News : Iranian opposition

Appeasing the ayatollahs and suppressing democracy

Professor Raymond Tanter, cofounder of the Iran Policy Committee (IPC), wrote an article on Monday in The Hill about the misguided policy of successive US governments towards Iran’s main democratic opposition group. The following is the full text of Prof. Tanter’s article:

Source: The Hill, Congress Blog
Published date: June 29, 2015

By Raymond Tanter

Concessions characterize Washington’s policy in nuclear talks with Tehran. Running out of ways to concede, there are rumors the ayatollahs may ask Washington to place the main opposition that rejects clerical rule — prodemocracy organizations — on the chopping block.

Will the U.S. administrations reach out to Tehran by sacrificing the main Iranian prodemocracy opposition, People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) / Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), or broader parliament in exile, of which it is a part — the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)? If the executive branch takes such action, many Washington pundits believe that Congress would see this as a shameful policy for our nation, and may wish to act.

London, Paris and Washington fall victim to the chess players from Tehran whose end game repeatedly trumps the major powers. But the prodemocracy opposition also plays chess. The NCRI just announced that it plans to hold another press conference about Iran’s negotiating tactics to extract concessions from the United States to maintain its nuclear infrastructure intact.

We are approaching the end game of the nuclear deadline, June 30. With too little progress, expect Tehran to demand concessions about PMOI members in Camp Liberty, Iraq, held in prison-like circumstances for the Iranian regime.

In 2002, during the invasion of Iraq, Tehran asked the Bush administration to bomb PMOI bases in Iraq, which the U.S. did despite the group’s nonbelligerent posture. Washington received Iran’s pledge not to interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs, which Tehran soon violated.

During the summer 2009 uprising in Iran, the PMOI was active in fomenting dissent; its main residence, Camp Ashraf, was attacked by pro-Tehran Iraqi forces. The State Department first

 the PMOI.

In September 2013, Baghdad’s swat teams entered Camp Ashraf and executed 52 unarmed PMOI members by shooting at them at point blank range and tying their hands in the back before execution. The State Department claimed a close ally of Iran, Nouri al-Maliki, had nothing to do with the murder or with the seven people including six female hostages.

On Nov. 13, 2015, in a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Bret McGurk, deputy assistance secretary of State for Near East Affairs, said, “In that attack there was no foreknowledge from the highest levels of the Iraqi government.” Tehran “cheered” the murders, as the Obama administration secretly negotiated with Iran before the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action.

The PMOI has been the enemy of Tehran for decades. Tehran pays more attention and dislikes it more than all other opposition organizations combined, according to one quantitative study. Why? The PMOI has been responsible for much of what we know about the nuclear program of Iran, including the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz and heavy water facility in Arak.

A June 19 2003 report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirms the PMOI as first source:

"During the General Conference, the Director General met with the Vice President, and asked that Iran confirm whether it was building a large underground nuclear related facility at Natanz and a heavy water production plant at Arak, as reported in the media in August 2002 …

"During his visit [to Iran], the Director General was informed by Iran of its uranium enrichment programme, which was described as including two new facilities located at Natanz …. These two facilities were declared to the Agency for the first time during that visit … Iran also confirmed … the heavy water production plant [NCRI August 2002, Arak]."

Regarding a February 2015 PMOI revelation of a secret site, Lavizan-3, Iran is suspected of conducting tests and enrichment with advanced centrifuge machines. And Fordow underground enrichment facility near Qom is another NCRI revelation.

NCRI intelligence revealed, during September 2009, sites in and near Tehran, where Tehran may be working on detonators for nuclear warheads. Prompted by such publicity, it acknowledged in September existence of a uranium enrichment facility about 20 miles north of Qom. By January 2012, Iran admitted enrichment at the site: Fordow.

A day after the NCRI revelation of a covert site, Lavizan-3, Secretary John Kerry appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee; he said the powers hoped to close off a covert pathway to the bomb, but admitted, “Covert, of course, is the hardest.” “You need to have verification and intrusive inspection to be able to find covert facilities.” On February 25, Kerry had called for enhanced inspections to catch Iranian cheating, but on April 9, Tehran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, said its “military sites cannot be inspected under the excuse of nuclear supervision.”

According to my research, it is time to have intrusive IAEA inspection, “anytime, anywhere,” of hidden sites; have inspectors take samples from the environment in secret facilities. Doing less, Washington may find itself at the end of the line of Churchill’s adage that an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat the appeaser last. For Washington to think that instead of pressuring Tehran to comply, it may have better success by demonizing the PMOI members in Camp Liberty, would be wishful thinking and a dangerous path to follow.

Tanter cofounded the Iran Policy Committee (IPC) and serves as its president and of Iran Policy Committee Publishing. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Committee on the Present Danger, and was for about a decade an adjunct scholar at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

For change in Iran, back the Resistance, not the regime - expert

Many United States luminaries are advocating for the U.S. government to open up "direct, collaborative talks" with the Iranian Resistance, according to top Middle East expert Dr Walid Phares.

