Americans cannot look away from what’s happening in Iran

For nearly 10 months, the American media has maintained the plight of the Ukrainian people and their desire to be free from Vladimir Putin’s aggression. It is to their credit that they focused attention on an issue that has major security implications for America and the world.

But the Islamic Republic of Iran has an equally compelling quest for freedom against a brutal dictatorship that has terrorized its people for more than 40 years but has not received nearly enough attention. Arguably, the destabilization of the Iranian regime by its own people, which may collapse, is also an important American national security interest.

Can Americans support the people of Ukraine and Iran at the same time?

Some issues are related, so connecting the dots is easy. “Iran is now at war with Ukraine; “Tehran has moved the fight against the West to Europe,” two experts at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said in an article in Foreign Policy. When Russian troops use Iranian drones to kill Ukrainian civilians while the Iranian regime is simultaneously killing its own people, American leaders need to understand that these are not unrelated events. They are part of a long-term war against the West, freedom and American values.

Many Americans are not fully aware that during recent protests in Iran, hundreds of innocent people have been killed, thousands have been arrested, and many have been tortured by a regime that is one of the world’s most notorious and long-standing human rights abusers. American administrations have taken a different view of Iran’s human rights record, in the name of realpolitik and in part for the sake of a nuclear deal with Iran.

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Speaking at the United Nations Security Council’s Arria-Formula meeting on Iran this month, Iranian activist Nazanin Boniadi tried to convince the international body that Iran’s actions against its own citizens are a crime against humanity. In a misogynistic society, women lead protests and risk their lives. According to the World Economic Forum 2017 global gender gap, Iran ranks 140th out of 144 countries in terms of gender inequality. Women in Iran are arrested, raped, sent to “re-education centers”, tortured and killed, but they persevere.

When has it ever served America—or any nation in the free world—to ignore its own values ​​and appease an authoritarian tyrant? Iran’s regime will not change; it is not reformable. The people of Iran are not asking for arms, but international vocal support to recognize their right to protest, speak freely and determine their own destiny. They are a non-violent movement and the support they crave is the megaphone of the free world.

The current protests are unique in their scale compared to previous demonstrations involving almost every ethnic group in Iranian society. in 2019 in protests, the complaint was economic; in 2009 it was spurred on by the rigged election of a hardliner as president. Today, it defies the very legitimacy of the regime and its suffocating theocracy.

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According to the Hengaw Human Rights Organization, “Iranians of all ages, ethnicities and genders joined the demonstrations, but it was mainly the younger generation who took to the streets. Women started this wave of protest. But everyone else joined. Women and men are shoulder to shoulder. All of Iran is united.”

A ruthless authoritarian nation, cornered with limited options, will do anything to survive. The regime’s response to the accelerating insurgency will test the will of the Iranian people and America and its allies in the Middle East. One of the regime’s strategies may be to direct attention with provocations against America and its regional partners in the hope of eliciting a kinetic reaction. Under this strategy, the proud people of Iran would rally around their flag and even support the hated regime against foreign aggressors.

Retired adm. James Stavridis said: “Hatred of America has long been proven to be a driving force in Iran. Out of desperation, the regime may provoke a crisis with the United States. An easy way to do this would be to kill a US official. Our retaliation, if handled clumsily, could allow the regime to rally the Iranian people to the besieged flag. In August, the Justice Department charged an Iranian with plotting to kill former National Security Agency adviser John Bolton.

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The best thing America could do is allow President Biden to use his pulpit as the leader of the free world to support the Iranian people’s nonviolent movement to decide their own destiny. During a campaign stop this month, Biden said, “Don’t worry, we’re going to get Iran out, and they’ll get out soon.” Unfortunately, the follow-up was minimal.

It is clear that too many members of the Biden administration still hope to return to the Iran nuclear deal. This would undermine long-term US security interests in a stable Middle East and increase the likelihood of a regional war with an economically enriched authoritarian regime. And that would condemn the Iranian people to more decades of violence, torture and repression.

This is not the side of history America should be on for our values ​​and long-term interests. As Ronald Reagan said, “We know very well that war comes not when the forces of freedom are strong, but when they are weak. It is then that tyrants are tempted.” 7

Dr. Eric R. Mandel is a director MEPIN, Middle East Political Information Network. He regularly briefs members of Congress and their aides on foreign policy issues. He is the Jerusalem Report’s senior security editor. Follow him on Twitter @MepinOrg.


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