for the EU's "insolent" conduct vis-à-vis Iran, explaining that it was the passivity of Rafsanjani and of the Rohani administration that had led the European Parliament to pass this resolution. It said: "Lately, it has been increasingly reported that Western countries were changing their tone towards Iran. [However,] the recent visit by Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign affairs representative and head of its nuclear talks with Iran, and her meeting, which was not coordinated [with the regime], with those [Iranians] convicted of being behind the American-Israeli fitna in 2009 and with women's rights activists – [in addition to] the European Parliament's recent approval of the [EU's] insolent resolution protesting human rights [violations in Iran] and supporting opposition to the regime, and many other issues – are all clear proof of the West's insolent conduct and its interference in Iran's internal affairs.
"This interference is a result of the silence and passivity of our foreign policy officials and of [the policy of our] politicians of sagacity and hope [i.e. the Rohani-Rafsanjani government]. Even before that, however, several American officials humiliated the [Iranian] nation...
"Many analysts believe that the Rohani government's approach is the reason for this insolence, but we must examine the preceding period and only then address the issue of the Rohani government. When Rafsanjani became [president in 1989] and influential technocrats in the fields of economics, culture, and foreign policy collectively joined his cabinet, the way was paved for the government to deviate from the discourse of the Imam [Khomeini] – that is, deviation from economic freedom to a free market [system] and from ideological administration to laxity and to the transformation of the government, the servant of the people, into a government of merchants and technocrats, like that of Malaysia. The consequences of the policies of the Executives of Construction [Party, aka Kargozaran, associated with Rafsanjani] were a manifestation of this deviation from the discourse of the Imam [Khomeini]...
"Following the pride of the next [i.e. Ahmadinejad's] government, which restored Iran's revolutionary spirit, came the Rohani government... which from the outset believed that the movement of the cogs of the nuclear program was dependent exclusively on the movement of the cogs of the economic system – that is, the nuclear issue is not viewed strategically by this government. This was the start of the process that has been internalized by our enemy, and this is why there is a complete contradiction between the [Iranian] government's optimistic statements on relations with the West, and the West's current conduct.
"The humiliating perspective, and the utilization of the opportunity created by the rise of the Rohani government to carry out reform, to establish spy organizations in Iran, and to interfere blatantly in [Iranian] internal affairs, undoubtedly reminds us of the period in which the government saw affairs of state in a view that is not revolutionary or farsighted, but is Westernized and shortsighted, and during which it offered for sale the values of the revolution and the regime's achievements in recent years in order to salvage [Iran's] economy.
"If we want to return to the path of the regime, we can only do so by continuing the revolutionary approach. The exhaustion from the revolution, and the pragmatism – the current slogan of certain former revolutionaries [i.e. Rafsanjani] – will bring Iran nothing but collapse. If to date several of [Iran's] governments tended towards passing laws and setting policy instead of understanding their executive status, [then] today there is no option for the Rohani government to use trial and error. The West's hostile attitude should be clearly obvious to the [Iranian] government, and the latter needs to realize that confidence-building will be of no further use..."
In an April 6 interview with Fars, Khamenei's representative in the IRGC, Ali Saeedi, implicitly accused the Rafsanjani-Rohani camp of bringing about the resolution because of its policies. He said that a number of statements and errors by Iranian officials had led the West to deduce that Iran's internal situation was not good and that this was an opportunity for it to promote its illegitimate demands.
At a Student Basij demonstration outside the Greek Embassy in Tehran (Greece currently holds the EU presidency), protestors called on the regime to bar entry to European delegations until the EU apologized to Iran. They carried signs attacking the U.S., U.K., and Israel, with slogans such as "Take your dream [to establish] a second spy nest [in Iran] to your grave"; "Stop nuclear negotiations until Europe apologizes to the Iranian nation"; and "Ban visits from European delegations until Europe apologizes to the Iranian nation."
The protestors also chanted "[European] insolence is the result of the silence [of the Rohani government]"; "The EU – An American toy"; "The blood in our veins is a gift for our leaders"; "A Muslim remaining silent is a betrayal of the Koran" and more.
