eye on iran blog 88.
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Posted by Ali Kazemi, Virginia, USA
The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has long been recognized as the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. It has funded, trained and armed several terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The discovery of Iran's extensive and clandestine uranium enrichment has only added to the international apprehension.
The US has had economic sanctions against Iran for 26 years. It has been a failure. Only Israel and Uzbekistan joined the US in the sanction. But even if other countries were to join, there is little evidence that would change Iran's direction. The suffering that sanctions bring is almost entirely imposed on the Iranian people. The regime will continue to function and will even use the sanctions to oppress the people. It will tighten its economic control even more and the rewards that it bestows on its followers become irresistible. That is what Saddam did that during the years that Iraq was under economic sanctions.
The EU has had a policy of "Constructive Dialogue" with Iran for many years. That too has been a total failure. The EU has made several offers for more advanced nuclear reactors and expanded trade packages. They also guaranteed nuclear fuel delivery at the market rate, which would be 1/3 of what it would cost Iran to make. All these offers have met with Iran's steadfast refusal to halt its uranium enrichment. This leaves little doubt about its real intentions for uranium enrichment.
Using the current methods of carrot by the EU and stick by the US, the West will never be successful in getting the IRI to be less of a menace internationally. These policies have failed because in both cases the unspoken assumption has been that IRI has the best interest of Iranians in mind. The US and the EU are democracies and the democratically elected governments need to be sensitive to the needs and wants of the governed or they won't stay in power. They have instinctively, but erroneously attributed similar motives to IRI. But the IRI is a totalitarian system and such a regime would collapse as soon as it starts caring about its citizens. This simple fact is the key to success in dealing with the IRI.
The West needs allies in dealing with the mullahs' regime. The natural allies are the Iranian people themselves. Iranians have been the biggest victims of the regime. Most Iranians do not support the Islamic regime and want to have good relations with the West. This is the Achilles' heel of the regime. The mullahs know it too. In 2002 when the government's own pollsters asked Iranians if they wanted to have normal relations restored with the US, 74% said yes. But instead of a policy change it got the pollsters arrested. They were sentenced to eight years in prison for "propagating against the Islamic Republic" and "selling intelligence to foreigners". This is a frightened regime that is desperate to hide the depths of its unpopularity.
You might wonder then why do Iranians put up with their government and not elect better leaders. As reported in the Western media, Iran has the usual organs of democracies such as an elected president and congress.
But what is almost never mentioned in the media is that the Iranian people are not allowed to freely elect their presidents or congressmen. Only candidates that are from the ruling circle and proven to be loyal to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei can run in Iranian elections. They have even codified the pre-vetting process. A committee selected by the Supreme Leader has to approve every candidate for every national election. In the last presidential election over 1000 candidates were rejected and only allowed 4 to run.
Furthermore, the president has no actual powers and can be dismissed by the Supreme Leader at anytime. The same is true for members of congress. Iran has a Potemkin government. It is entirely for show. The power legally and practically belongs to the Supreme Leader and no change to the system is allowed without his approval. So people cannot vote their leaders in or out of office. The actual leaders are the unelected Supreme Leader and his appointees and even the for-show government is pre-selected by the Supreme Leader.
A government that knows it has majority support does not act the way the IRI has been acting from its very inception. IRI treats Iranians as the enemy, not citizens. They have executed over 150,000 political prisoners. They try their opponents in Revolutionary Courts where the accused have no rights. The judge and the prosecutor are often the same and the prisoners are tortured until they confess. They are executed for charges such as "Fighting the Will of God" or "Spreading Corruption on Earth". The regime's assassins have killed hundreds of Iranian dissidents including many exiles in Europe.
The rulers of Iran have closed most information outlets from the citizens. Access to the Internet is limited and thousands of political websites are blocked by the government. Ownership of satellite dishes is illegal. Hundreds of newspapers and magazines have been shut down. Journalists and bloggers are imprisoned, tortured and killed.
Canadian Journalist Zahra Kazemi was photographing a demonstration by the families of political prisoners outside Tehran's Evin prison. She was arrested, brutally raped and tortured. She died from her injuries 19 days later. IRI refused to return her body to her son who lives in Canada. A former staff physician in Iran's Defense Ministry who escaped Iran recently stated that he examined Kazemi in the hospital, four days after her arrest. He said Kazemi showed obvious signs of brutal torture and rape. This is the fate of many dissidents in Iran. Her case was reported in the Western media because she was a journalist and a Canadian citizen.
During the cold war, Soviet bloc dissidents such as Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn received a lot of attention and support from the West. Lech Walesa was a well-known name in the West. He received the Noble Peace Prize and addressed a joint session of the United States Congress. Walesa was a shipyard worker whose first demand was an independent union.
Mansour Ossanlou is a bus driver in Iran. He wants an independent union for the bus drivers. In May he was imprisoned and savagely beaten (They tried to cut his tongue off.). The bus workers had a strike in protest, but over 3000 government-paid thugs attacked the demonstrators and over 500 of the workers were imprisoned. Unlike Walesa's, Ossanlou's detention has received minimal media attention in the West.
