Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger Courtesy

US policy toward Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran

President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are recalibrating, reassessing and reviewing military cooperation (including sale of arms) with pro-US Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The latter are lethally threatened by the anti-US Iranian Ayatollahs and the pan-Islamic, transnational, anti-US Muslim Brotherhood, which is the largest Sunni terror organization in the world, operating from Indonesia, through the Middle East, Europe and Africa to the American continent.

The US is urging its two Arab allies to make "tangible and lasting improvements" on human rights, referring specifically to the manner they fight Muslim Brotherhood terrorists (Egypt) and the Iran-supported, rogue Houthis of Yemen (Saudi Arabia). In 2011, the US opposed the way that Qadhafi fought Islamic terrorists in Libya and led a NATO military offensive against the Libyan despot, which toppled Qadhafi and transformed Libya into an uncontrollable country, a major platform of civil wars and global Islamic terrorism.

The change of US policy toward Riyadh and Cairo – as it was in 2011 - has been triggered by the decision to put human rights, democracy and multilateralism (alignment with Europe and the UN) at the center of foreign and national security policy.

At the same time, while pressure is imposed on Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the anti-US Iranian Ayatollahs are offered a lavish diplomatic and economic bonanza in return for another nuclear accord. This generous US offer is extended irrespective of the Ayatollahs' systematic track record of anti-US subversion, terrorism, war mongering, drug and human trafficking and money laundering, in addition to their history of horrendous violations of human rights, in general, and women's rights, in particular.

Iran's track record on women/human rights

Germany-based The Green Political Foundation noted on March 16, 2021: "The 1985 compulsory hijab law states that all women in Iran, regardless of their religious beliefs, must dress in accordance with Islamic teachings…. Every year in Iran, thousands of women are prosecuted for having a 'loose' hijab. Teenagers have been arrested by 'morality police' at private, mixed-gender parties for failing to wear a hijab. The law is also used to prohibit young men from wearing shorts or brand-name shirts that sport a Western look…. The women who peacefully protested against mandatory veiling in 2017 and 2018 were charged with prostitution…. In 1936, Reza Shah issued and strictly enforced a decree banning all forms of hijab in a bid to Westernize the country. In 1979, in order to Islamize that same country, Ayatollah Khomeini announced that women should observe an Islamic dress code…."

The 3rd quarter, 2020, issue of The Indonesia-based Jurnal Cita Hukum reported: "[In Iran], violence against women is a common phenomenon …. Many women have traditionally been subjected to violence…. The law does not criminalize it and has religious support to legitimize it…. Criminal regulations and laws exacerbate violence against women…. Iranian law emphasizes the power of men and the powerlessness of women…. Women are allowed to participate in some public areas, subject to the husband's permission…. Serial killings of women [wives, daughters and sisters] by men, who believe that the women prostitute themselves…. Light [if any] punishment of such behaviors is a stimulus to increase violence in society and the family…."

According to the 2019 State Department Iran Country Report on Human
Rights Practices (issued before the current reassessment of US policy toward Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt):

"Significant human rights issues [in Iran] included executions for crimes not meeting the international legal standard of 'most serious crimes' and without fair trials of individuals; numerous reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, forced disappearance, and torture by government agents, as well as systematic use of arbitrary detention and imprisonment; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; severe restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including violence, threats of violence, and unjustified arrests and prosecutions against journalists, censorship, site blocking, and criminalization of libel; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; severe restrictions of religious freedom; widespread government corruption; unlawful recruitment of child soldiers by government actors to support the Assad regime in Syria; trafficking in persons; violence against ethnic minorities [Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Lurs , Mazandaranis and Gilakis, Arabs, Balochis, Turkmens, etc.]; violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; criminalization of LGBTI status or conduct; outlawing of independent trade unions; harsh governmental restrictions on the rights of women and minorities….; "

"Most rape victims feared official retaliation or punishment for having been raped, including charges of indecency, immoral behavior, or adultery, the last of which carries the death penalty. Rape victims also feared societal reprisal or ostracism…. [Iranian] law does not prohibit domestic violence…. The law permits a man to have as many as four wives and an unlimited number of sigheh (temporary wives), based on a Shia' custom under which couples may enter into a limited-time civil and religious contract, which outlines the union’s conditions…. Women sometimes received disproportionate punishment for crimes such as adultery, including death sentences.

"Islamic law retains provisions that equate a woman’s testimony in a court of law to one-half that of a man’s and value a woman’s life as one-half that of a man’s…. In cases of inheritance, male heirs receive twice the inheritance of their female counterparts…. The law provides that a woman who appears in public without appropriate attire, such as a cloth scarf veil (hijab) over the head and a long jacket (manteau), or a large full-length cloth covering (chador), may be sentenced to flogging and fined…."

The March 8, 2021 report by the UN Human Rights Commission states that "women and girls continue to be treated as second class citizens in Iran, citing domestic violence, thousands of marriages of girls aged between 10 and 14 each year and continuing entrenched discrimination in law and practice…. By law, a girl as young as 13 years can marry, while girls even younger can legally marry with judicial and paternal consent. In the first half of the current Iranian calendar year, over 16,000 girls aged between 10 and 14 years have married, according to official Government figures…."

In conclusion

Is it logical to assume that such an abhorrent and intrinsic track record of human rights – in addition to a consistent regional and global track record of terrorism, wars, proliferation of ballistic technologies and drug trafficking – makes the Iranian Ayatollahs amenable to good-faith negotiation, peaceful-coexistence and departure from a 1,400-year-old fanatically imperialistic vision? In fact, Iran's Ayatollahs, on the one hand, and good-faith negotiation and peaceful coexistence, on the other hand, constitute a classic oxymoron.

Moreover, Middle East reality has demonstrated that – when it comes to US policy toward Saudi Arabia and Egypt - the US does not face a choice between human rights-abiding Muslim regimes and human rights-violating Muslim regimes, but between pro-US human rights-violating Muslim regimes and anti-US human rights-violating Muslim regimes.

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger is the author of , "Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative" and can be reached at https://bit.ly/31TZNbC