Yousef Nadarkhani is a Muslim-born Christian pastor who faces a death sentence in Iran because he converted to Christianity. His case has aroused a wave of international condemnation, and that may be enough to save his life. He was sentenced to death, but higher authorities in Tehran appear to be backing away from that in the face of universal criticism. This may not, even so, be enough to save him from additional imprisonment. He has already been in jail for two years. The delay in execution could, in fact, reflect instead the time the ayatollahs are taking to pressure him to recant his faith and “return” to Islam.
The case is a reminder of the nature and practices of the Iranian regime. The main brunt of regime attacks has fallen on the Baha’i faith: just under one hundred Baha’i are in prison now in Iran for no other crime than their religious beliefs. The Baha’i community suffers from persecution reminiscent of the way Jews were treated in Nazi Germany: deprived of jobs, barred from schools, arrested for teaching their children in informal schools, jailed without cause, cemeteries desecrated, religious institutions shut down.
What to do about the vicious theocratic regime in Iran remains a central challenge for American foreign policy. All too often, “managing” relations with the regime is seen as our proper goal, just as “managing” the conflict with the Soviet Union was seen as the only sensible goal during the Cold War–until Ronald Reagan came along with the message that the end of that regime was our real objective. So it should be in the case of Iran.
The Council on Foreign Relations has just published a guide to thinking about Iran and policy toward Iran. It covers all the key issues and can be accessed by clicking on the image below.