"It represents the very thing that U.S. policy in the Middle East should be focused on—but isn’t, namely the empowerment of moderate and progressive Muslim groups for the sake of delegitimizing and marginalizing the all-too-common extremist element," Dr Phares wrote in Forbes on Monday.

A number of former US officials and foreign policy experts recently issued a statement to the US government calling for four specific policy initiatives, he said:

1) the application of stricter demands in the nuclear negotiations with Iran; 2) confrontation of Iran’s destructive and destabilizing role in the Middle East; 3) increased attention to the abysmal Iranian record on human rights; and 4) to help facilitate action on the first three points by engaging in “respectful dialogue with the Iranian opposition, consistent with our country’s policy of dialogue with all political groups.”

"A copy of the statement was presented to Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran and its main constituent organization the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, at a gathering of Iranians in Paris with more than 100,000 participants," he added.

This statement, Dr Phares argued, is significant for a number of reasons:

"First, witness the combination of the signatories which included senior former US officials and military leaders with knowledge on national security and foreign policy. And at a time of unprecedented partisan politics in Washington (particularly regarding Iran), the Policy Initiative includes both senior Democrats and Republicans."

"Second, it has identified lack of communication and dialogue with the Iranian democratic opposition by both Democratic and Republican leadership as the missing part of U.S. policy on Iran."

"Third, it offers a practical approach on nuclear negotiations with Iran as well as the crisis in the region by recognizing that Tehran’s leadership has shown no desire for abandoning its nuclear program. The regime is part of the problem—not the solution."

"Fourth, the core of the new Policy Initiative is the recommendation to 'break the stalemate' and to 'side with 80 million Iranian people and their desire, along with people everywhere, for freedom and popular sovereignty based on democratic principles' and 'engaging with the Iranian opposition.' In this respect the bipartisan collation also recognizes the role of 'Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, as a Muslim woman advocating a tolerant and democratic interpretation of Islam.'"

"The message delivered at this rally is one of broad-based change in Iran—away from the religious fascism of the current regime and towards true democracy, rule of law, respect for the rights of women and minorities, and other similar principles outlined in Mrs. Rajavi’s 10-point plan for the future of the country."

Current US policies, Dr Phares said, seem to embrace an "inaccurate and limiting narrative about the Middle East which views radicalism as a necessary element of regional culture and politics. We can see this, for instance, in the Obama administration’s efforts to encourage Iranian influence in Iraq in hopes of playing off the Shiite theocracy against the Sunni militants of the Islamic State."

"But there are few real distinctions between those two groups, and any outcome of a conflict between them is a net loss for Western interests in the Middle East. The recent policy statement makes it clear that its American signatories understand this. The document points out that the Islamic Republic of Iran is effectively the prototype for Middle East, state-sponsored Islamist extremism. It says, 'If ISIS succeeds, what the world will get is a Sunni version of Khomeini’s Iran.'"

"Conversely, even if Iran succeeds—an outcome explicitly endorsed by the Obama administration—what we will be left with in Iraq and Syria is a series of proxies under the control of the Shiite version of ISIS. While ISIS beheads its enemies and seeks to establish a region-wide caliphate, Tehran hangs political dissenters for the sake of an Islamist political system whose founder mandated the expansion of Iranian power to unify and dominate the Muslim world."

"We should not be satisfied with these alternatives. In either case we are left with a Middle East that is less stable than it might be, owing to the constant presence of sectarian discord. This has been Iran’s legacy in the region, and it will be the legacy of the continuation of a policy that embraces Iran’s extremism in opposition to another brand of extremism. The signers of the statement know this and point out that they have been warning of Iran’s sectarian influence for some time."

"So too has the Iranian resistance. This fact alone should encourage Western policymakers to recognize the resistance as a non-sectarian, moderate alternative to our current short list of prospective partners in the Middle East and the Muslim world. What’s more, its Western-friendly ideologies also provide it with popular support from among the educated, progressive population of Iran, giving the group great power."

"The significance of that power should be clear in the issues and threats to Western security behind the other three policy recommendations offered. Still, the U.S. government has evidently been loath to seriously confront Iran on its nuclear program, its actions in Yemen. Bahrain and Syria, and its constant hangings and political imprisonments. Why? Because the current administration fears the consequences of poor relations with both sides of the sectarian divide."

"But this is nothing to fear as long as we recognize that there is an alternative—and there is. The Iranian resistance stands ready to help us in putting pressure on our enemies instead of engaging them in conciliatory negotiations. It stands ready to promote Western democratic ideals in places where some policymakers seem to think they cannot soon take hold."

"The recommendations in that document do not just represent a better way forward for U.S. policy in the Middle East; they urge the fundamental realignment of a policy in favor of freedom and democracy, instead of half-measures and unprincipled pragmatism."

