By Hossein Abedini
Monday, 13 February 2017
As the new U.S. administration begins its work, a major challenge that looms on the horizon is how to deal with the theocracy ruling Iran. A key factor in articulating a sound policy on Iran is to understand the fundamentally violent and adversarial nature of the clerical regime.
General James Mattis, the new Secretary of Defense, has rightly described Iran as the leading source of instability in the Middle East. The Iranian regime has institutionalized terror at home and abroad. This is one of the main tasks of the notorious Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its extraterritorial arm to carry out this ominous mission, i.e. the Qods Force.
I am a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the coalition of Iranian opposition movements, with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, the principal Iranian opposition movement at its core. (The People's Mojahedin Organization is also known as MEK, which stands for Mojahedin-e-Khalq.) I for one am living proof of the clerical regime’s nefarious activities beyond its borders, because I was almost killed by one of them.
In mid-afternoon on March 14, 1990, I was sitting next to the driver taking me to the Istanbul airport. As we were discussing the state of affairs in Iran, a car suddenly blocked our path. A few seconds later another car pinned us in from behind.
In a flash, two strange men from the front car jumped out with automatic weapons. I made a decision in a split second. I opened the car door and rushed at them carrying only a small briefcase. One of the men fired nine bullets; the other man’s gun jammed. I was gravely wounded. The assailants fled. My four-month struggle for survival had just started.
I was rushed to Istanbul’s International Hospital nearby. I was in a deep coma for over 40 days, and unconscious for three months.
After the attack I underwent 14 major surgeries, received 154 pints of blood, and lost 80 percent of my liver. In one of the operations, the doctors sought the permission for an operation from my colleagues, notifying them that odds for my survival were one to one hundred.
A few days later, state TV in Tehran announced that Mohammad Mohaddessin, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, had been seriously wounded in an attack in Istanbul and had died. It became evident that he was the ultimate target of that operation.
Nevertheless, Tehran on several occasions tried to finish me off while I was recovering in hospital. In one case, the police sealed off the hospital because the Turkish president was visiting his ailing mother. In so doing, they discovered Iranian agents disguised as Turkish police officers and foiled their plot. In another instance, the would-be assassins pretended to be friends coming to visit me, but were scared off by the arrival of real visitors.
Around that same time, there were many others who were not as lucky. The renowned human rights activist Kazem Rajavi was fatally shot in Geneva in 1990, and several Kurdish activists were killed in the two years thereafter. Furthermore, Iran left its fingerprints on major terrorist attacks including the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, which killed American servicemen, and the bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association in Buenos Aires.
There is much diversity among the people who have been victims of Tehran’s unbridled terror. But none have suffered more than my fellow activists of the MEK. Two years before the attempt on my life, some 30,000 political prisoners were put to death in a single summer as part of an effort by the Iranian leadership to utterly destroy the MEK.
But in a testament to the group’s dedication and broad appeal, the MEK survives to this day and is in fact thriving as it gains support not just from the restive Iranian population but also internationally.
Make no mistake, the current Iranian government has in no way moderated its behavior, contrary to the promises of the Obama administration. Terrorism is a pillar of the survival of the turbaned tyrants in Iran. Hassan Rouhani, the current president, was the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for many years and is now its president. It was the organization that ordered major terrorist activities of the regime, including the attempt on my life, and its function remains the same to this day.
Rouhani has also dramatically increased funding for the IRGC, which is the main driving force both behind Iranian contributions to crimes against humanity in Syria and behind the well-recognized crackdown on activists, journalists, artists, and dual nationals in Iran. And since taking office in 2013 amidst Western praise for his “moderate” positions, Rouhani has overseen more than 3,000 executions.
If the administration will only make itself fully aware of the unbroken history of violence and human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic, it can only conclude that the time has come for an assertive foreign policy – one that starts by seeing the Iranian regime for what it is and putting pressure on it and particularly on the IRGC. The organization should be listed as a foreign terrorist group and should therefore be subject to serious, effective sanctions.
It is the time to cripple the Iranian regime’s terror machine for the betterment of the Iranians, the region and the world.
Mr. Abedini, Iranian parliamentarian in exile, is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.