As President Obama's nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic have dragged on, there have increasingly been calls -- from the left, right, and the Iranian diaspora community -- for Obama to couple his engagement on the nuclear front with a more direct condemnation of human rights abuses occurring inside of Iran. PBS and the BBC's recent documentaries centered around the death of Neda Agha-Soltan, as well as the media blitz that has accompanied Newsweek's Maziar Bahari's release from detention in Iran, have only added to such calls.
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This month's suspicious death of an Iranian doctor who truthfully reported the results of an autopsy he performed on Mohsen Rouholamini, the son of a prominent conservative adviser to Mohsen Rezaei, has also been receiving significant coverage. (Ramin Pourandarjani, the doctor involved, had written in his report and testified to an investigatory committee that Rouholamini was tortured to death while incarcerated by Revolutionary Guard agents.) Suffice it to say, events such as these have certainly not helped the Obama administration frame the Iran issue in exclusively nuclear terms.
And so on December 10th, the stars may be aligned for President Obama will ratchet up his criticism of the Islamic Republic. Obama will be in Oslo on that date to accept his Nobel Peace Prize. By that point, the administration's self-imposed December deadline for the end of nuclear talks will have passed -- albeit due to political infighting within Iran rather than a lack of want to actually strike a deal -- and hence giving Obama yet another pretext to increase the pressure coming from Washington. The "peace" themed nature of the award, furthermore, is unlikely to be lost on many.
Making the occasion all the more fitting (not to mention symbolic) is the fact that the regime has now confiscated Shirin Ebadi's Nobel Peace Prize from her safe deposit box. (Ironically, Ms. Ebadi was recognized in 2003 for her work as a human rights attorney in Iran.) This is the first time in the prize's 108-year history that an award has been confiscated, by a state government or otherwise.