Last week, the Council on Foreign Relations invited me to a roundtable discussion it will be hosting Tuesday with the president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, who will be in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. As a longtime member of the council, I wrote back to decline the invitation and published a brief statement about why I believe that Raisi, a man who ought to be behind bars for mass murder, must not be accorded this legitimacy.
Last year, a court in Sweden found a prison official guilty of war crimes in one of the worst atrocities ever committed in the history of modern Iran. That verdict directly implicated Raisi, who was a central enforcer of the policy of exterminating prisoners of conscience, which resulted in thousands of executions carried out over about five months starting in July 1988. This judicial finding mirrored the result of an earlier prosecution in Germany, where a court ruled that Iran’s top leaders were responsible for the state-sponsored assassination of four regime opponents in Berlin in 1992.