It is time for peace with the Iranians - opinion

It is time to awaken the hope among the Iranians to make a real change.

WOMEN WEAR face masks while shopping at a bazaar in Tehran, July 2020 (photo credit: ABDOLLAH HEIDARI/REUTERS)
WOMEN WEAR face masks while shopping at a bazaar in Tehran, July 2020
(photo credit: ABDOLLAH HEIDARI/REUTERS)
 The COVID-19 pandemic gives out signals all over the world, including in Iran. In a country of more than 80 million people, more than a quarter of a million have become infected with the virus, and more than 13,000 have died, according to official data. Iran which, unlike the rest of the world, decided to keep its gates open to China in the first weeks of the spread of the virus from Wuhan, has in fact decided to leave its citizens vulnerable to disease and economic collapse.
The ayatollahs’ regime struggles to survive the international sanctions the US has led in recent years. Unemployment and inflation rates – which lured Iranian citizens out to demonstrations in the streets in November 2019, with more than 1,500 people killed – continue to rage. And, like all over the world, the coronavirus has contributed quite a bit to a major recession of the Iranian economy. The Iranian Rial is in free fall, and has lost about 25% of its value in recent months against the dollar. The middle class in Iran lost its assets and savings in a short time.
The goal of Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is to survive the next four months until the US presidential election. This is in the hope that the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, will be chosen. In Tehran, it is believed that a Democratic president will cancel the sanctions against Iran and possibly return to president Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement. 
In the eyes of the regime, this is the last chance. But the Iranian people have already lost hope long ago.
Last week, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stood at the Majlis booth in front of conservative MPs and said, “In the eyes of Americans, we are all in the same boat, conservatives and reformists.” 
This was an attempt to defend the “smile policy” he led with President Hassan Rouhani vis-à-vis the West, which has failed miserably. He is right and wrong. They are indeed in the same boat, but not only in the eyes of the international community, but in the eyes of their public as well.
Therefore, the conditions are ripe to present US President Donald Trump’s second Middle East peace plan, but this time with the Iranian people. It is time to awaken the hope among the Iranians to make a real change. 
The Trump administration will present the Iranians a “take-it-or-leave-it deal.” Trump will propose a deal that demands Iran calls off the nuclear and missile program, stops the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps from military involvement in foreign countries and stops funding terrorist organizations. Most importantly, it will demand that Iran will hold a referendum under international supervision regarding the future of the regime. 
In return, the US will cancel the economic sanctions and help, together with Western countries and international organizations, to rebuild the Iranian economy.
Khamenei and his men will probably refuse the deal. But it can defiantly reawaken the hope of the Iranian people and bring them out to the streets again. 
Most Iranians are not interested in the nuclear program, missiles and terrorism. Evidence of this can be found in their indifference to the mysterious explosions at Revolutionary Guards sites in Iran in recent weeks. However, when the Iranians know that someone in the West supports them, hope will arise.
This is a window of opportunity to overthrow the regime in Iran and to establish peace with the Iranian people. We must not waste the opportunity without at least making the effort.
The writer is the former chairman of Young Likud.