The Heritage Foundation hosted a distinguished panel on Wednesday to discuss current affairs in Iran. The purpose of the event was to discuss not only Iran’s nuclear program but ways in which the Iranian regime continues to undermine the rights of their own people and support global terrorist networks.

Ken Katzman, PhD, specialist in Middle East affairs for the Congressional Research Service, assessed the prospects for a nuclear agreement with Tehran. Katzman highlighted that “Iran has about 18,000 installed centrifuges right now, enriching uranium. Reports are the U.S. wants to perhaps agree to a final settlement that will allow Iran to run maybe 3,000 or 4,000.” Tehran has been reluctant in the past to cooperate with P5 + 1, so President Hassan Rouhani may ultimately reject the West’s proposal.

Next, Ali Alfoneh, senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, claimed that Iranian human rights abuses continue to be neglected by the United States and other Western governments. “[I]n this town, the only thing that political analysts are interested in is the nuclear issue.… [B]ut when it comes to human rights in Iran, we do not see the same degree of interest among the political elites.” Given Iran’s continued human rights abuses, greater focus and external pressure are needed.

Speaking last, David Crist, PhD, author of The Twilight War: The Secret History of America’s Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran, outlined Tehran’s involvement in building a global terrorist network spanning from Hezbollah in Lebanon to South America. “Iran’s real threat to American security interest lies in a broad-based, adaptive, unconventional network that exploits areas of instability.” The U.S. remains a potential target of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as well as Hezbollah.

The event was hosted by Heritage senior fellow James Phillips, who warned that concerns about Iran’s nuclear program should not eclipse concerns over its export of terrorism and human rights abuses.

Watch the event webcast here.

See also: Top Five Foreign Policy Priorities for 2014


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Kyle Bevers is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.