Dr. Phares advises members of the US Congress on the Middle East and teaches international relations at universities in Washington D.C.

June 30th deadline & Iranian regime’s plan to acquire nuclear bomb

In an online Q&A session on Monday, Mohammad Mohaddessin, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), addressed the current nuclear stalemate in Vienna and the broader nuclear negotiations between the Iranian regime and the world powers.

“It is now obvious to everyone that the [June 30] deadline will be missed. But what shocked the other negotiators during this round of talks was the fact that the Iranian regime rejected many of the parameters it had agreed to in Lausanne on April 2”, Mr Mohaddessin said.

“It is true that the regime came to the negotiating table because of the sanctions and its weakness, but the main reason Khamenei is at the table is to avoid another massive popular uprising in Iran. At the same time, the regime wants and needs nuclear weapons for its survival. Let us not forget that [former President Ali Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani in the 1990s said that having nuclear weapons will facilitate achieving the goal of dominating the region and exporting the revolution”, Mohaddessin said.

He added, “Khamenei wants to keep the regime's nuclear infrastructure intact, hence he publicly reiterated his three main red-lines in a speech last week, ruling out unconditional inspections of the regime's military sites, access to Iranian scientists and a halt in the nuclear R&D (research and development). These red-lines, among many others previously, published on Khamenei's website, stand in contrast to what the regime had agreed to in the April framework agreement.”

Mr Mohaddessin pointed out that the regime's lack of cooperation with an ongoing investigation by the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, into possible military dimensions (PMD) of its nuclear programme is perhaps the best sign that the regime has not given up on its quest for a nuclear bomb.

In this regard, the Iranian regime tries to set aside and divert the talks from the issue of ‘transparency’ to instead discussing the vague issue of ‘trust-building.’

Mr Mohaddessin emphasised that any final agreement that closes the Iranian path to a nuclear bomb must include five important parameters: “signing and ratifying the Additional Protocol Plus by the Iranian regime, full and unconditional access to all Iranian sites and nuclear scientists, complete disclosure of past PMD activities and full cooperation with the IAEA investigation into this matter as well as removing all enriched uranium from Iranian soil. Talk of sanction relief before these steps are secured will be irrelevant.”

Answering the question of how to stop the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons, Mr Mohaddessin underscored that the regime’s Supreme Leader is currently taking advantage of the weak and misguided policy of appeasement by Western governments, and in particular by the United States, to extract more concessions from them while continuing its nuclear weapons program.

“In reality, stopping the clerical regime from acquiring a nuclear weapon is impossible without addressing the other two pillars in the regime's survival strategy, which are support for fundamentalism and terrorism and domestic repression. In this regard the conflict between the regime's various factions is not because of their different nature. No, the internal tension is a direct result of pressure from the bottom of the civic society with a growing dissent against the system and its pursuit of a nuclear project that the Iranian people do not want because it has only led to increased poverty and misery”, he added.

“What is needed is a firm policy against the Iranian regime since the current series of concessions to the regime is interpreted by the mullahs as a sign of weakness”, he said in regard to what the regional countries can do to stop a nuclear armed regime in Iran.

He added, “Of course the regional countries are not part of these nuclear negotiations but they play an important role and need to persuade the West, and in particular the United States, to adopt a more robust policy against the Iranian regime, because aside from the Iranian people, the people of the region are very much suffering from the regime's aggressions in the region and its support for terrorism”.

Resistance Leader: Iranian People See Regime Change as Only Solution

By INU staff

INU -In a massive rally of international supporters outside of Paris on Saturday, Maryam Rajavi, the president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran declared that the Iranian people overwhelmingly desire an end to the system of absolute rule by religious clerics that has been in place in the country for the past 36 years. She further argued that a variety of recent protests across Iran, including coordinated demonstrations by teachers and by particular ethnic minorities, demonstrated this desire and the willingness of the Iranian people to act upon it.

Western Political Figures Endorse Regime Change in Iran

BY INU staff

INU - At a rally on Saturday by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, hundreds of political dignitaries, including dozens of bipartisan figures from the United States joined in supporting the organization’s goal of regime change in Iran. In her speech to over 100,000 supporters at the annual event held outside of Paris, NCRI President Maryam Rajavi declared that regime change is the “only fix” for various crises in the Middle East that are created or exacerbated by Iran’s fundamentalist ideologies.

Several Policy Issues Raised in Wake of NCRI Rally

By INU staff

INU - On Saturday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran held its annual rally to call for regime change, democracy, and civic freedoms in Iran. The event reportedly attracted a crowd of over 100,000 participants, mostly Iranian exiles and their families but also including activists and supporters from throughout the world. Approximately 600 political dignitaries and public personalities also attended, with many of them giving speeches over the course of the eight hour event.

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