The Obama administration acted swiftly against Russia.
The United States expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds due to Russian violations of “established international norms of behavior”. President Obama himself, in his last weeks in office, justified this action as a “necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm US interests”. As reported in aljazeera and bbc this act was part of a series of actions to punish Russia for alleged hacking of the US Democratic party and Clinton campaign, or generally phrased as “interference in the US elections”.
Despite the fact that no-one was killed and no-one was tortured, the concepts of “preventing tensions”, “restarting relations” and “promoting dialogue” were cast aside for the need for immediate punishment, due to “violations of international norms”. Obviously the Trump victory hit hard at Obama’s heart, and the alleged culprits had to be punished immediately.
In an additional act against Russia, on December 6th, the U.S. Senate passed the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (GMHRAA). After accusing Russian police of tax fraud (see russian-untouchables), Sergei Magnitsky was arrested, and died awaiting trial. His story received coverage, like the nytimes article titled “After Russian Death Inquiry Doors Open and Shut”.
As detailed in congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill the GMHRAA authorizes the President to impose US sanctions against any foreign person or entity “who are responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals in any foreign country seeking to expose illegal activity carried out by government officials or to obtain exercise or promote human rights and freedoms..”.
The question avoided by the press is why this action is not dealt out in equal swiftness and dedication, when dealing with rogue states like Iran. After all, Iran arrests dozens of innocent civilians and tortures them (see defenddemocracy, and par. 28 in UN HR Report), humiliatingly executes people, executes juvenile offenders (see par. 19 in UN HR Report) supports terrorism (see cnn), discriminates against women and non-Muslims (see par. 18 in UN HR Report), amasses fortunes by seizing property (see reuters), aggressively hacks American interests and earned the title of “emerging greatest cyber threat to the US” (see businessinsider), openly mocks the US (see nowruziran) and spreads anti-American rhetoric including calls of death to America”, still sentences people to flogging, amputations and stoning (see par. 15 in UN HR Report) and spreads instability in the ME by active militarily involvement in multiple zones (see for instance ncri). It would seem that Iran commits much more severe violations of “established norms of international behavior”, yet due to considerations prioritizing dialogue, engagement is preferred over punishment. Lucky for them, they did not target the Hilary campaign, for only then would they have crossed the Obama red lines which justifies punishment.
The usatoday rightfully called on Trump to use this new arsenal, prepared against Russia, for Iran.