Opinion

‘Free Iran’ 2018 Gathering Should Spur Next Assertive Steps By Trump White House

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Bob Blackman Conservative Member, U.K. House of Commons

Since taking office last year, President Trump has taken a series of positive steps toward changing the status quo with regard to U.S. Iran policy.

He has, for instance, shown more political courage than all of his predecessors by designating the entirety of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a global terrorist entity, instead of just its foreign expeditionary wing, the Quds Force.

Such measures point to the administration’s recognition of an important fact that has been chronically overlooked by Western policymakers: Tehran’s penchant for terrorism and political violence is not just directed against its foreign adversaries; the longest suffering victims of the clerical regime are the Iranian people themselves.

The IRGC is responsible for many of the worst crackdowns on dissent in the Islamic Republic, and backing up its terrorist designation with assertive policies including greater economic sanctions — ostensibly trending toward the “strongest in history” — the Trump administration has weakened the regime’s repressive institutions at a time when the Iranian people are in the streets demanding domestically-driven change.

President Trump has followed this with uncompromising statements about Iran’s human rights abuses and about the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people. Many advocates of the appeasement policy of the past cling to the notion that outright rejection of the Iranian regime’s claims to legitimacy would put the United States on a path to war.

Others insist that there is no established alternative to the clerical regime, although this belief is largely the product of Tehran’s propaganda, which persistently downplays the domestic threats that the regime is facing.

Of course, the White House could repudiate this propaganda and highlight the ways in which Iran’s democratic Resistance movement could be helped along by the continuation of assertive Western policies. But it goes without saying that Trump’s detractors would reject this as rhetoric without substance if it was coming from American authorities alone.

An account of the regime’s challenges and the progress of the Iranian Resistance movement is much more authoritative when it comes from Iranians themselves, and that is the type of account that was presented to the world on June 30, 2018, when the annual Free Iran gathering was held in Paris.

This year’s event was appropriately titled “Free Iran 2018 — the Alternative” and attracted approximately 100,000 Iranian expatriates from all around the world, most of whom maintain active contacts with Iran’s domestic activist community.

Speakers at the Free Iran gathering were thus able to highlight the effective organizing that has been done over the past several months by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its principal constituent group, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

The success of that organizing was most prominently on display in January when even Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Iranian regime, was compelled to acknowledge that the PMOI was responsible for the rapid spread and starkly anti-government slogans associated with a nationwide uprising that began in late December and has continued ever since.

The uprising spurred a statement from the NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi urging Iranians to realize the long-frustrated popular goal of secular democracy and civic freedom by turning the year ahead into “a year full of uprisings.”

The precise details of that goal were long ago outlined by Mrs. Rajavi in her 10-point democratic platform for the future of Iran, which calls for free and fair elections, specific safeguards on the rights of women, ethnic minorities, and religious minorities, and a commitment to peaceful relations with the whole of the international community.

That vision was reiterated and endorsed by Iranian expatriates and by hundreds of political supporters of the NCRI against the backdrop of the Free Iran gathering in Paris. It was also clearly endorsed by the Iranian public in the context of their nationwide uprising, despite the regime’s repressive response.

Mrs. Rajavi’s call to action has given rise to a wide variety of subsequent demonstrations, including strikes and protests in Tehran’s bazaar marketplace in the days before the gathering in Paris.

The clerical regime tried desperately to silence the NCRI by planning a bomb attack against the Free Iran 2018 gathering. The regime failed, however, in its efforts as the terrorist plot was stopped by the Belgian Federal Intelligence and Security Agency in coordination with other European and American counterparts.

The joint press release of the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Belgian Federal Intelligence and Security Agency reveals that an Iranian diplomat at the Austrian Embassy in Vienna was arrested in Germany in relation to this planned terror attack.

All of these developments provide essential context for the Trump administration’s potential adoption of an Iran strategy that explicitly rejects the continued rule of the mullahs while acknowledging both the widespread popularity and the essential virtues of the established Iranian Resistance movement. Those same developments could provide the administration with crucial support in presenting that strategy to U.S. allies and acquiring participation from them as the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, did during the NATO summit.

There is no better time to adopt such a strategy than now. This is as true for the nations of Europe as it is for the United States, and the national security interests on both sides of the Atlantic unmistakably align with the pro-democratic interests of the Iranian people.

Bob Blackman, Conservative member of the U.K. House of Commons for the Harrow East and member of the British Committee for Iran Freedom, www.iran-freedom.org


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.