Iran Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi)
WASHINGTON – Legislative devotion, including potent oil and bank sanctions, to
stop Iran from creating a nuclear weapon device is largely exhibit A in US
policy toward the jingoism of Tehran’s rulers.
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Robust support for Iran’s
pro-democracy dissidents – exhibit B – has played a mainly footnote role in the
Obama administration’s calculation.
Roya Hakakian, though, a founding
member of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, has been seeking to
breathe more life into exhibit B.
“What Iran does in and out of the
country goes hand-in-hand. It is inseparable,” said the critically
acclaimed author of several books on Iran.
While speaking on the panel
“Evolution of the Iranian Threat” at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies
(FDD) Forum last week, she called for a comprehensive policy toward Iran that is
not just nuclear-based.
Reared in a Persian Jewish family in Tehran,
Hakakian left the Islamic Republic with her family in 1985 and arrived in the
US. She penned a highly praised memoir Journey From the Land of No
teenage years in post- Shah Iran.
“What are the things we can be doing
and not doing?” Hakakian asked rhetorically at the conference. A glaring example
of what ought to be barred, she said, is the presence of Iran’s Defense Minister
Ahmad Vahidi in June at a bazaar in Kabul, Afghanistan. Vahidi is sought
by Interpol for the 1994 bombing of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos
“We, as Americans, paid a fortune” in Afghanistan and Vahidi is
allowed to “freely shop” in the country, said Hakakian, adding that he should be
made “persona non grata.”
Hakakian, who released in 2011 a book on the
regime’s assassination of Iranian-Kurdish dissidents in a Berlin restaurant in
1992, urged resources for Iran’s labor movement.
“Iran’s robust labor
movement has been quashed” and the international community could provide more
support. She said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has lost
legitimacy and popularity.
While a small group of scholars and Iran
specialists have long pushed for greater solidarity and support for Iranian
democrats, the Obama administration, to the chagrin of many advocates of a free
Iran, did not align itself with the 2009 democratic movement against the
In her new groundbreaking book, Assassins of the
, Hakakian documents the nefarious workings of Iran’s regime in
employing killers to murder Iranian dissidents in Germany. Her book has been
showered with praise, including a September New York Times review.
addition to being a lively account of an extraordinary trial, Roya Hakakian’s
book can be read as an unsettling reminder of the dangers of excessive zeal,”
the review said.
The contemporary relevance for Hakakian’s reconstruction
of the Berlin assassinations can be situated in Iran’s recent plot to murder the
Saudi Arabian ambassador to the US in a Georgetown restaurant in Washington. In
an interview with journalist and FDD fellow Lee Smith from The Weekly Standard
magazine, she noted that “Experts look at this plot as if there are no reference
Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani ordered the
regime-sanctioned murder of the four Iranian Kurds. To the intense
frustration of critics of Tehran’s terror operations abroad, the Berlin massacre
– like a similar 1989 killing of an Iranian dissident in Vienna by the Islamic
Republic – is airbrushed out of history.
Hakakian is loudly sounding the
The pressing question is, are governments in the EU and the
Obama administration paying attention? Benjamin Weinthal is affiliated with FDD
as a research fellow and attended the FDD Forum last week in Washington.