Coinciding with the anniversary of the assassination of Ghasem Soleimani, the Iranian parliament has been presented with a bill that is unprecedented in the 42-year history of the Islamic Republic.
The draft bill obliges the government of the Islamic Republic to take action to "destroy" Israel by 2041. It comes five years after remarks made by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declaring that there would be “nothing left” of Israel by 2040: an ultimatum that has since been repeated by anti-Israel protesters at Quds Day rallies.
In the relevant article, the bill instructs future administrations to break the “siege” of the Gaza Strip, initially by sending the first shipment of basic goods to Gaza no later than six months after the bill is enshrined as law. If anything, such a move would lead to the seizure of Iranian goods and increase the probability of a military stand-off with Israel.
The scheme presented by MPs also features other quite unparalleled obligations for the government. Among other things, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would be compelled to “urgently” draft economic cooperation agreements with China, Russia, Venezuela, Iraq and Syria – regardless of whether a reciprocal appetite for trade exists in those countries or not.
These agreements, the bill stipulates, should be prepared and presented to parliament starting in the year 2022. The Iranian government is currently seeking a 25-year comprehensive bilateral co-operation agreement with China, but according to official sources in Iran, the Chinese government is now reluctant to ratify this plan.
The bill also stipulates that the incoming US government should apologize to Iran for withdrawing from the JCPOA, and condemn the assassination of General Soleimani. Until these concessions are made, it states, the Iranian government is forbidden from bilateral or multilateral renegotiation with the US, and any officials that break rank to do so before then would be punished with lifelong dismissal from government and public positions.
Legislators involved in the drafting of the bill have also stated that if the United States agrees to resume its obligations under the JCPOA, the agreement must be re-ratified by parliament first – meaning whether or not US sanctions could be lifted would lie in the hands of parliament.
In addition, the bill also seeks to restrict the type of bilateral agreements Iran might be able to sign up to in the future. "Any negotiation,” it states, “over the Islamic Republic's weapons capabilities, the role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the region, and issues related to the Axis of Resistance, is prohibited. Offending officials are to be suspended from government posts and services for life."
This section of the bill does not exclude even negotiations with those countries in which the Islamic Republic already has a military presence, such as Iraq and Syria. That is to say, the types of activities organized by Ghasem Soleimani in Syria – and the types of negotiations that led Russia to intervene in the Syrian conflict – would in effect be made illegal.
The draft bill also seeks to encourage other countries in the region to cut off their military cooperation with the United States in exchange for military support from the Islamic Republic of Iran. It decries US military operations in the Middle East as "terrorism" and states: "The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to cooperate in defense matters for at least five years with any country that forces the terrorists to leave, at the request of the host government and after an agreement on costs is reached. The foreign minister is obliged to formally report this commitment to the host governments."
According to this bill, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Expeditionary Quds Force would also be "allowed to pay rewards to individuals or groups involved in engaging with those involved in the assassination of Ghasem Soleimani or expelling the United States from the region".
If approved, the bill would also compel future administrations to ring-fence a proportion of the proceeds from government exports to Iraq to be used as a reward for the assassination of the killers of former Quds Force commander Ghasem Soleimani. The government would also be forced to define an “international currency” at a time when the value of Iran’s national currency is falling on a daily basis.
In addition, it would see asylum seekers in Iran receive Iranian citizenship if they take up arms for military arms of the Islamic Republic such as the Fatemiyoun Brigade. This in turn could prove an incentive for poorer citizens in neighboring countries to come to Iran.
If this bill becomes law, it would oblige the government of one sovereign state and member of the United Nations to attempt to destroy another UN member state. As such, doing so would create untold new international diplomacy issues for the Islamic Republic. In addition, by setting a reward for the assassination of General Soleimani’s killers, it positions Iran as the culprit for any action taken in the future regardless of where it stems from.
The designers of the bill also appear to be bent on making it very difficult for Iran and the US to resume relations under the terms of the JCPOA, regardless of the extent to which the next administration is aligned to them. As it stands, in any event the government of Hassan Rouhani cannot re-enter negotiations without the approval of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, rendering this part of the bill practically meaningless. Khamenei could also amend or invalidate this would-be Act of Parliament through a leader’s decree or the Supreme National Security Council.
In sum, the bill appears to be a signal of the collapsing state of intelligent governance in the Islamic Republic of Iran. At best, it can be read as a propaganda stunt; at worst, if passed by parliament, it could make conditions for the country even worse for decades to come.