Ted Cruz calling for release of stalled Iran human rights report

Given everything that’s been going on, I suppose it was fairly easy to overlook something as routine as a set of annual human rights reports from the State Department. It turns out that at least some portions of it are running behind schedule, but Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex) hasn’t forgotten. And in particular, he’d like to know what’s happened to the report on Iran.

A little over a month ago, five Senate colleagues and I sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry requesting information about the ongoing delay of the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. In recent days the State Department informed my office it has been unable to release the long-overdue annual report on Iran’s human rights abuses because of a scheduling conflict.

The State Department is required by law to release this report on February 25 of this year. On April 16, the department announced a further delay but gave no indication of when it might appear. Our letter requested the department release the report by May 15 or furnish a thorough explanation for the delay.

In a letter dated June 9, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Julia Frifield responded that Secretary Kerry’s rigorous travel schedule caused the delay: “The Secretary’s participation in the rollout, even if it must be delayed by his travel, elevates the report. The Secretary has needed to travel abroad for extended periods, often on short notice, during the past three months to address a variety of pressing foreign policy concerns”—thus implying that the report is complete but that scheduling conflicts with more pressing matters have prevented its release.

So this has been dragging on for more than three and a half months now. A brief delay would be understandable given all of the breaking news from foreign shores, but State has apparently been prodded multiple times at this point and have not only failed to deliver the reports, but to even commit to when they will be released. Do you suppose there could be something more than scheduling conflicts going on here?

As my colleagues and I noted in our letter, the issue of Iran’s abysmal human rights record is inextricably intertwined with its nuclear ambitions. “The history of the twentieth century,” we wrote, “elucidates a dangerous axis between internal suppression of human rights and external aggression.” There is every reason to believe that the mullahs’ willingness to oppress their own people at home would extend to their perceived enemies around the globe, if they had the means to threaten them.

Some of the numbers from the 2103 report would be shocking if you’ve never heard of Iran. They document more than six hundred state sanctioned executions (which are apparently only the “official” ones) along with the Tehran Revolutionary Court jailing pastors, journalists and bloggers in violation of basic human rights. You’d think it would be of interest all across the board.

I hate to be overly suspicious here, but you don’t suppose that releasing a really damning report while Kerry’s team is still in the midst of negotiating a nuclear deal with Tehran could put the kibosh on things, do you? That it might anger the people who are already probably not bargaining in good faith over there and simultaneously weaken support among voters at home? Naw… I’m probably just inflating all that in my mind.

This report may not be a show stopper along the same lines as passing the defense appropriations bill, but it’s clearly a priority at State which is used for a number of purposes. From their own web site.

The annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – the Human Rights Reports – cover internationally recognized individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements. The U.S. Department of State submits reports on all countries receiving assistance and all United Nations member states to the U.S. Congress in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Trade Act of 1974.

Surely somebody could roll this report out without having John Kerry there in person… if they really wanted to. And there are relationships to tend with a lot of nations all around the world. Sitting on this just to avoid a political black eye during the nuke negotiations is fairly dirty pool, assuming that’s what’s going on here. At least Cruz is poking a stick in the nest. And who knows? He might actually prod them into action.

The original version of this article listed Ted Cruz the Democrat from Texas. The story is actually about the Republican Ted Cruz. The Democrat Ted Cruz is actually a haberdasher. (Jazz)