August 14, 2019
I have long advocated for a firm policy in dealing with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and I was by no means alone among the members of the European Parliament, where I used to serve for 10 years. In fact, supporters of something like the US strategy of “maximum pressure” are not even confined to one side of the political spectrum, writes Jim Higgins (pictured, below).
They run the gamut of political affiliations and geographic locations, and if they have anyone feature in common it is probably an all-too-rare recognition of the fact that the international community has policy options which do not involve either embracing or waging war upon the existing Iranian regime.
Everything I know about fellow advocates for maximum pressure was re-confirmed last month when I attended a rally and international conference in Albania, at the recently-completed residence for 3,000 members of Iran’s leading democratic resistance group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
There, the opposition leader Maryam Rajavi (pictured, above) reiterated that “the mullahs have devastated our homeland” but also that the Iranian people are poised to “rebuild this most beautiful country”.
The event was an opportunity to celebrate the role of the Ashraf-3 compound as a newfound base of operations for activism in support of that mission. And at the same time, it showcased the MEK’s vision for the future of Iran – a vision that was already well known to most of the 350 political dignitaries who visited from 47 different countries.
Without a doubt, all of these visitors agreed with Rajavi’s description of the current Iranian government as a “murderous religious tyranny, the central banker of terrorism, and the world’s record holder of executions.” And within their own nations’ policy circles, they have surely struggled as I have with the question of why the world’s democratic powers would maintain a conciliatory approach to dealing with such a regime.
Yet that is exactly what they have done. Even the United States, under its prior presidential administration, spearheaded efforts to give away the best source of leverage over that regime, in exchange for very limited restraints on its nuclear program and nothing else.
Moreover, many Western policymakers continue to operate on the assumption that there is no organized force for regime change in the Islamic Republic, or that if a regime change were to occur, it would only lead to domestic chaos.
Nothing could be further from the truth. And the gathering at Ashraf-3 served to clarify that there is an established governing structure ready to take the place of the theocratic dictatorship. The MEK and its parent coalition the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) have designated Maryam Rajavi to lead the country through a transitional period following the collapse of the existing regime, pending the organization of Iran’s first-ever free and fair elections.
The NCRI president-elect, Mrs Rajavi, has presented a 10-point plan which offers a roadmap to achieve just that and to secure other fundamental rights for the people of Iran.
The growing tensions in the Persian Gulf should be reason enough, on their own, to encourage a larger portion of the European Parliament to push for a strategy of maximum pressure, applied through economic sanctions on all regime-affiliated individuals and institutions, along with diplomatic isolation of the Islamic Republic as a whole.
Ideally, Iranian embassies throughout Europe would be closed as part of that strategy, and this outcome should not be difficult to achieve in light of the extensive history of those institutions being used to facilitate the Iranian regime’s programs of terrorism and terror financing.
Even as recently as last year, at least a half dozen Iranian terror plots were uncovered in Western countries, including one that targeted a gathering of tens of thousands of Iranian expatriates and hundreds of political supporters just outside Paris. A high-ranking Iranian diplomat, then stationed in Austria, was arrested in connection with that plot.
Despite this, very little response came from European capitals signalling that the Islamic Republic enjoys the same unearned legitimacy as it has always enjoyed on Western soil.
But many MEPs rejected that legitimacy long ago. And so too did the Iranian people. At the beginning of 2018, the Islamic Republic was rocked by massive protests, with residents of every major city and town chanting slogans like “death to the dictator” and making no secret of their desire for regime change. Today, associated protests are still ongoing, and even the highest-ranking Iranian officials have acknowledged that the MEK plays a leading role in the movement.
Under these circumstances, it should be clear to all Western policymakers that domestically-driven regime change is attainable in Iran and that there is no greater threat of instability after that transition than before it. No other nation need directly intervene to bring about that outcome. Western powers only need to apply economic pressure, weaken the regime, and make it clear that despite the mistakes of the past, the international community is now on the side of the Iranian people and their legitimate, democratic Resistance.