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Building Democracy, Peace And Prosperity For Ordinary People Of Iran – OpEd

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A modern and socially progressive Iran that supports its neighbours, and doesn’t pursue nuclear weapons or suppress the views of its people: that’s the dream of the 2015 Iran nuclear weapons deal envisioned by proponents in the West. However, following President Trump’s recent withdrawal from the nuclear agreement known as the ‘Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’ (JCPOA), a broader view of Iran’s foreign policy, and a view that seeks to better understand the full range of activity developed by Iran’s mixed system of government is now more urgent than ever.

In protests across 140 Iranian cities held in December and January, the Iranian people demanded exactly this sort of broader recognition. With chants like “let Syria go, think about us” and “the enemy is here” many protesters highlighted perceived inadequacies in the Islamic republic’s mixed system of government in which the executive, judiciary and parliament are overseen by a complex network of influential groups and committees made up of religious leaders, and overseen by a Supreme Leader.

Key concern’s running through these protests were the Iranian government’s domestic promotion of anti-Western propaganda, constraints on free speech and extraordinarily high levels of violence in the region. And with chants of “death to [Supreme leader] Khamenei” and “death to [President] Rouhani” protestors also made clear their very particular demands for wholesale change of both personnel and existing governmental structures.

Notwithstanding the constraints imposed by the JCPOA, Iran is thought to have continued efforts to develop the missile technology necessary to launch the nuclear weapons prohibited by the international agreement: and many Iranians argue their republic has continued to reap the financial rewards of the international agreement while the people have been starved, tortured, and even executed.

In other words, although for different reasons to President Trump, many Iranian people believe that the status quo established by the JCPOA cannot continue.

For many in the West, the complexities of politics across the Middle East often renders interpretation and understanding incomplete because systems of government appear opaque, and political nuances often too subtle to fully comprehend. However, we should be knowledgeable about contemporary politics in the Middle East because human rights, social progress, and the long term economic prosperity of countries like Iran are, after all, directly and equally important to those of us in the West.

In that light, useful perspective is developed by considering recent remarks by Iranian officials themselves that preceded President Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA.

Speaking to the Iranian labour minister in Qom on April 27, a senior ayatollah, Javadi Amoli, characterised those in charge of Iran’s economic affairs as inept and told the country’s governing officials, “If there will be an uprising, all of us will be thrown into the sea… we have nowhere to escape to.”

To some extent, these statements represent a tacit admission that the real prize of the JCPOA has largely eluded ordinary Iranian people because much of the foreign currency generated by the international agreement has gone to “the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and cronies of the clerical regime”. The argument is that the economic benefit created by the JCPOA has rewarded only the political actors who are responsible for confrontational foreign policies, persistent nuclear ambitions, and the missile tests that violate the international agreement. It’s tough to imagine how this interpretation could be any worse.

In effect, the JCPOA had established an international accord within which the Iranian government had everything to lose and the Iranian people had little to gain. The loss of the United States’ support for the JCPOA combined with the widespread domestic unrest that has continued beyond the protests of December and January, driven by a variety of domestic problems including Iran’s currency losing half its value in twelve months, means the Iranian system of government is now more vulnerable than ever before.

So, outside the JCPOA, it seems the people of Iran might have everything to gain by pushing for a new agreement and fresh policies that are in line with a new emerging reality in the region. Some important aspects of this emerging reality were highlighted in a recent statement by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Pointing to the domestic protests of December and January, NCRI President Elect, Maryam Rajavi declared that the Iranian people are committed to regime change and that “the end of religious dictatorship in Iran is a requisite for regional peace, democracy, security, and stability.” If indeed regime change proves to be a goal of the United States withdrawing from the JCPOA, it would appear time for Western observers to recognise that goal has ready partners.

The NCRI’s main constituent group, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MEK), which previously provided intelligence on Iran’s nuclear weapons program to the West, advocates democratic values and peace within a future Iranian state that represents the interests of ordinary Iranians, who are arguably among the most pro-western of any country in the Middle East.

Supporting efforts to build representative democracy, peace and prosperity for the ordinary people of Iran isn’t just consistent with Western values; it’s not even just the right thing to do; it’s also good policy for building a secure future for everyone if the JCPOA collapses, and hopefully take Iran’s nuclear ambitions with it. The NCRI vision of how that future will be achieved is to be debated on June 30 when the organisation holds its annual international gathering in France. There are few certainties in the midst of this new and emerging reality provoked by President Trump’s JCPOA withdrawal, but the international community could do worse than pay attention to the June 30 gathering when considering how it can help secure human rights, social progress and long-term economic prosperity for Iran. The alternative is to do nothing and risk everything.

Regardless of exactly what policies emerge in the wake of discussions over the fate of the JCPOA and the NCRI Gathering, one thing is already clear: Those policies will hold more promise than the status quo for many ordinary Iranians.

Dr

A modern and socially progressive Iran that supports its neighbours, and doesn’t pursue nuclear weapons or suppress the views of its people: that’s the dream of the 2015 Iran nuclear weapons deal envisioned by proponents in the West. However, following President Trump’s recent withdrawal from the nuclear agreement known as the ‘Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’ (JCPOA), a broader view of Iran’s foreign policy, and a view that seeks to better understand the full range of activity developed by Iran’s mixed system of government is now more urgent than ever.

