By Giulio Terzi
The past week has seen two trips that display contrasting approaches to dealing with the challenges posed by Iran’s regime. On May 11, Enrique Mora, the Deputy Secretary-General of the European External Action Service (EEAS), traveled to Tehran to meet with Iranian officials. On May 16, 70th U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Ashraf 3, Albania, home to some 3,000 members of the main Iranian opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), where he met with Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
The trip by the EU official is more of the same failed policy, while Mr. Pompeo’s trip to Albania is a new approach with a more realistic chance of success.
There’s no denying that Iran’s regime poses a serious threat to Europe. Tehran is holding our citizens as hostages and using them as bargaining chips in negotiations. Its diplomats are spying on our citizens and plotting to detonate bombs in our cities. Tehran is dashing toward obtaining nuclear weapons. It is trying to disrupt energy markets by staging missile and drone attacks against vital oil and gas facilities in neighboring countries.
However, while the global threat of Iran’s regime has evolved over the years, our policy hasn’t. Europe’s general policy toward Tehran has remained to turn a blind eye to the regime’s belligerence and shower it with concessions, hoping that it will moderate its behavior and become a responsible player on the international stage.
The facts prove that this approach doesn’t work.
While European leaders have been cajoling the rulers of Iran, the regime has responded with increasingly provocative behavior. On May 11, Iranian authorities arrested two French tourists in Tehran. The previous week, the Iranian judiciary confirmed the death sentence of Ahmadreza Djalali, a Swedish professor who has been in jail since 2018. Both cases are highly political and part of the regime’s use of hostage-taking as a tool for foreign policy.
At the same time, Tehran is inching toward obtaining enough fissile material for an atomic bomb after stalling nuclear talks in Vienna with maximalist demands. As part of a potential nuclear agreement, the regime demands the removal of its notorious Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTO).
This is the same organization that is spreading terrorism across the globe, including in Europe. One notable case is that of Assadollah Assadi, an IRGC agent and a career Iranian diplomat who was caught red-handed while he was carrying out a major bombing plot in France in 2018.
In their rallies, the people are making it clear that they do not support the mullahs’ threatening stance toward the world. The people of Iran want housing, food security, job security, wages paid on time, education for their children, and most importantly, they want freedom. They do not want to squander their country’s wealth on building nuclear weapons, funding terrorism, and creating ballistic missiles.
The Iranian people, who overwhelmingly demand change in their country, are Europe’s greatest ally in dealing with the threats stemming from Tehran. And yet, our politicians insist on meeting and dealing with the people whose rule and power depend on maintaining those threats.
As Mr. Pompeo said in his speech at Ashraf 3, “A serious missing factor in U.S. policy towards Iran is has been the lack of political support for the organized opposition. The regime in Tehran went to the extreme to massacre 30,000 political prisoners, whose main targets and a majority of victims were the MEK. Now, to correct the Iran policy, no matter who is in the White House, it is a necessity for the U.S. administration to reach out to the Iranian Resistance and take advantage of its tremendous capabilities. Ashraf 3 is one such place to focus on.”
European leaders should heed Mr. Pompeo’s words. The explosive state of Iran’s society suggests that this regime is living on borrowed time. Sooner or later, it will be toppled by the people of Iran and their resistance movement. It is up to European leaders to decide on which side they will stand.
*Giulio Terzi (@GiulioTerzi) is a former foreign minister of Italy, former Italian Ambassador to the United States, former Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, and a member of the Advisory Board of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI).