Enrique Mora appeared taciturn in all the photos. The right hand of Josep Borrell and coordinator of the European Union for the nuclear talks with Iran had arrived in Tehran this Wednesday morning to make a last effort to facilitate an agreement that would allow the atomic pact to be revived. As soon as they landed in the capital, Iranian media had reported the arrest of two European citizens for “trying to foment chaos.”
The bad news does not come alone. Last week, shortly after a Swedish court upheld a trial for crimes against humanity against a former Iranian official, Tehran announced the death penalty against Swedish Iranian citizen Ahmadreza Djalali. Although the Iranian Justice was quick to stress that it was not an ‘eye for an eye’, Sweden also reported the arrest of a compatriot around the same time. It is not known if he is one of said two Europeans.
The set of events appears to be an arm-wrestling between Iran and various European capitals, as the talks to revive the nuclear agreement that had entered into force in 2016, and that due to the sanctions that the US re-imposed in 2018, barely had any effect. In response to the sanctions, Tehran abandoned several of the commitments made with the signing of the agreement, which has led its uranium enrichment program to exceed the agreed limits.
“We are still hopeful that some kind of agreement will be reached within a reasonable time frame, although we have to recognize that the window of opportunity could close at any time,” admitted the secretary general of the International Energy Agency this week. Atomica, Rafael Grossi. With his visit, during which he was scheduled to meet with the Iranian deputy foreign minister, Ali Bagheri, Mora’s mission was to iron out the rough edges that prevent closing the pact.
The crux of the matter is Iran’s insistence on removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps from the US Foreign Terrorist Organizations list as a condition for closing a deal. A demand that Joe Biden has refused until today due to its high political cost. It was his predecessor Trump who had ordered such a designation, as part of a “total pressure” strategy on Iran that only led to increased economic pressure on the Iranians and more belligerence from his government.
The membership of the Guardians on this list has multiple implications since, beyond their most criticized role as executors of the interests of the hard core of power inside and outside the country, their members are integrated into the political apparatus and are part of numerous parastatal private companies. The designation was not linked to Washington’s nuclear sanctions package, which did delist Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi movement last year.
With all other aspects of the nuclear controversy seemingly tied up, the designation disagreement has become the latest and greatest stumbling block to getting back on track with the comatose atomic pact. And in the midst of the clash of positions, a confrontation with Sweden. In 2019, Swedish police arrested 61-year-old Hamid Nouri as soon as he set foot in Stockholm. Under universal jurisdiction, the Prosecutor’s Office accused him of having an “active role” in alleged human rights abuses.
According to the indictment, Nouri had been a deputy prosecutor at the Gohardasht prison. That prison was in 1988 one of the scenes of mass executions of prisoners for “political reasons”, according to the complainants. Many of those executed in “unfair” trials belonged to the People’s Mujahideen (MEK), an Islamic-Marxist Iranian armed group that had fought against the Iranians on Saddam Hussein’s side during the recently ended war against Iraq. Nouri could face life in prison.
And although the Iranian Judiciary has assured that its decision has nothing to do with the other, human rights organizations consider that the execution order of Ahmadreza Djalali is a “retaliation” for the possible conviction of Nouri. Djalali was arrested in 2016 during an academic visit and accused of spying for Israel. The latest arrests have been added to the announcement. All the pressure has plummeted on the shoulders of Enrique Mora.
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