A communique read out at the demonstration stated: "Those in Iran who rolled out the red carpet to these countries and to America, and who believe that the key to solving the problems is tied to some arrogant individuals, should abandon their short-sightedness and see reality clearly."
Speaking at the demonstration, Majlis member Mehrdad Bazrpash said: "If the government continues its diplomacy, the Majlis will not allow European delegations into Iran. Thus far, what Ashton's [March 2014] visit to Iran has achieved is the rejection of Iran's ambassador to the UN, an anti-Iran EU resolution, and the questioning of [Iran's] 2013 [presidential] election... Some are exhausted, and think that everyone [else in Iran] is exhausted as well... The nuclear issue is just a pretext. It is not too late [for the Rohani government] to back down [from its positions]. Our problem with the West is not the nuclear issue."
Also at the demonstration, Student Basij official Naser Arasteh taunted the Rohani government: "If the EU wishes to open an office in Iran, and if there are whispers from the [Rohani] government [agreeing] to establish this spy nest, they should know that the students will not allow a spy nest in the country... [President] Rohani and [Foreign Minister] Zarif should listen to the protestors, and Zarif should know that had he spoken sternly to the West instead of using smile diplomacy, we would not have seen such humiliations. The students are prepared to prevent harm from coming to the country, and this is our first warning...
"The Iranian nation has one unifying slogan, which is 'death to America.' This slogan was initially the basis of the unification of the nation. This slogan should be heard from within the government."
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 See the text of the European Parliament resolution on the EU strategy towards Iran: Europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=MOTION&reference=B7-2014-0279&language=EN.
 An April 10, 2014 UK Foreign Office report criticized Iran's human rights violations, restrictions on freedom of expression, measures against human rights activists, executions, and religious restrictions, and called for the release of the leaders of the protest movement who have been under house arrest for the past three years. Nasimonline.ir, April 10, 2014.
 ISNA (Iran), April 7, 2014.
 Fars (Iran), April 6, 2014.
 IRNA (Iran), April 7, 2014.
 Fars (Iran), April 6, 2014.
 Basij.ir, April 4, 2014.
 Tabnak (Iran), April 9, 2014.
 Fars (Iran), April 6, 2014. On April 8, 2014, the 258 Majlis members signed a petition condemning the EU claim that Iran's presidential elections were undemocratic and making the opening of an EU mission in Iran conditional upon the EU's reconsideration of its actions vis-à-vis Iran. Fars (Iran), April 8, 2014.
 Yjc.ir, April 3, 2014. In a letter to Tarja Cronberg, a European Parliament member who recently visited Iran, Majlis member Kazem Jalali, head of the Iran and Europe Parliamentary Friendship Group, complained about the EU's anti-Iran resolution and claimed that "the European parliament suffers from extreme megalomania." IRNA (Iran), April 8, 2014.
 Fars (Iran), April 4, 2014.
 Fars (Iran), April 3, 2014.
 Farsnews.com, April 4, 2014.
 ISNA (Iran), April 8, 2014.
 ISNA (Iran), April 6, 2014. Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Abbas Ka'bi said on April 7, 2014 that the EU resolution was cartoonish and had no cultural, social, political, or legal value, and was formulated by the legal system of the global arrogance. He added that it was an insult to the Iranian nation and an attempt to impose immoral Western values on it. According to him, Iran observes human rights as they are defined by the Islamic Human Rights Declaration of 1992, and that the demand to release the leaders of fitna from house arrest violates the nation's independence, freedom, and honor. He called on the Majlis and government to respond firmly and to warn the EU not to reiterate such weak statements, which are the result of defeated Western diplomacy. Fars (Iran), April 7, 2014.
 Fars (Iran), April 7, 2014.
 Kayhan (Iran), April 6, 2014.
 Kayhan (Iran), April 5, 2014.
 ISNA (Iran), April 6, 2014.
 Javan (Iran), April 6, 2014.
 Fars (Iran), April 6, 2014.
 ISNA (Iran), April 8, 2014.
 Nasimonline.ir, April 8, 2014.
 Fars (Iran), April 8, 2014.
Source: Ludwig von Mises Canada