Iran's supply of drones to Russia, as well as its crackdown on protesters, has caused many countries to finally confront the Tehran regime's abuses.
For many years, Iran appeared immune to international norms: it openly trafficked weapons illegally to Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon; it used drones to attack commercial ships, it attacked Israel, Saudi Arabia and other countries; and it engaged in uranium enrichment.
Now Iran is facing pressure on multiple fronts. More Iranian companies and individuals are being sanctioned because of their involvement in suppressing protests or sending drones to Russia.
Iran has also faced expulsion from the UN commission on women. Iranian regime figures are no longer welcomed in Europe or the US the way they used to be a decade ago.
No more Javad Zarif types are hanging out at various Western think tanks and institutions. No longer are European museums covering up images of women so the Iranian president can visit.
On another front, four countries, led by Canada, are finally confronting Iran over the shooting down of a civilian aircraft in 2020. Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 was shot down by two missiles fired by Iran's regime, shortly after takeoff from Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport in January 2020. There were 176 dead.
Iran claimed it was in error, after firing ballistic missiles at a US base in Iraq. In essence, Iran violated Iraq's airspace and illegally fired missiles at Iraq and then illegally shot down a passenger jet, murdering 176 people.
However, because Iran enjoyed acting with impunity, no one did anything. Now Canada, Sweden, the UK and Ukraine are standing up to Iran for massacring civilians by shooting down the plane.
Iran has attacked commercial ships
Will 2023 see more spotlights on its abuses? Iran has attacked commercial ships illegally numerous times in the Gulf of Oman. It mined six ships in 2019, and in 2021 it used a drone to attack a ship in the Gulf of Oman, killing two crew members.
This past year, it attacked another ship with a drone. Iran has also carried out raids using the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps against commercial ships, targeting ships linked to the UK, South Korea, Greece and other countries. Iran also harasses US naval ships in the Persian Gulf.
Iran also used drones to attack Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq facility in 2019, and also targeted the UAE. Iran frequently threatens Bahrain. Iran has also targeted US troops in Iraq and Syria, using proxies.
Iran has also used drones, flown from Iran, Iraq and Syria to target Israel. Iran also supplies Hezbollah with missiles and missile technology. Iran supplies the Houthis in Yemen with items for missiles and rockets and drones.
This year and in prior years several ships disguised as being used for commercial purposes, such as dhows engaged in trade, have been found to have weapons bound for Yemen on them. The US Navy has interdicted several of these ships.
The list of Iran's abuses is almost endless
From shooting and hanging protesters to ordering a jet with the family of a sports star to land this week, to kidnapping and assassinating dissidents, to targeting dissidents in Europe, Turkey, Iraq and elsewhere; there isn't a kind of international crime the Iranian regime isn't involved in.
It also is involved in backing gangs involved in the drug trade in Syria. Amid all these crimes, many of which were ignored for many years by the international community, Iran's supply of drones to Russia has angered many countries.
This year, 2023, may be the year Iran finally faces several Western-backed investigations for its actions. Not only is Iran being pressured by the UN because it has tried to hijack the dialogue on human rights and women's rights, but it is also facing sanctions over sending drones to Russia to attack Ukraine.
Iran has sent Russia numerous drones, and many countries are now investigating how parts produced by companies in the West ended up on the drones. Clearly, Iran, and the IRGC, are exploiting normal trade routes to acquire all sorts of dual-use technologies for the armed drones.
Iran's decision to send drones to Russia was a major flaw in the regime's logic. It usually tries to play the West and make it seem that Iran is not a threat.
However, the fact that Iranian-made drones are being used by Russia to kill Ukrainians means many Western countries now realize Iran's regime is on the doorstep of Europe.
This isn't now just an issue of the Middle East, which some Western countries preferred to ignore. The fact that major Western media often cover the "waves of Iranian drones" being used by Russia, shows how the narrative has shifted. No longer can Iran hide behind proxies or pretend it doesn't know how its weapons always end up in other countries.
Now people are laser-focused on tracing the drones and their components and on the IRGC and its front companies involved in the trade. As Iran's regime enters 2023 it is finding that it can make fewer excuses for its behavior.Many countries are finally seeing that Iran's actions are "boiling over" in terms of the regime's preponderance of illegal acts that harm both Iranians at home and threaten countries and people abroad.
Seth Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at the Jerusalem Post.