In protests across 140 Iranian cities held in December and January, the Iranian people demanded exactly this sort of broader recognition. With chants like “let Syria go, think about us” and “the enemy is here” many protesters highlighted perceived inadequacies in the Islamic republic’s mixed system of government in which the executive, judiciary and parliament are overseen by a complex network of influential groups and committees made up of religious leaders, and overseen by a Supreme Leader.

Key concern’s running through these protests were the Iranian government’s domestic promotion of anti-Western propaganda, constraints on free speech and extraordinarily high levels of violence in the region. And with chants of “death to [Supreme leader] Khamenei” and “death to [President] Rouhani” protestors also made clear their very particular demands for wholesale change of both personnel and existing governmental structures.

Notwithstanding the constraints imposed by the JCPOA, Iran is thought to have continued efforts to develop the missile technology necessary to launch the nuclear weapons prohibited by the international agreement: and many Iranians argue their republic has continued to reap the financial rewards of the international agreement while the people have been starved, tortured, and even executed.

In other words, although for different reasons to President Trump, many Iranian people believe that the status quo established by the JCPOA cannot continue.

For many in the West, the complexities of politics across the Middle East often renders interpretation and understanding incomplete because systems of government appear opaque, and political nuances often too subtle to fully comprehend. However, we should be knowledgeable about contemporary politics in the Middle East because human rights, social progress, and the long term economic prosperity of countries like Iran are, after all, directly and equally important to those of us in the West.

In that light, useful perspective is developed by considering recent remarks by Iranian officials themselves that preceded President Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA.

Speaking to the Iranian labour minister in Qom on April 27, a senior ayatollah, Javadi Amoli, characterised those in charge of Iran’s economic affairs as inept and told the country’s governing officials, “If there will be an uprising, all of us will be thrown into the sea… we have nowhere to escape to.”

To some extent, these statements represent a tacit admission that the real prize of the JCPOA has largely eluded ordinary Iranian people because much of the foreign currency generated by the international agreement has gone to “the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and cronies of the clerical regime”. The argument is that the economic benefit created by the JCPOA has rewarded only the political actors who are responsible for confrontational foreign policies, persistent nuclear ambitions, and the missile tests that violate the international agreement. It’s tough to imagine how this interpretation could be any worse.

In effect, the JCPOA had established an international accord within which the Iranian government had everything to lose and the Iranian people had little to gain. The loss of the United States’ support for the JCPOA combined with the widespread domestic unrest that has continued beyond the protests of December and January, driven by a variety of domestic problems including Iran’s currency losing half its value in twelve months, means the Iranian system of government is now more vulnerable than ever before.

So, outside the JCPOA, it seems the people of Iran might have everything to gain by pushing for a new agreement and fresh policies that are in line with a new emerging reality in the region. Some important aspects of this emerging reality were highlighted in a recent statement by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Pointing to the domestic protests of December and January, NCRI President Elect, Maryam Rajavi declared that the Iranian people are committed to regime change and that “the end of religious dictatorship in Iran is a requisite for regional peace, democracy, security, and stability.” If indeed regime change proves to be a goal of the United States withdrawing from the JCPOA, it would appear time for Western observers to recognise that goal has ready partners.

The NCRI’s main constituent group, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MEK), which previously provided intelligence on Iran’s nuclear weapons program to the West, advocates democratic values and peace within a future Iranian state that represents the interests of ordinary Iranians, who are arguably among the most pro-western of any country in the Middle East.

Supporting efforts to build representative democracy, peace and prosperity for the ordinary people of Iran isn’t just consistent with Western values; it’s not even just the right thing to do; it’s also good policy for building a secure future for everyone if the JCPOA collapses, and hopefully take Iran’s nuclear ambitions with it. The NCRI vision of how that future will be achieved is to be debated on June 30 when the organisation holds its annual international gathering in France. There are few certainties in the midst of this new and emerging reality provoked by President Trump’s JCPOA withdrawal, but the international community could do worse than pay attention to the June 30 gathering when considering how it can help secure human rights, social progress and long-term economic prosperity for Iran. The alternative is to do nothing and risk everything.

Regardless of exactly what policies emerge in the wake of discussions over the fate of the JCPOA and the NCRI Gathering, one thing is already clear: Those policies will hold more promise than the status quo for many ordinary Iranians.

*Dr Paul Monaghan is an academic and business consultant, and writes on political and humanitarian affairs and the application of democracy in both Europe and the Middle East. As a former Member of the United Kingdom Parliament, Dr Monaghan works with governments and non-governmental organisations across the Middle East informing social and foreign policy. He holds a psychology degree and a PhD from the University of Stirling and contributes to several research centres and publications.


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One thought on “Building Democracy, Peace And Prosperity For Ordinary People Of Iran – OpEd

  • May 22, 2018 at 10:48 am
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    Good article, recommend it to those who follow Iran’s politics

    Reply

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