Just over a month ago, an article appeared in Canada’s Globe and Mail titled “The Iran You Won’t Hear About From Ottawa.” In it, seasoned journalist Jeffrey Simpson described a Canadian businessman’s journey to Iran, in which he racked up experiences “radically different from the black-and-white reporting in parts of the Western media.”
To his credit, Simpson noted that the businessman “obviously” didn’t encounter “the Revolutionary Guard or secret police, very nasty parts of the regime.” He then casually brushed off an “appalling” warning by Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird that Iran was the “biggest threat to global peace.”
Baird, apparently, is not one to stay silent. This month, on the one-year anniversary of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s election on a moderate ticket, he published a lengthy op-ed in Foreign Policy magazine, “The Iran You Won’t Hear About From President Rouhani,” which catalogued all the ways in which the Iranian president’s promises of change culminated in just the sort of dismal reality Simpson’s “Western media” so likes to “demonize.”
Where Rouhani had promised, in “profoundly seductive” tones, dignity for minorities and co-operation with the world, a slew of human rights abuses had transpired: defense lawyers imprisoned, political prisoners beaten bloody, members of minorities executed.
Or is it figures you want? Baird’s got those too: at least 470 executed since the president’s June 2013 inauguration, an achievement for which he has since been dubbed (unofficially, of course!) “Minister of Murder.”
And what his overtures to the West? The highly-publicized prisoner releases, the humanitarian reforms, the anti-extremism rhetoric? It’s all been just talk for a year now, says Baird. Most of the “promised” prisoners weren’t even released, the “reforms” entrenched existing inequalities, and the statements against extremism have been translated into a $3.6 billion line of credit for Bashar Assad.
Black-and-white? Possibly, but not in the way Simpson meant. Baird’s demand for “reform rather than rhetoric” seems more like a sensible rule of thumb for Western journalists and leaders to go by than a “bombastic generalization.” Who’s black-and-white now?