Above all, it is a symbolic degradation: Iran is no longer a member of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). That was decided by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in New York in the middle of last week. 29 of the 54 member states were in favor of the exclusion. The background to the decision is the ongoing violence with which the Iranian government and leadership have been cracking down on the protest movement for almost three months. The exclusion of Iran is just one of numerous sanctions imposed by the western world.

The first sanctions started in September in the USA. The measures were directed against members of the religious police and high-ranking security officials. If they have property in the US, it will be frozen. In addition, US citizens are no longer allowed to do business with these people.

In the second half of October, the EU foreign ministers imposed sanctions on eleven individuals and four organizations in Iran. Those affected can no longer enter the EU. If they have accounts on EU territory, they will also be frozen.

In western countries, many people are also taking to the streets to express their solidarity with the protest movement in Iran. Political scientist Ali Fathollah-Nejad from the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) told DW that these rallies are important. “They create visibility. They signal that the protest will be seen. And that is also perceived in Iran, by its highly digitized and globalized population.”

Bente Scheller, Middle East expert at the Heinrich Böll Foundation, takes a similar view. “I hear that again and again from other regions where people are fighting for their freedom. There is nothing more frustrating for those who are risking their lives to fight for freedom than when no one is reflecting outside the country’s borders and making their voices heard. That’s why we have to keep our attention.”

At the same time, the rallies abroad also hit the regime in Iran, Fathollah-Nejad continued. “Because this always tries to present itself as a republican system that acts in the interests of its citizens. The protests in Iran are now revealing a completely different social and political reality, which is being very closely registered internationally. And of course the regime fears that this reality will come through unfiltered. Because that means it loses its legitimacy on the international stage as well.”

A few days ago, the European Union personally targeted senior members of the regime. After two young men were executed in Iran for taking part in demonstrations, 20 other leading members of the regime in Tehran were banned from entering the country and having their bank accounts frozen. Four others were also sanctioned for their role in developing and supplying combat drones for Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine.

So far, Iran has been unimpressed by the sanctions. Political scientist Fathollah-Nejad says the West must therefore increase the pressure and enforce the existing sanctions more vigorously than before. “The policy of maximum pressure during the US presidency under Donald Trump was so great that even China did not import any oil from Iran.” But that changed again under the Biden administration.

As Iran’s largest trading partner in the EU, Germany can also increase its pressure, experts believe. Between January and the end of October this year alone, goods worth 1.2 billion euros were exported to Iran.

“We have to show that we are on the right side of history when it comes to the revolution in Iran,” said Norbert Röttgen (CDU), member of the German Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee, in an interview with DW.

External expert Röttgen proposes further sanctions. The EU must put the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on its terror list. It is no longer just about the responsibility of individual perpetrators.

The responsibility lies with the regime itself. That is why the sanctions have to go to the right address, to the Revolutionary Guards as the power-political backbone and the economic beneficiary of this regime. According to Röttgen, the “terrorist gang that carries out terrorism every day” belongs on the EU terror list.

However, this step is not easy from a legal point of view. For this, the Revolutionary Guards would have to have committed an act of terrorism in an EU country. FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai, also a member of the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee, refers to attacks that could have been carried out in the vicinity of the Revolutionary Guards in Germany.

German investigators are currently investigating an attack on the Essen synagogue in mid-November with a view to direct or indirect involvement by the Revolutionary Guards.

“If that is what is wanted, it will be implemented. However, politically the whole thing is always portrayed as particularly serious or challenging because up to now there has been no interest in jeopardizing the nuclear agreement with Iran,” says Djir-Sarai.

Fathollah-Nejad sees it that way too. In fact, what matters is that the West abandons its previous course of implementing a nuclear agreement with Iran after all. “Because by threatening nuclear escalation, Tehran always sets the pace to which the Western states then react. This deprives them of considerable opportunities to influence the regime.”

In this context, it would also make sense to sanction the members of the Iranian power elite in Europe, says Fathollah-Nejad. “Their daughters and sons live almost exclusively in the west.” “But it is quite possible to examine the sources of your possessions, to examine certain cash flows, as is also practiced as a matter of course elsewhere, for example by the tax authorities. Such a move would hurt the power elite.”

Author: Kersten Knipp

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The original of this article “Solidarity with the protest movement in Iran” comes from Deutsche Welle.