Americans cannot look away from what’s happening in Iran

For almost 10 months, the American media focused on the plight and desire of the Ukrainian people to be free from the aggression of Vladimir Putin. To their credit, they have continued to focus on an issue that has profound security implications for America and the world.

However, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, there is an equally compelling quest for freedom against a brutal dictatorship that has been terrorizing its people for over 40 years but has not received nearly enough attention. Arguably, the destabilization of the Iranian regime by its own people, with the potential for it to fall, is also an important US national security interest.

Can Americans support the Ukrainian and Iranian people at the same time?

Some of the questions are related, so connecting the dots is easy. “Iran is now at war with Ukraine; Tehran has taken its fight against the West to Europe,” says an article by two experts at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies 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-standing war against the West, freedom and American values.

Many Americans are not fully aware that during the recent protests in Iran, hundreds of innocent people have been killed, thousands arrested, and many tortured by a regime that is one of the world’s most notorious and long-standing human rights abusers. In the name of realpolitik and, in part, the pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran, US administrations have turned a blind eye to Iran’s human rights record.

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

When has it ever been good for America – or any nation in the free world – to ignore its own values ​​in order to appease an authoritarian tyrant? The Iranian regime will not change; it is irreversible. The Iranian people are not asking for arms, but for international vocal support to recognize their right to protest, speak freely and decide their own destiny. They are a non-violent movement and the support they want is the megaphone of the free world.

The current protests are unique in their size compared to previous demonstrations, bringing together almost every ethnic group in Iranian society. In the 2019 protests, the appeal was economic; in 2009 it was triggered by the rigged election of a thug hard-liner for president. Today, it is against the very legitimacy of the regime and its suffocating theocracy.

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According to the human rights organization Hengaw, “Iranians of all ages, ethnicities and genders joined the demonstrations, but mainly the younger generations took to the streets. This wave of protest was initiated by women. But everyone else joined in. Women and men are shoulder to shoulder. All of Iran is united.”

A ruthless authoritarian nation backed into a corner with limited options will do anything to survive. The regime’s response to the accelerated uprising will test the will of the Iranian people and the will of America and its allies in the Middle East. One of the regime’s strategies may be to divert attention with provocations against America and its regional partners, hoping to provoke a kinetic response. The strategy would rely on the proud Iranian people to rally around their flag and even support the hated regime against foreign aggressors.

Retired adm. James Stavridis said: “Hatred of America has long proved a driving force in Iran. The regime could launch a crisis with the United States out of desperation. An easy way to do this would be to assassinate an American official. Our retaliation, if mishandled, could allow the regime to rally the Iranian people around a besieged flag.” In August, the Justice Department charged an Iranian with plotting to assassinate former National Security Agency adviser John Bolton.

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

Too many in the Biden administration apparently still hope for a return to the Iran nuclear deal. This would undermine US long-term security interests in a stable Middle East and increase the possibility of a regional war with an economically enriched authoritarian regime. And this would condemn the Iranian people to decades of violence, torture and oppression.

This is not the page of history that America should be on for our values ​​and long-term interests. As Ronald Reagan said, “We know too well that war comes not when the forces of freedom are strong, but when they are weak. That’s when tyrants come into temptation.” 7

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


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