Another Path in Iran

Aug 04
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By David Amess, US News
Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Western leaders should support the Iranian resistance, not appease Iran's brutal regime.

July 14 marked the first anniversary of the Iran nuclear agreement, which exchanged extensive sanctions relief for the limited restrictions on Iran's nuclear program. The occasion brought with it a renewed outpouring of criticism for what many politicians and foreign policy experts justifiably see as a giveaway to a brutal regime with a notorious record of human rights abuses and sponsoring terrorism.

Just days earlier, on July 9, Iran's democratic opposition coalition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, held its annual rally outside Paris, calling attention to the regime's ongoing domestic abuses and calling for regime change. Naturally, the event saw a great deal of overlap with the nuclear issue, as a number of prominent figures took the stage to deliver speeches in support of the coalition and in opposition to the conciliatory policies that led us to last summer's Iran dal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The rally brought these speakers together from a wide range of countries and political leanings. Republicans from the United States, like Newt Gingrich and John Bolton, joined Democrats including Howard Dean and Bill Richardson. European participants included former French Secretary of State for Human Rights Rama Yade and the former President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso. At the rally, some reiterated their skepticism about the nuclear arrangement, while others focused on the absence of the promised trend toward moderation in other aspects of the Iranian regime – a promise that helped to sell the deal to countries worldwide and to the public.

In the aftermath of the rally, the Iranian regime showed the world community more evidence of this lack of moderation. The Iranian Foreign Ministry gave rather hysterical statements denouncing some of the countries that sent delegations to the event, and in doing so, Iranian authorities made it clear that they are unwilling or unable to tolerate a peaceful demonstration even on foreign territory, much less inside the Islamic Republic itself.

All of this political action and commentary raises a very basic question about the current state of Iranian-Western relations: What is the motivation behind this policy of appeasement on the nuclear deal and its implementation?

Perhaps the simplest answer is that policymakers actually believe the deal will stall Iran's

progress toward a nuclear weapon. Yet that belief seems highly dubious, since much of the recent criticism has emphasized a lack of transparency in International Atomic Energy Agency inspections and ongoing uncertainty of Iran's baseline nuclear knowledge. Yet what is more important is that even if the nuclear issue has been resolved for as much as 10 years, as its advocates tend to claim, that does not change the fact that Iran's behavior in other areas has gotten worse to compensate

This has been demonstrated by the escalating rate of executions in the Islamic Republic, along with the recent spate of arrests of artists, writers and dual-nationals, and by Tehran's persistent refusal to compromise over support of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, or to limit the Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian paramilitary role in conflict areas like Yemen and Iraq.

These factors and many others, which were all highlighted in the speech of the National Council of Resistance of Iran President-elect Maryam Rajavi at the July 9 rally, rule out the rationale behind the nuclear agreement. It cannot be true that the Obama administration and its allies actually believe in the moderation narrative they put forward as justification for the nuclear agreement.

The recent policy initiatives suggest Obama and other Western leaders see no other alternatives. Along those lines, some advocates for the nuclear agreement did indeed make the claim that the world faced a stark choice between rapprochement and war.

If this was actually the case, adopting a self-defeating compromise in order to avoid another armed conflict would be somewhat understandable. However this last justification for appeasement is as misguided as the moderation narrative of the nuclear deal itself, and if the global media had paid more attention to the rally, people would better understand why.

There is an alternative to conciliation and war. It involves supporting the Iranian resistance movement that gives voice to the democratic aspiration of the Iranian people. Ending appeasement, even if it is a daunting task, would be the best course of action. Yet policymakers

do not seem to recognize the Iranian resistance and see the popular support it enjoys among the Iranian people; if they did, they would not need to reformulate their own policy positions.

The economic sanctions that have brought the Iranian regime to the nuclear negotiating table have edged it further to the brink of collapse, stripping billions of dollars from its repressive forces and notably the Revolutionary Guard.The regime could have collapsed and it might still. But that would require the U.S. and the EU to admit that appeasement is not the way forward with any brutal regime, least of all the theocratic regime ruling Iran that has a peaceful, democratic and credible alternative waiting in the wings.

Sir David Amess is a conservative MP for Southend West in the U.K. House of Commons and co-chair of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom.

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