The international community, with the United States in particular, continues to grapple with ways to confront Iran’s nuclear defiance. Backers of the status quo urge that appeasing the reigning mullahs will finally break the impasse. They felt quite justified and encouraged by the findings of a National Intelligence Estimate report, earlier in December.
But, it seems that the appeasers’ rejoicing was somewhat premature. The NIE was correct in finding that Iran seems to have halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. But what it failed to report was that the program had been relocated and restarted in 2004, according to the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which first unmasked Tehran’s clandestine nuclear program in 2002.
That said, the NIE’s reference to the mullahs’ nuclear weapons program, speaks volumes about the Iranian regime’s nature, intentions, and strategic direction.
Back in the 1980s, Khomeini called war "a divine blessing because it rejuvenates the soul." Ideological fanaticism, notwithstanding, the bloody patriarch’s zeal for war rested atop pragmatic grounds.
In general terms, the Iranian regime was founded and sustained by two objectives: Oppression at home and terrorism abroad. Any retreat from these objectives constitutes a red line for the mullahs. Unable to compromise on strategic matters, the regime needs to compensate by imposing itself on the world stage through other means. Put simply, it needs the bomb to survive.
In October, the United States decided to blacklist the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, or IRGC, and its extra-territorial arm the Qods Force, for proliferating weapons of mass destruction and supporting terrorism. The IRGC is the main entity tasked with the implementation of the regime’s twin objectives of oppression at home and terrorism abroad.
Although the U.S. decision to blacklist the IRGC dealt a strategic blow to the mullahs, it is as yet insufficient. In fact, the Iranian regime has forged ahead with its own war, and is busy reaping the succulent benefits.
The regime’s ruthless crackdown at home as well as aggressive rhetoric and equally vile deeds beyond its borders make this abundantly clear. A Majlis (parliamentary) deputy, for example, boasted, "Every car that explodes in Iraq, postpones America’s threats [toward the regime] for another month." Similarly, the state-run daily Kayhan noted, "The fate of our nuclear program will be determined not at the negotiating table, but in the streets of Beirut and Baghdad."
Indeed, the ghoul of Iran’s fundamentalism is already descending from a mountain of skulls extending from Beirut to Baghdad. Sadly, however, the West’s response has been lopsided and alarmingly dawdling. In the current circumstances, all that is required for a catastrophic event to occur is for the same fundamentalist regime, with the attributes and patterns of behavior it has exhibited during the past 30 years, to get close to obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Imagine a situation where the regime has actually obtained its first bomb. It would certainly feel secure enough to violently expand Islamic fundamentalism throughout the Middle East and gain undisputed hegemony.
Clearly, then, those who advocate ‘peace’ and dialog with a murderous tyranny turn out to be the most vociferous promoters of war in practice.
Thirty years of appeasement and dialog have produced the exact opposite of what the West had in mind: a more brazen fundamentalism in Iran engulfing the region. The West must realize that as long as tyranny rules Iran, peace cannot be achieved, and war cannot be avoided. Our goal should be a democratic Iran, and not to strike a deal with a mischievous, unpopular, and fragile theocracy.
To achieve democracy in Iran, however, neither appeasement nor military intervention provides the final solution. As the Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi told the Council of Europe in October, there exists a third option: democratic change by relying on the Iranian people and their organized resistance movement. This is the only option that averts bombing Iran or an Iranian bomb.
Iran’s main opposition, however, has been shackled in the West at the behest of the murderous mullahs. The first practical step toward a free Iran would be to remove the unjust and illegal terrorist label from the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran. On Nov. 30, a specialist court in Britain, the Proscribed Organizations Appeals Commission, ordered the U.K. government to remove the terror label from the PMOI, calling the latter’s proscription "perverse."
Similarly, in December 2006, Europe’s Court of First Instance ordered the EU to de-proscribe Iran’s legitimate opposition movement. Therefore, obeying the rule of law has provided the West with a face-saving opportunity to rectify a huge policy blunder.
As long as the mullahs remain in power in Iran, the somber threat of them obtaining a nuclear bomb will be real. This makes it all the more necessary to support the removal of the mullahs from power through Iran’s vibrant democratic opposition. We have no time to lose.
Ali Safavi is a member of the National Council of Resistance, Iran’s parliament-in-exile, and president of Near East Policy Research, a policy analysis firm in Washington, D.C. (www.neareastpolicy.com)