The national uprising of the last twelve months in Iran has launched a clear and unequivocal political message, leaving no doubt about the real desire of the people for a regime change. In response, regime officials at the highest levels, including supreme leader Ali Khamenei, have shown themselves to be particularly quick in attributing slogans such as “death to the dictator” and organizing of the revolt to the PMOI / MEK Movement, which has always been at the forefront to end the theocratic regime, its oppressive controls and violent repressions – implemented by the Iranian security and intelligence apparatus – and the immediate release of all political prisoners and for an Iran that fully respects its international obligations and rule of law.
In this regard, it is important to underline how the political platform of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) led by Maryam Rajavi has obtained an ever wider support, both internationally and among the Iranian people, and has turned into a valid, reliable and democratic alternative to a bankrupt ruling system, responsible for economic disintegration, rampant corruption, bloody repressions in Iran – and elsewhere through the regime’s “proxies” – which is definitely isolating the Iranian people.
In this context, after more than a year of demonstrations across the country against the corrupt and despotic regime of the Ayatollahs, last December 15 Iranian expatriates in 50 cities of the world met to raise awareness about the need for profound change at home. “Pro-democracy” activists denounced the recent terrorist plots against the regime’s opposition and called on foreign governments to engage in more determined policies and concrete commitments against the mullahs.
It should now be clear to the international community that the clash between the deeply unpopular theocratic regime and the increasingly influential democratic resistance is most alive. I have already had the opportunity to write how Western politicians have for too long ignored the presence of such “natural” allies in Iranian society, which now can no longer do so in a credible way.
Europe is in danger of missing a golden opportunity to contribute to a better future for the Middle East, while protests continue in different forms. The improvement of living conditions for the Iranian people and the conquest of full freedom should be an imperative for Western countries and a further motivation in shaping a common horizon in the decision-making processes that take shape at the United Nations in New York and Geneva, in EU in Brussels and Washington.
Over the years Tehran has always been frantically active in spreading a propaganda of hatred against the Resistance, depicting the Movement as a nest of “terrorists”: a practice common to all dictatorial regimes against political opponents. As an example, the way in which the same subject was used in Syria by Assad in 2011, when the so-called Islamic State was not yet born. The truth is that the Iranian regime has not only attempted to delegitimize the democratic opposition of the NCRI through the dissemination of false information, but with a strategy of targeted killings, which has been going on for many years, has also taken the path of physical elimination of political opponents residing abroad.
The terrible history of Camp Liberty and Camp Ashraf in Iraq is well known: thousands of Iranian political refugees – officially under the protection of the United Nations and the United States – had been repeatedly slaughtered by militias sent by the mullahs. In Europe, over the last twenty years, numerous murders and attempted terrorist attacks have taken place against Iranian dissidents. More recently, last March, Tehran agents were arrested in Albania while planning the attack on the PMOI / MEK headquarters, where over 2,000 members are in exile.
In June, an effective collaboration between the authorities of several European countries managed to thwart a bomb attack near Paris on the occasion of the annual meeting of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. If the attack were successful, it is unthinkable how many of the 100,000 participants would have been killed, or whether the death toll would have included the hundreds of high-profile political representatives from around the world who took part in the event.
Not long after, at the end of an investigation conducted in the United States, an Iranian citizen and an American of Iranian origin were indicted for espionage activities on behalf of Tehran. The complaint showed that the PMOI / MEK activists were the main target, with a high likelihood of terrorist attacks against them to be brought to the United States.
Finally, last October, the Danish authorities announced the arrest of a potential assassin sent by Tehran to eliminate the opposition activists residing there. This led the Government of Denmark to make a strong appeal to the European institutions and to the other Member States by bringing to everyone’s attention the real danger of the terrorist threat coming from Tehran. Almost at the same time, after a thorough investigation into the events of Paris last June, the French government unilaterally imposed sanctions on the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and some of its well-known agents. This is undoubtedly the right course of action.
But dissidents are not the only targets of Tehran’s terror plots. Matteo Salvini, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Italian Interior, recently highlighted the terrorist nature of the Lebanese Hezbollah. Hezbollah, funded and supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, operates as an armed wing of the Iranian regime around the world, with actions in Europe and Latin America over more than three decades.
At this point, it remains increasingly difficult to understand the reason why the EU is so hesitant to face this great amount of evidence. Part of the explanation undoubtedly implies a short-sighted greed. Many European nations and companies based in Europe are keen to keep access to Iranian oil and to the still unexplored Iranian markets, a sort of new “Eldorado” utterly unreal and illusory.
Italy and Spain, for example, have energetically resisted the Danish demands, as well as the commitments of France, Germany and the United Kingdom to sanction Iran for the clear violations of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which calls on the Iranian regime to avoid the development and testing of ballistic missiles and other nuclear weapons.
But another factor also weighs heavily on the collective decision-making process of the EU: Western policies on Teheran have long been paralyzed by a fundamental misunderstanding on the real political situation within the Islamic Republic. Those in charge of current policies tend to erroneously consider the Ayatollah’s resilience of power and consider any attempt to disrupt this situation as ineffective, if not harmful. What instead shows us the reality of the facts is an increasingly vulnerable regime, year after year, and this data cannot continue to be ignored for a long time.
Fortunately, to give a jolt to such a dangerous “impasse”, many exceptions contribute to the European political scene, within the European Parliament and the Parliaments of many Member States, including Italy, through a series of urgent appeals for Tehran be faced with the responsibilities of one’s attitude. Thirty-three Italian Senators recently signed a declaration of support for the Iranian people in their anti-regime uprising, praising the Iranian Resistance as the main interlocutor to bring freedom and democracy to Iran. Another initiative was undertaken by 310 parliamentarians, members of the entire political spectrum, to ask the Italian government to officially condemn the massacres in 1988 of 30,000 political prisoners and to condition relations with Tehran, at all levels, at the definitive abolition of executions.
Along the same lines, 197 members of the European Parliament have appealed to the European institutions to support an international and independent inquiry into the 1988 massacre ordered by the regime, with the personal contribution of some people who still hold important government positions. Just to mention, the Ministers of Justice chosen by the “moderate” President Rouhani in his two equally “moderate” leaders: the current Alireza Avaie and his predecessor Mostafa Pourmohammadi.
Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata