In recent days we have heard a lot about the new American Administration’s approach to Iran. Much can be said about the merits of the new policy and where it is going to lead. The Iranian regime apologists and advocates of appeasement argue that a tough stance will lead to war which, considering the disastrous interventions in Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011), will in turn lead to further disaster in the Middle East and probably more terrorism by the likes of ISIS. Proponents of this analysis fail to admit that appeasing the dictatorship in Tehran for over three decades is a reason behind the chaos in the Middle East.
The other option, the option of war, is disastrous, yes, but what about a Third Option. Simply put, this third option suggests that the social ills and the level of repression in Iran show that the regime is weak and crumbling from within. If the West stops supporting the regime against the wishes of the people of Iran, they will be able to bring about democratic change that is beneficial not only to Ir nian people but also to the region and the wider world. This option was first proposed by Maryam Rajavi, the Iranian opposition’s president elect for the transition period, during a conference in the European Parliament in December 2004. The uprisings in 2009 proved her correct, but the new US administration of that time failed to see this, and the people of Iran, and of course the region, paid a heavy price for Obama’s misguided policies that led to the current dilemma in the Middle East and to the rise of President Trump in the US.
For a long time the West has been appeasing Tehran in the vain hope that the so called ‘moderates’ will emerge and Iran and its terror machinery would be contained. The main outcome of this policy has been the carnage that we see today not only in the Middle East but also in Europe and the rest of the world. The book Islamic Fundamentalism – the New Global Threat was published in 1992 by a senior member of Iran’s parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). The author, Mr Mohammad Mohaddessin, heads the Foreign Affairs Committee of NCRI. In other words, since 1992 the leaders of the world were warned about the menace of a regime of mullahs (equivalent to medieval theocratic rulers) who control the massive resources of a rich country like Iran, and how this menacing phenomenon would affect the rest of the world.
Early in January this year we heard that one of the two pillars of the Iranian regime died. Rafsanjani has been dubbed as a moderate leader by many media outlets which fail to mention his life record. He was the chief of the army during the Iran-Iraq war; an eight year war, the longest in recent history, that resulted in a million dead and many more wounded and maimed, in addition to over 1000 billion USD of damages to both countries. During his time as commander in charge of the armed forces, i.e. the regular Army and the IRGC (Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards), he was the mastermind of recruiting children who he described as “disposable soldiers”, for the war.
After the war, when Ayatollah Khomeini died, Rafsanjani and Khamenei removed the position of Prime Minister and divided the power between themselves; the latter becoming Supreme Leader and Rafsanjani became President. In his time as President he organised extrajudicial killing of dissidents inside and outside of Iran, ordering and closely following the murder of several hundreds of Iranians including Professor Kazem Rajavi, NCRI’s ambassador to Switzerland in Geneva in 1990, Iran’s former Prime Minister Shapoor Bakhtiar in France (1991), and Mohammad Hossein Naghdi, NCRI’s Representative in Rome (1993). He was also involved in the mass execution of over 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988. In addition, he was wanted by courts in Germany (for the assassination of Kurdish leaders in 1992) and Argentina (for the bombing of a Jewish centre in 1994), for links to terrorist activity in these countries. He was also behind the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996 (19 American servicemen died).
The case of the bombing of the Jewish centre in Buenos Aires is still causing controversy in Argentina and prosecutors are following it. Rafsanjani was also a mastermind behind Iran’s nuclear program. On 27 October 2015 in an interview with Iran’s official news agency IRNA about Iran’s nuclear programme he said: “Our basic doctrine was always a peaceful nuclear application, but it never left our mind that if one day we should be threatened and it was imperative, we should be able to go down the other path”; i.e. the nuclear weapons path. Now if this is the record of the ‘moderate’ in this regime then you can guess what sort of creatures are the ‘hard-liners’.
Now let’s look in brief at Iran’s history since before the revolution in 1979. Iran under the Shah was despotic. No opposition was allowed to exist and there was a phoney parliament, almost all the MPs were members of the party created by the Shah, called Rastakhiz. He seized absolute power after a coup d’état against the only democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Dr Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. The young Iranians, like everywhere else in the world, wanted to take part in the system of running the country and when the opportunity came in 1978-79 they poured into the streets and demanded change. Because of a lack of democratic institutions during the time of the Shah, the mullahs who were in control of an existing network of mosques were in the position to usurp the leadership of the movement.
Ayatollah Khomeini took control at the helm while the ordinary people trusted him, as people would naturally trust an Archbishop in the UK. But he betrayed this trust and a much more aggressive repression, compared to the time of the Shah, started in Iran. The young Iranians who where the backbone of the 1979 revolution did not want this. They were calling for fair and free elections, a genuine republic rather than a theocracy, rule of law, an end to the death penalty, and the guaranteeing of all sorts of freedoms and rights including freedoms of association, assembly, and speech, the right to choose your own clothing, and the right to elect and be elected regardless of sex, ethnicity, skin colour or religion.
Obviously Khomeini and his cohorts could not accept this. He had a vision that he had published in a book called ‘Absolute Rule of the Clergy’. Like Hitler’s Mein Kampf, in this book Khomeini talked about his vision of an Islamic Caliphate under his rule. Iraq was for him like Austria was for Hitler, the first step to this global caliphate. Eight years of war with Iraq was to “capture Jerusalem via Karbala” (the holy city south of Baghdad), according to Khomeini. What Khomeini failed to achieve during the Iran- Iraq war was given to his successor by the coalition war in 2003. To gain the support of Iran for the war with Iraq, the coalition, i.e. the US and UK governments, made a deal with Iran in Geneva days before the start of the bombings. The coalition agreed to crush the Iranian opposition members in Iraq and in Europe in exchange for the Iranian regime staying out of Iraq. But the mullahs, deceitful as they have always been, did not keep their part of the deal and infiltrated Iraq with Revolutionary Guards and its Qods (Jerusalem) Force branch. That is the main reason behind the current situation in Iraq and the rise of ISIS.
When in 2014 al-Baghdadi announced his plan for the creation of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) I started writing in social media that it is foolish of the American Administration to attempt to side with the de facto Islamic State of Iran, Iraq and Syria (ISIIS) to push back ISIS. Following President Bush’s mistakes, the Obama administration, from 2009, went into extremes in neglecting international law and making concessions to Iran in order to make a deal on the nuclear front. The price of this misguided policy has been dire. One such price was paid by the Iranian opposition members in Camp Ashraf, Iraq. In 2004 they were recognised as ‘protected persons’ under Geneva Conventions by the coalition. They were foreigners in an occupied land and the coalition had a responsibility to protect them.
But in 2009 when President Obama took office he was as determined to leave Iraq as he was to make a deal with Iran on the nuclear front. Hence the residents of Ashraf were put under the thumb of Iranian regime proxies in the Iraqi government of Nuri al-Maleki. Since 2009 over seven lethal attacks were carried out against these refugees. Three attacks in Camp Asharf, the home they had built over 26 years, and then after they were forced to leave their home for what was dubbed a TTL (Temporary Transit Location) in a camp ironically called ‘Liberty’, four more rocket attacks there resulted in a total loss of 177 lives (some 28 were killed by a medical blockade of both camps). International Liberty Association became involved in an international campaign for the humanitarian task of transferring the residents of Camp Liberty to safe third countries. And this was accomplished in September 2016. A few dozen were taken to EU countries and most, nearly 3000, of them were finally transferred to Albania. A great achievement indeed. During this period the perseverance, integrity and ingenuity of the residents of Ashraf, now referred to as“Ashrafis”, turned them into symbols for the people of Iran who are thriving for freedom and better living conditions.
The other price of the misguided policy vis-á-vis Iran was, and is, being paid by the people inside Iran. The regime’s human rights violations have been condemned 63 times by various UN bodies; the latest last December in the General Assembly. The Iranian regime, being the number one executioner of people per capita, has been condemned numerous times by numerous rights organisations for public and arbitrary executions, mistreatment and torture of prisoners, stoning, gauging out eyes, cutting off hands and limbs, and incriminating activists of any sort; human rights, children’s rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights, and environmental activists, as well as journalists. Photos of public hangings and amputation machines haunt the civilised world.
Recently, pictures of Iranians sleeping in graves shocked the world. Iran is one of the richest countries in the world. Yet over 70% of the people live below the poverty line. This includes teachers and workers whose salaries are far below the poverty line defined by Iran’s officials. The workers, teachers, nurses, bus drivers, … who demonstrate in Iranian cities at every opportunity they can find, have a common slogan: pay our wages and salaries instead of sending the money to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and …
What can be done?
Evicting IRGC from all countries in the Middle East is the first move. Iran’s economy is under the thumb of IRGC. If IRGC is recognised for what it is, a terrorist entity that is terrorising the people in Iran and the region, then their funding can be monitored and curtailed ignificantly.
Western companies must refuse to deal with this terrorist entity. In simple words to stop terrorism, we must freeze their funds. Next, keep Iran under check until executions end. The world must stop dealing with the Iranian regime unless its human rights record improves. Executions must stop, particularly the execution of children.
Iran, given the socio-economic conditions there, is like a volcano ready to erupt. In June 2009 we could see the lava flowing from this volcanic society. By curtailing resources of the oppressors, the IRGC and VEVAK (Iran’s suppressive intelligence apparatus), democratic change in Iran can soon become a reality. The death of Rafsanjani, a significant pillar holding the regime together, has also provided new opportunities for the people of Iran and of course the rest of the world.