Several days ago a man with a neatly trimmed beard wearing a white turban, and professorial-looking rimless glasses featured prominently in Davos. Was it really Hassan Rouhani? Of course Rouhani is Iran's current Ayatollah-sanctioned President and should have every good reason to be at such a prestigious forum; however the man addressing Davos appeared only to share the real Rouhani's appearance.
The Rouhani addressing the conference stated that the Iranian regime "never sought and will never seek nuclear weapons" and clearly declared that "a nuclear weapon has no place in our security strategy". To hear such statements would surely make the uninformed observer beam with pleasure - such reassurance! However, it appears that a recent delegation of British politicians, like many of their counterparts in Europe and the U.S., weren't fooled.
Rouhani at Davos may have played the moderate, pragmatic man tweeting of "constructive engagement", but the real Rouhani doesn't allow constructive engagement for his own people - they aren't even allowed to tweet! The real Rouhani brags of deception, executes dissidents and even pursues them, in collusion with the likes of Iraq's al-Maliki via death squads and kidnapping outside of Iran.
On Monday, January 27, I joined a hugely experienced, cross-Party delegation from the UK parliament who met with the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Mrs Maryam Rajavi, at the council's headquarters north of Paris. The delegation was led by Lord Carlile of Berriew QC CBE and Baroness Boothroyd, and included Lord Dholakia, Lord Clarke of Hampstead, Ian Paisley MP and a number of prominent jurists.
Each delegate in turn found little difficulty in contrasting the "Davos Rouhani" with his real-life manifestation. Human Rights abuses had seen the rate of hangings double since Rouhani's election, tripling the June 2013 total by the end of the year. How, the delegation asked, can the West even contemplate any strategic easement of sanctions with a leader whose catastrophic rejection of humanity and justice had overseen the execution of over 700 of his own citizens in the year past? The parliamentarians remained convinced that Rouhani's sole mission was to preserve Iran's religious dictatorship, as he had done during his previous 30 years in senior security and intelligence positions. Quite reprehensible is the West's 'blind eye' reaction to his open boasts that he had deceived the European troika during the recent negotiations.
The British delegation that met with President Maryam Rajavi acknowledged these atrocities and called for action. That action needed to be for the E3+3 to demand a fair nuclear negotiation; one based not on 'wishful thinking' but on the fact that Iran has cheated on its obligations time and again. That means that the E3+3 should be pursuing an agreement that encompasses all U.N. security resolutions. The negotiators must not begin with a view to conceding any right of enrichment - to consider ameliorating U.N. agreements would be diametrically opposed to experience and common sense.
Further action called for by the British delegation is for uncompromising support for Iranian dissidents of Camp Liberty in Iraq. These residents have been living in constant fear, since Iraqi forces acting at Iran's behest have repeatedly attacked them. So too have their fellow Iranians in Camp Ashraf, where over 50 unarmed Iran refugees were executed on 1st September last and seven were, and remain, kidnapped. These horrific actions that have taken place during President Rouhani's tenure.
Such inhumane activity should already have been met with a concerted effort to ensure the safety of others. Yet, while our delegation have supported a compassionate approach to Syrian refugees and have pressed for positive action, it is inexplicable that the Syrian tragedy has pre-empted any decision on 72 Iranian refugees in Camps Liberty and Ashraf already processed to come to the UK but studiously ignored. Why have they been up against unexplained and implacable hindrance from our own Government for so long?
Our cross-party delegation may be labelled 'hawks' back in the UK; the naysayers may swallow Rouhani's peaceful, pragmatic and charming statements. But those living in daily fear under the Ayatollah's oppressive regime, which is represented abroad by Rouhani, know this delegation is right to be cautious - that the West is playing dangerous games with a duplicitous and insincere political personality.