Pressure mounts on Tehran regime during week of spotlight and censure

“The days of impunity for Tehran and its enablers are over.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a television address in Tehran, Iran, October 13, 2017.  (photo credit: HANDOUT/REUTERS)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a television address in Tehran, Iran, October 13, 2017.
(photo credit: HANDOUT/REUTERS)
While much attention was focused last week on President Donald Trump’s belligerent words against Iran in his address at the United Nations, another anti-regime gathering was taking place across town at a Times Square hotel.
It was the “Iran Uprising” summit at the Sheraton Hotel, an event that drew 1,500 Iranian American delegates, who arrived to show their support for a secular, democratic and non-nuclear Iran. Participants came from 40 states across the United States, stretching from Hawaii to Massachusetts.
Security was tight at the hotel after news emerged that a violent attack at a military parade in the southwest of Iran killed 25 people just hours before the summit was scheduled to begin.
The summit drew huge applause during pre-recorded footage of Maryam Rajavi, leader of the self-declared government in exile known as the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), as well as clips of protesters chanting “Death to Khomeini,” but the afternoon’s most rapturous applause was for somebody wildly different.
Flanked by ten Iranian flags on stage and floating digital signs reading “the path to freedom,” a video tribute to John McCain received a standing ovation followed by vociferous chanting for the late Republican who had spoken and tweeted extensively about his support for a peaceful, non-violent overthrow of the regime in Iran.
His death last month sparked a renewed sense of support for Iranian anti-government protesters in Iran among high ranking US officials, calling into question the White House’s official position of not seeking a regime change in Tehran, even though it is reimposing sanctions that seek to paralyze Iran’s economy.
Like McCain, major US personalities, including Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and president Obama’s National Security Advisor General James Jones, expressed bipartisan support for the continuation of anti-government protests in Iran in what could be seen as the clearest signal of American incitement of a regime change in Tehran since the CIA-engineered overthrow of the democratically-elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953, also known as Operation Ajax.
“One of my last conversations with my good friend John McCain was his prediction that I would be lucky enough to be in a free Tehran,” said Rudy Giuliani, in his paid keynote address on Saturday. “And McCain is right, I will be with you in a free Iran much sooner than they [the regime] think. Instead of enduring theocracy, Iran is entitled to freedom and democracy.”
FOR MANY Iranians stateside, the past week was an opportunity to galvanize opposition to the clerics ruling Iran and show support for an alternative government ruled by Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
“Following the overthrow of the regime, a provisional government will be formed, responsible for transferring power to the Iranian people by organizing free and fair elections for a National Constituent Assembly within six months,” said Majid Sadeghpour, the political director of the Organization of Iranian American Communities.
“The Iranian Resistance, including our community, seeks a new constitution in Iran based on freedom, democracy and equality,” Sadeghpour added in an email exchange. “The mullahs’ sharia edicts, the legal backbone of the punitive laws, will have no place in tomorrow’s Iran.”
The delegates at the summit agreed. Ideen Saiedian, an account executive at a computer technology company in California, said that the latest broadside against Iran even brought Iranian Americans ideologically closer to Trump’s Iran policy.
“Both see that a prosperous future in the Middle East is one where the current regime in Iran is no longer in power, which will lead to more stability in the region, because they are meddling heavily in countries like Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon,” said Saiedian, during an intermission at the Iran Uprising summit.
“These are beliefs of Iranian Americans as well as the US administration because the Iranian regime is not only a threat to Iranians at home, but also to others around the world,” Saiedian added.
Another delegate, Navid Tavana, a biologist from Toronto, showed similar enthusiasm at this unlikely partnership between Iranians and US officials. “I can’t recall ever seeing executives, who are working so closely with the president, being so vocal about their support for a change in the Iranian regime,” said Tavana at the end of the summit.
President Trump’s address at the UN, just four days later, capped a week full of condemnation and calls of economic isolation leveled at the Tehran regime.
“The [Iranian] regime is the world’s leading sponsor of terror,” said Trump during his opening remarks while chairing the 15-member UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday. “Iran illicitly procures sensitive items to advance its ballistic missile program and proliferates these missiles all across the Middle East.”
Though not celebrated for cohesion and policy uniformity, White House executives displayed an unequivocal strategy of assailing Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the Middle East throughout the week’s diplomatic meetings in New York.
“The days of impunity for Tehran and its enablers are over,” said US national security advisor John Bolton at a United Against Nuclear Iran Summit in New York on Tuesday.
At the same summit, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added that “the Iranian regime’s track record over the past 40 years has revealed it is among the worst violators of the UN Charter and UN Security Council resolutions,” and that the time has come to “hold Iran accountable in ways that it has not been held accountable to date.”
Pompeo and Bolton spoke alongside the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia Adel al-Jubeir, the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the US, Yousef al-Otaiba, and the director of Israel’s Mossad, Yossi Cohen, signaling another unlikely partnership united in pushing for a regime change in Tehran. From the “Iran Uprising” summit, it was clear that this agenda also enjoys popular support, at least from Iranian Americans.
The writer is a British master’s student at Columbia Journalism School and is also an alum of the universities of Cambridge and Harvard.