Nelson Mandela, the imprisoned leader of the African National Congress (ANC), was a highly respected figure in the West for his opposition to Apartheid. But you have probably not heard about Manouchehr Mohammadi, the secretary general of the National Association of Iranian Students. He is still in prison for his role in student protests of 1999. He was tortured and held in solitary confinement in a 3.5'x6' cell after he went on a hunger strike. He is dedicated to non-violent resistance. His sister and father went to the Ministry of Information, but instead of getting help, they were arrested. On July 31, his brother, Akbar Mohammadi, a student leader, died in prison after his hunger strike. Unlike Mandela, Mohammadi's cause is not celebrated in the world media.
The diplomatic efforts over the past few years to get IRI to limit its nuclear ambition has had the negative effect of giving them a world stage instead of isolating them. For many years the human rights record of Iran was intentionally ignored so as to not detract from Europe's so- called "Constructive Dialogue" which has proven to be a total failure. US and Europe should vigorously and relentlessly ask for an end to human rights violations. That is the soft underbelly of the regime - not the nuclear enrichment.
Many times, the Iranian people have shown their courage in opposing the Islamic regime, but they lack an important element for their success. Hope. It is hard enough to risk one's life and liberty as well as risking the family's well-being, but without hope it is almost too much to ask. People need hope in order to continue risking their lives. Iranians have seen over and over again when a person speaks or writes contrary to the regime's wishes, he is imprisoned and tortured or killed. There have been no consequences to Iranian regime's abuses. The Iranian dissidents feel totally ignored, isolated and forgotten by the world. The regime does not feel isolated. It is time to reverse the situation.
The following are a few suggestions on how to bring attention to IRI's treatment of its own people.
Iran's regime is an outlaw government. It has openly and continually broken multiple international laws by supporting international terrorism. It should be ostracized and isolated internationally. European governments should recall their ambassadors from Tehran and reduce the status of their embassies to interest sections. They should demand the same from the Islamic Republic. There is also a good case for expelling Iran out of the UN. It has broken several of its rules; the most recent one was to call for the destruction of Israel, a UN member country.
Many high-ranking officials of the Islamic Republic cannot travel to European countries because of their roles in the assassinations of dissidents. But the ban should be universal and also apply to people they kill inside Iran. Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran's notorious prosecutor, has been implicated in torture and death of several dissident prisoners. This June he led the Iranian delegation to the opening session of UN's Human Rights Council in Geneva. (Ponder for a moment the sick irony of that.) Canada's request for his arrest and extradition for the murder of Zahra Kazemi was unsuccessful.
The Iranian regime is an organized criminal entity and should be treated as such. All members of an organized crime entity should be prosecuted for the group's crimes. Iran's leaders should not be allowed to travel freely around the world. There should be a legal framework created to arrest and prosecute them if they ever leave Iran.
Under Apartheid, South Africa was not allowed to participate in the Olympics and the World Cup for 28 years. Iran is under a gender and religious apartheid regime that is far more vicious. At the very least Iranian sports teams should be banned from the international competitions.
Iran imports many of its tools for censorship and repression from abroad. Iran now uses SmartFilter, US-made software, to censor websites. Iran has also been using imported jamming equipment to prevent people from hearing and seeing radio and television broadcasts from abroad. Every effort should be made to prevent the Iranian regime from receiving such technologies and equipment for censorship.
Finally, there should be more attention paid to Iran's courageous and suffering dissidents. Unfortunately there are many faux reformers who want to tinker with the Islamic Republic system without fundamentally changing it. We do not pay enough attention to dissidents who are genuine believers in a liberal democracy.
Totalitarian systems are more robust than most people realize. They have only collapsed in one of two ways. The first method is what happened to German Nazis and Cambodian Khmer Rouge, military defeat by foreign countries. The other time collapse is when they attempt reforms like the Soviet Union and its bloc. All totalitarian systems are terrorist states. They only stay in power by terrorizing their people. Without terror their collapse is certain.
But such systems only attempt reforms when they experience a crisis of confidence in the leadership. We need to seriously undermine the confidence of the Iranian regime. These measures will help make it harder for them to continue their reign of terror. In the end we want the Iranians to rid themselves of the dictators but we should be willing to give them a helping hand. By allying ourselves with the Iranian dissident democrats we can avoid the costly and perilous military action that might result from the inevitable failure of our current policies. So forget about carrots and sticks.
Mr. Kazemi is a writer living in Virginia. His previous nonfiction pieces have been published by TCS Daily and Iranian Times. He was born and raised in Iran.
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Previous blog entries:
Why Israel and why now?
Iranians are also feeling uneasy at present
Forget the consensus
Israel safe from Iran, US not
Between a rock and a hard place
Failure Between fact and propaganda
Failure of the theocratic state
Kaleidoscope of madness
A dangerous distraction
Making the threat real
The propaganda war
A ticking bomb
The true threat
In the light of history
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