The president of the Iranian regime called it “good news.” The world, however, looked on with deep concern and condemned the latest provocation by Iran’s theocracy in enriching uranium after 18 years of pursuing a covert nuclear program that many suspect is aimed at producing nuclear weapons capability. The Iranian regime seeks the nuclear capability to bolster its drive to dominate the Muslim world and threaten regional and world security from a position of power atop a new “Caliphate,” (Islamic empire). This has been the dream of Khomeini’s Islamic fundamentalists since their usurping of the Iranian revolution of 1979. Regime ideologues have long pointed to Iran’s rightful place as the leader of the Muslim world in imposing their narrow and regressive socio-political and economic model, diametrically opposed to democratic and human rights values.
The West has misread the mullahs dangerously and for too long. Western analysts and intellectuals have unsuccessfully strained to identify an eventual sobering of Iran’s fanatically fundamentalist vanguard and to discern signs of an emerging pragmatism that they hoped trade and engagement would have brought about, as the logic would have it. But the more the West engaged in critical and constructive dialogue, the more the mullahs learned that they could game the system and win their way while pulling the wool over the eyes of Western leaders too wary of conflict and firmness. Leveraging Iran’s oil and gas wealth, its enormous market potential, their political clout in the region, and their unspoken but distinct terrorist capabilities, the mullahs of Iran blackmailed and took Western policy in the region hostage. A feeble and self-centric European and American response that was a product of a commercialized foreign policy failed to check their thirst for expansion and the realization of their “Islamic Caliphate” dream.
In 1998 the Clinton Administration offered Iran’s Khatami a sacrificial lamb (the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq / MEK / PMOI) by listing the legitimate resistance movement to the mullahs as a foreign terrorist organization. Clinton and his Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, went further in 2000 and actually apologized to the mullahs about past American intervention in Iran. Most Iranians thought that apology should have come when a democratic government was in place in Tehran and saw it as a tactless gesture to Iran’s new despots. It didn’t do the Administration any good with the mullahs either because as they say on the Iranian street, “Give a mullah a hand and he’ll want your arm.”
Europe didn’t fare any better in understanding the dynamics of the Iranian problem. The Europeans fell head over heels and were not to be outdone by the Americans. Jack Straw admitted recently that he personally intervened at the Ayatollahs’ entreaties to put the MEK on the British proscribed organizations list in 2000. The Foreign Office, under Mr. Straw’s direction, also played an instrumental role in pushing the MEK’s name on the EU terror list as well in 2002.
It would be fair to ask what terrorist acts the MEK had participated in to deserve the listing. The answer to that question lies in Mr. Straw’s and Mr. Martin Indyke’s admissions that both the US and the European listings were goodwill gestures to Tehran. The British government admitted that the MEK posed no security threat whatsoever to US, British, or EU interests. A sixteen month long investigation by seven US agencies of thousands of MEK members in Iraq found no links to terrorism either. A commercialized foreign policy that wished for a sobering of Iran’s mullahs amorally used the MEK to bribe the mullahs into becoming respectable members of the international community. It simply didn’t work.
Now the game is up and the cards are on the table for all to see. Western bribes didn’t mollify the mullahs, the Iranian regime now has an advanced secret nuclear weapons capability and an admitted overt break-out capability, it is clamoring for wiping nations and peoples off the face of the earth, it has already wiped out a generation of Iranian freedom-lovers and continues to wage a brutal campaign to suppress Iranian society and in particular women, it is militating for the formation of a “Global Islamic Rule,” and fomenting sectarian violence in Iraq and terrorism throughout the Middle East. It’s time to admit that the world needs to change course on Iran and do so rapidly if it wants to avoid facing the horrible consequences of a devastating conflict.
Iran’s Islamic fundamentalist regime has an Achilles heal: the Iranian people and a diametrically opposed Muslim opposition that challenges the mullahs’ supremacy in interpreting the Islamic faith, namely the Mojahedin-e Khalq. The MEK is the only Muslim movement calling for and supporting a secular state. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance (NCRI), recently told the European Council of her parliament-in-exile’s 10-point plan for future Iran:
“1. From our point of view, the ballot box is the only criterion for legitimacy. Accordingly, we seek a republic based on popular vote.
2. We want a pluralist system, freedom of parties and assembly. In Iran of tomorrow, we will respect all individual freedoms. Expression of opinion, speech and the media are completely free and any censorship or inquisition is banned.
3. In the free Iran of tomorrow, we support and are committed to the abolition of the death penalty.
4. The Iranian Resistance will establish the separation of Church and State. Any form of discrimination against the followers of all religions and denominations will be prohibited.
5. We believe in complete gender equality in political and social rights. We are also committed to equal participation of women in political leadership. Any form of discrimination against women will be abolished. They will enjoy the right to freely choose their clothing.
6. We want to set up a modern legal system based on the principles of presumption of innocence, the right to defense, and the right to be tried in a public court. We also seek the total independence of judges. Cruel and degrading punishments will have no place in future Iran.
7. We are committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and international covenants and conventions, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture, and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
8. We recognize private property, private investment and the market economy.
9. Our foreign policy will be based on peaceful coexistence, international and regional peace and cooperation, as well as respect for the United Nations Charter.
10. We want the free Iran of tomorrow to be devoid of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction.”
The NCRI and MEK deserve the moral and political support of the free world as they strive to change the brutal regime that rules Iran today. They do not seek nor do they need financial or technical support. They are resourceful and intelligent and supported by a vast number of Iranians inside Iran and abroad. All that is needed is for the West to realize the error of hampering them with a terrorist tag in a vain attempt to win favor with the mullahs. They are the world’s best hope for peace and democracy in that troubled region which might potentially be the starting point for a catastrophic war. As Maryam Rajavi told the European Council just last week, “I have come to say that the international community is not required to choose between the nuclear-armed mullahs or a war.” She then offered her solution to the Iranian crisis as the third option which was: “Democratic change by the Iranian people and their organized resistance,” and stressed that “making concessions to the mullahs is not the way to avoid war. It would increase the possibility of a war. It is necessary to react quickly. We do not have much time.” The world would be better off heeding this call sooner rather than later.