In NPQ, Shirin Ebadi on what can be done about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The West does have leverage on Iran, which it can use to provide it with incentives to move toward a democratic political system without interfering in its internal affairs. The hardliners need continued commerce with the European Union and would like the same with the US. However, during years of dialogue with Iran, the EU has been paying only lip service to the cause of democracy and respect for human rights in Iran. Instead, it has used the hardliners’ dismal human rights record to extract more commercial concessions from them.
So, what can the West do? First, Western nations with clean human rights records should help the UN appoint a special human rights monitor for Iran, bring up annually to the General Assembly its human rights record for discussion and strongly condemn it if the record keeps deteriorating. Contrary to the general perception, Iran’s clerics are sensitive to outside criticism. There has always been tangible improvement in Iran’s human rights record whenever such criticism has been expressed by the UN.
Second, the World Bank should stop providing Iran’s government with loans and, instead, try to work with true NGOs and the private sector in Iran in order to strengthen the civil society. The West should support Iran’s human rights and democracy advocates, nominate their jailed leaders for international awards and keep them and their cause in the public eye.