The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the U.S. representative office arranged a virtual meeting on Wednesday as a socially-distanced alternative to its annual in-person conference of American supporters and Iranian expatriate activists. The online gathering was held to commemorate Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, which started on Saturday and marked the beginning of the year 1400 on the Iranian calendar.
The event’s high-profile attendees spoke to a virtual audience of Iranian-American activists and members of the NCRI, who officially came from nearly every state in the United States.
The former deputy commander of the U.S. European Command, retired General Charles Wald, based much of his analysis on Iran’s abuses and the nuclear deal, admitting that it was well-intentioned but had significant shortcomings, compounded by well-practiced manipulation by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Wald urged the U.S. to look for a new, more far-reaching deal that calls for immediate and unlimited extensions of Iran’s nuclear activities while still addressing the regime’s other malign activities, rather than continuing to refuse to take the first step back toward the status quo.
Almost every speaker at the event related to the regime’s abuse of its own citizens, which has reportedly intensified in recent years as anti-government sentiment has become more widespread and outspoken.
Protests started spreading throughout the country in December 2017, and by the middle of January 2018, the movement had spread to between 100 and 150 cities and towns. The next national uprising took place in November 2019, with the same anti-government slogans emerging in nearly 200 different locations. In his remarks on Wednesday, Ambassador Marc Ginsberg referred to that last uprising as “Bloody November,” referring to the fact that Iranian authorities opened fire on crowds of protesters almost immediately after the uprising started, killing about 1,500 people.
Reuters confirmed in a special report on December 23, 2019, about the deadly crackdown on November nationwide protests in Iran the death toll of 1500 that was announced by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) on December 15, 2019.
Former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security Robert Joseph explained the current regime as “a brittle dictatorship that can and will be overthrown,” but that it will happen as a result of the same kind of domestic pressure seen in January 2018 and November 2019.
According to the former State Department official, the United States’ position in this is primarily to avoid interfering with the Iranian Resistance movement and to avoid “feeding the beast” that is the current regime by granting sanctions relief or allowing it to extend diplomatic and trade ties.
Soona Samsami, the head of the NCRI’s U.S. representative office, said in her speech that “the Iranian year 1400 will be different from all others” in terms of opportunities for the civilian population to form a new government if western actions do not provide Tehran with a lifeline.
She stated that the existing regime is in the midst of a “profound political, economic, and social crisis,” which Iranian activists have been leading in recent weeks with resurgent protests in various geographic and social areas.