The Beast that is Iran—Condemn, Isolate, Confront Using International Norms Commentary
Pavellllllll / Pixabay
The Beast that is Iran—Condemn, Isolate, Confront Using International Norms

Indeed, the geopolitical landscape is complex, especially when discussing Iran’s involvement in various global issues. Central to these concerns are allegations of Iran’s support for Russian aggression against Ukraine, its perceived stance on Israel, and its role as a destabilizing force in the Middle East.

Firstly, Iran’s relationship with Russia has raised apprehensions, particularly regarding the conflict in Ukraine. Although Iran has not been directly involved in the conflict, accusations of tacit support for Russia have surfaced. Iran is accused of aiding and abetting the crime of aggression that the Russian Federation is perpetrating against Ukraine. They should be called out for this and held accountable appropriately.

Secondly, Iran’s rhetoric concerning Israel, often described as genocidal, has been inflammatory. Certain leaders have made statements perceived as calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. This has fueled existing tensions in the region and heightened concerns about Iran’s intentions and stance towards Israel. Their constant drumbeat of aggression against Israel, using surrogates in Palestine, Lebanon, and elsewhere, violates international norms and amounts to international crimes. The recent criminal attack by Hamas against Israel, allegedly conducted under orders from Iran and involving the use of Palestinians as human shields, is indicative of their disregard for the rule of law.

Moreover, Iran’s involvement in various conflicts and proxy wars across the Middle East, as well as its support for militant groups, has indeed contributed to regional instability. These actions pose challenges to international peace and security by exacerbating existing conflicts and tensions, such as those in Yemen. Iran is considered a pariah state, one that only respects power and strength. Therefore, the international community must adopt a ‘fist in a velvet glove’ approach to condemn, isolate, and confront Iran. Its foreign policy contradicts international norms, and Iran refuses to join the international community as a responsible state within the UN paradigm.

To address these concerns, a strong, determined, and long-term multifaceted approach is necessary:

  1. Diplomatic Engagement (the velvet glove): Encourage diplomatic efforts to engage Iran in dialogue, urging them to renounce aggressive rhetoric and actions, especially concerning Israel, and to promote regional stability. Establishing dialogue channels with Iran is crucial. Diplomatic efforts should focus on addressing concerns regarding Iran’s actions in Ukraine, emphasizing the importance of respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity. Engaging in constructive talks could potentially lead to clarifications of Iran’s stance, fostering trust and reducing tensions.
  2. International Pressure and Sanctions (the fist): The international community should utilize targeted sanctions to pressure Iran into reconsidering its destabilizing activities, while maintaining avenues for diplomatic discussions. Targeted sanctions, rather than broad punitive measures, should be employed to pressure Iran into altering its behavior. These sanctions could specifically target entities or individuals involved in supporting aggressive actions or destabilization. The objective is to incentivize Iran to recalibrate its policies while keeping channels open for meaningful dialogue.

Should this approach fail, which it most likely will, broader and more punitive measures must be adopted to make it too costly for Iran to continue its current behavior. Iran’s daily violations of the United Nations Charter principles necessitate a clear understanding of the concept of red lines and the severe consequences of crossing them.

  1. Regional Cooperation: Encourage cooperation among Middle Eastern countries to foster stability and counteract Iran’s destabilizing influence through joint security initiatives and dialogue. Collaboration among Middle Eastern nations is pivotal. Building regional alliances focused on security and stability can help counterbalance Iran’s influence. A unified front can promote dialogue, cooperation, and shared security strategies, reducing the opportunity for Iran’s disruptive actions. This cooperation also enables more consequential punitive actions when and where necessary.

Each approach requires careful calibration, considering the nuances of Iran’s domestic politics, its regional ambitions, and the perspectives of other key players in the Middle East. Combining these strategies in a coordinated and nuanced manner could pave the way for addressing Iran’s aggressive actions while aiming for stability and peace in the region. Isolating Iran remains a viable option.

  1. UN Mediation and Monitoring: Increase the United Nations’ role in mediating disputes and monitoring Iran’s adherence to international norms, holding the nation accountable for any actions that threaten peace and security. Enhancing the United Nations’ role in mediating disputes involving Iran and monitoring its activities can provide a neutral platform for addressing grievances. Empowering UN bodies to conduct impartial investigations and verify compliance with international agreements can hold Iran accountable while maintaining diplomatic channels. However, it is important to note that Iran might underestimate the United Nations, knowing that the current weakened status of the United Nations might limit the impact of its actions.
  2. Human Rights Advocacy: Advocate for human rights within Iran, emphasizing the importance of domestic reforms and respecting fundamental freedoms, which could positively impact its international behavior. Promoting human rights within Iran is crucial not only for internal reform but also to influence its external behavior. Advocacy efforts should focus on the importance of respecting civil liberties, freedom of speech, and political participation. Improvements in human rights could potentially lead to a more responsible and accountable international stance by Iran.

International accountability for Iran’s violations of international law and norms must be an integral part of this advocacy. Consideration of options for accountability is essential in forming a firmer international response to Iran’s lawless policies.

However, any solution must take into account the complexities of regional dynamics, historical contexts, and the interests of various stakeholders. Maintaining a delicate balance between condemnation and engagement is crucial in addressing Iran’s behavior while safeguarding regional stability and international peace. The determination of regional and international players needs to be unequivocally communicated to this authoritarian regime.

Other authoritarian states, particularly Russia and China, are observing closely. This axis of evil, consisting of Iran, Russia, and China, poses a clear and present danger to democracy, the rule of law, and global stability. Democracies around the world must unite to confront the destabilizing influences of these authoritarian regimes, including the potential use of force. There are times when diplomacy and appeasement might fail, and under the force of the rule of law, we must be prepared to take the next steps. Although the rule of law is more powerful than the rule of the gun, sometimes it is necessary to resort to both.

David M. Crane served as the founding Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone. Additionally, he is the founder of the Global Accountability Network and is actively involved in a high-level group dedicated to establishing a Special Tribunal for Ukraine, focusing on the Crime of Aggression.


Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.