By John Perry*
Iran is presently the subject of vigorous public discussion as experts debate over what is the right policy for dealing with escalating tensions between the Iranian regime and the West.
A key component that has been overlooked for too long is the organized Iranian opposition. Thousands of Iranians recently rallied in London to remind participants in that debate, particularly in Europe, of the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people and their coalition of opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). https://www.ncr-iran.org/en/our-resistance
Iranian exiles, their families, and their supporters highlighted their support for the ongoing popular protests across Iran, which became much more visible last year and gave rise to explicit demands for the overthrow of the religious dictatorship. The NCRI’s main constituent group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK), played a major role in organizing and promoting a nationwide uprising at the beginning of 2018. Even the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei acknowledged that the MEK had “planned for months” to popularize the message of regime change. More and more Iranian officials have been speaking publicly about the MEK in a way that it is evident Tehran recognizes the challenge it poses to the theocratic system. Such trends leave Western policymakers with no excuse for ignoring the resistance or denying the potential for domestically-driven regime change.
The London rally urged European states to stand with the brave Iranians who are challenging the regime with protests and civil disobedience despite a brutal crackdown by the authorities. https://www.ncr-iran.org/en/news/iran-resistance/26521-live-coverage-major-free-iran-rally-today-in-london Neither the London rally nor any of the popular protests in Iran have asked for financial or military support for the opposition. They have simply called on the EU to adopt a firm policy on Iran and to designate the regime’s Supreme Leader, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and Ministry of Intelligence as terrorist entities.
No Iran expert or Western diplomat can seriously dispute the fact that these entities are involved in terrorism abroad and have been responsible for domestic repression since the 1979 revolution.
Just last year, the EU put part of the MOIS and an Iranian diplomat on its list of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts and imposed restrictive measures on them for their responsibility in the foiled bomb plot against the NCRI’s grand gathering in support of a free and democratic Iran in Paris. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/fco-statement-on-iran-demarche
The rally of Iranians in London was the fifth in a series of similar demonstrations organised by the supporters of the NCRI, and the MEK, in Brussels, Washington DC, Berlin and Stockholm.
Many dignitaries and cross-party politicians and parliamentarians attended these rallies in Europe and the US to support the Iranian people and the cause of a free and democratic Iran. I took part in the Stockholm rally, because like the other speakers, I believe the Iranians are best positioned to shape the future of their country.
The Iranian regime and the IRGC have been systematically violating human rights, prosecuting, torturing and killing an uncountable number of Iranians over the course of 40 years. A prime example of this is the 1988 massacre of political prisoners, in which the regime executed over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly supporters of the MEK. https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/MDE1308152019ENGLISH.pdf
The IRGC’s destabilising interventions in the region have resulted in hundreds of thousands of innocent people being killed and have displaced millions.
Consequently, the regime is extremely unpopular among both Iranians and regional countries, and is today the greatest threat to a prosperous Iran and to stability and peace in the Middle East and the world.
In contrast, the Iranian Resistance Movement has both strong support among Iranians as well as politicians and parliamentarians from the US, Canada, Europe and the Arab world. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gc1g-hHMHT0 Its progressive leader Maryam Rajavi has presented a 10-point plan for the future of Iran https://www.ncr-iran.org/en/maryam-rajavis-ten-point-plan-for-future-iran, which envisions and guarantees a free, democratic, secular, non-nuclear and peaceful Iran, with an independent judiciary system that respects the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
I saw this first-hand when attending the Free Iran gathering in Paris last year, the rallies in Europe last month and this year’s gathering in Albania, at the new home of 3,000 MEK members formerly living in Iraq under threat from Iran’s militant proxies.
Maryam Rajavi’s vision for Iran’s future will surely be beneficial to the interests of the entire international community and I am convinced that the Iranian people and their resistance movement are our best allies for bringing that future about.
Today, the Iranian regime is at its weakest position and the NCRI believes regime change by the Iranian people is within reach. Thus, the EU does not need to directly engage in the process, but must only put pressure on the Iranian regime and hold its leaders to account for their atrocities and terrorism at home and abroad.
This does not equate to encouraging conflict or war but rather signals to the Iranian people and their Resistance movement that it has the support of an international community that recognizes the people’s aspirations for freedom and democracy.
And as Mrs. Rajavi has said in multiple speeches to supporters, such a policy will shield the EU and the West from the Iranian regime’s terrorism and “let the people of Iran do the rest.”
*John Perry is a former Irish Fine Gael politician who served as Minister of State for Small Business from 2011 to 2014. He was a member of the Irish Parliament from 1997 to 2016