DURING the long and bloody Iran-Iraq war, the United States proclaimed a policy of neutrality between the two countries, but in fact ``tilted'' toward Iraq. The reasoning was that Iran, under the Ayatollah Khomeini, was barbarous and out of control. Iraq seemed the lesser of two evils. Since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, we have come to know better. But in its campaign to rally the enemies of Iraq, the United States should beware any tendency this time around to ``tilt'' toward Iran.
Even though the Ayatollah has departed the scene, any suggestion that the mullahs who now wield power in Iran are more amenable to compromise and moderation is just not so.
Iran's record on human rights is as dismal as ever and even a UN investigation which at first attempted to whitewash Iran now is finding serious fault. Consider some of these excesses reported to the UN:
A woman prison inmate in Iran says she saw a woman and two teenagers thrown into a furnace by two prison guards she names.
A young bank employee, charged with robbery, is sentenced to 166 lashes, and then decapitated by the ``just sword of Imam Ali.''
A young vegetable vendor, charged with robbery, gets 50 lashes, amputation of a hand, and then is hanged.
Others charged with robbery have four fingers of their right hands amputated in front of a large crowd.
Security officers burn political slogans on a man's back with cigarette butts.
A man in prison is tied to a chair while dogs are incited to attack him.
There are allegations of sexual abuse of both male and female prisoners.
Arbitrary executions, trials without lawyers for the defense, and trials in secret without public monitoring all seem to be frequent. By the Iranian government's own accounting to the UN, there have been 113 executions in the past several months. The UN investigation frowns at these figures and says they are much higher than is reasonable in the civilized world. But in fact, outside critics of Iran say there are many more executions than the government reports.
The Iranian regime controls the press through restrictions on printing paper, and is said to monitor mail, letters, and telephone conversations. Many disabled veterans have reportedly been hired and placed in communications offices throughout the country to monitor telephone conversations between citizens.
Freedom of movement is restricted. The government is reported to maintain a computerized list of some 35,000 Iranians who are forbidden to travel abroad. Travel agencies issuing tickets for foreign travel must report details to the security authorities.
Members of the Bahai religious community are still subject to discrimination.
The repressive influence of the mullahs is not limited to Iran itself. As reported in this column last May, the Iranian regime reached out to Switzerland to assassinate Kazem Rajavi, an Iranian exile who had testified against the regime at the UN on a number of occasions. He was the brother of Massoud Rajavi, leader of the People's Mojahedin of Iran, which opposes the regime. Swiss police have since confirmed the involvement of ``an official Iranian agency'' in the killing.
A second, and tougher, report on Iranian Human rights abuses has just been issued by the UN's special representative Reynaldo Galindo Pohl. Professor Pohl, a citizen of El Salvador, issued a much-criticized report earlier this year that seemed to whitewash Iran. In his latest findings he confirmed that accused do appear in court without defense lawyers, and are even sentenced to death without defense counsel. Trials are supposed to be in public, but trials take place in prisons to which the public has no access. Prisoners are sometimes never informed of the charges against them.
The enormous quantity of allegations from all sources, says the latest UN report, ``provide a credible factual basis for the belief that human rights violations occur frequently (in Iran) and that government action has not been sufficient to end them.''
While such a record continues it is difficult to see Iran as a potential ally of the United States.