Iran At A Crossroads – OpEd
By Reza Shafiee
No time in Iranian regime’s history has never been this crucial. This is the final stage of a 40-year long battle between the clerical regime on one side and Iranian people and the rest of the world on the other. Many have hopelessly tried over the years to talk some sense into the rulers in Tehran to take down a notch.
The US administration has made it abundantly clear that it no longer tolerates the Iranian regime hostile behavior in the region. Nor does it allow the regime to have missile proliferation program. It curiously watches Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s every move toward obtaining nuclear weapons.
A major issue for the regime is of course Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) blacklisting by the US State Department. It hurts Iran baldly since IRGC holds sway over key economic affairs. The US made good on its threat of sharply accelerate its goal of driving Iran’s oil exports to zero, ending sanctions exemptions that it previously granted to some of Iran’s biggest customers.
Another major sanction slapped on Iran was denying Iran of revenues from export of steel, aluminum and copper . After oil Iran heavily depend on the three metal for cash.
An Executive Order was issued by the White House on May 8th: “It is also the policy of the United States to deny the Iranian government revenue, including revenue derived from the export of products from Iran’s iron, steel, aluminum, and copper sectors, that may be used to provide funding and support for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorist groups and networks, campaigns of regional aggression, and military expansion.”
Leopard never changes its spots
The Iranian regime does not take blacklisting of IRGC lying down. Attacks on oil flow from Persian Golf is its way of fighting back. The regime’s fingerprints are all over it. The attack on four ships in the Persian Gulf plus a drone attack on a pipeline in Saudi Arabia claimed by Houthi rebels, have fueled tensions between the US and the ruling clerics in Tehran. The mullahs’ regime try to punch above its weight by using proxy militias in the region.
The question is why would anyone in its right mind attempt suicide. The short answer is a desperate one. The Iranian regime’s back is against the wall. Here are the reasons:
First and foremost the clerical regime sees no future for itself in Iran. Four decades of corruption have brought the Iranian economy to its knees. High unemployment especially among millions of college graduates, a huge gap between rich and poor, double digit inflation coupled with near collapsed industrial sector and a constant and deliberate destruction of environment are but a few reasons the regime is exhausted and on its knees.
Last year, Iran’s vice president Eshaq Jahangiri confirmed that “Iran is a gas chamber ready to explode at anytime. It only need a spark.” Jahangiri’s remarks are only a long-established fact that suppression in Iran has lost its efficiency. No longer ordinary citizens standby and watch their basic rights trampled. Protests of 2017-2018 in Iran have not stopped and people come up with creative ways to continue.
Mostafa Kavakebian, a ranking member of Iran’s parliament and close to Rouhani’s camp said on May 21th: “Corruption, corruption, corruption; people say that sanctions have very little or no impact on the economy comparing to money laundering, fraud and corruption at home.”
Second reason for the regime to see no prospect for future is having a powerful and vigilant opposition. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) with its partner People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) over the span of past 4 decades have threaten its existence.
Despite relentless attempts by the Iranian regime to eliminate its existential threat since 1979 revolution, the PMOI stands strong. Since early 1980s, the organization enjoyed a grassroots support in the country.
In April, Iran’s spymaster, Mamoud Alavi claimed credit for arrests of 116 teams affiliated with the MEK in the past year. The ministry’s director-general in East Azerbaijan Province said on April 24th that the MEK’s reach had expanded significantly and that 60 MEK activists were recently arrested in the province.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on January 9, 2018 said the MEK was behind the anti-regime protests that swept the country. Hassan Rouhani on January 2, 2018 told French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call that the MEK was behind the unrest in Iran and he requested (in vain) that France crack down on the group, according to AFP.
In 2018, the regime was busy executing its terrorist plots targeting MEK on EU soil and the US. The first stop was French capital with a carefully executed plan to bomb the annual meeting of the NCRI in suburban Paris. It was high priority for Tehran and a top terrorist turned diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, was assigned by Alavi to personally hand over the bomb to his agents on the ground. He was caught red-handed by the security forces and is jailed in Belgium.
Earlier, during a Persian New Year celebration in the MEK’s main residence in Albanian a terrorist plot meant for the meeting was foiled by the Albanian security forces. Also in the summer of 2018, two other Iranians working for Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) were arrested by the US authorities for plotting against the MEK in the United States. MEK has always been targeted by mullahs’ regime.
Third reason for the regime to be fearful of its future is a major shift of policy in West toward the regime. The US has taken the lead after decades of appeasement of theocratic regime in Tehran. Even its most staunched supporters in Europe have second thoughts.
For four decades the West showered the mullahs’ regime with incentive packages. Previous U.S. administrations came to the regime’s rescue when it’s needed the most. The mullahs gained plenty from the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 1991, 2001 and 2003. The two previous U.S. administrations opened the gates of Iraq to Iran’s regime and let it impose its dominion in Iraq and Syria without paying the price. For years, they turned a blind eye to the regime’s regional aggression and illicit pursuit of nuclear weapons. The Clinton administration even blacklisted the MEK in 1997, in what a senior U.S. official described as a ‘goodwill gesture’ to Tehran. (In 2012, the Obama administration was forced to delist the group by the U.S. Court of Appeals.) In a nutshell, the most important factor that has saved the regime from collapse was the policy of appeasement.
In the absence of appeasement, the regime could never have gained a foothold in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and it would have faced its end at the hands of the Iranian people. In 2009 when millions of Iranians chanted in the streets for the regime’s end, the U.S. President reached out to Khamenei. Just last week, Khamenei recounted receiving repeated letters of friendship from President Obama.
Now is the time to recognized Iranian people’s resistance for ending the clerical rule in Iran. The international community will no doubt be better off without a terrorist regime in the Middle East.
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