As the Iranian regime prepares itself for upcoming parliamentary elections on 14 March, I am reminded of a day in Turkey exactly 18 years before it, when the mullahs’ brutal nature and their support for terrorism became a stark reality for me. On 14 March 1990, in mid-afternoon I was sitting next to the driver taking me to the Istanbul airport, when suddenly a car carrying four men blocked our path. Another car pinned us in from behind. Seconds later, two men, one from the front car and one from the car behind, raced out with automatic guns. As they approached, I opened the car door and rushed at them carrying only a small briefcase. One of the men fired nine bullets. I was shot in the chest and stomach and gravely wounded. As the second man tried to fire a coup de grace, his gun jammed. The assailants fled.
Luckily, I live to tell the tale. However, many others cannot say the same, as the regime’s terrorism has killed innocent civilians in their thousands. The Qods Force, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) extra-territorial wing was behind the attempt on my life and it is now supporting terrorism in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine.
Iranian elections this March will act as a clear indication of the IRGC’s ever growing control over Iranian politics, adding to its unprecedented control of Iran’s economy and military. With Iran’s Guardian Council rejecting candidates in their thousands, Iran’s Parliament will soon replicate President Ahmedinejad’s cabinet. A cabinet, which has become controlled by former members of Iran’s IRGC, many of whom have had significant roles to play in major terrorist acts across the world.
Some analysts portray the behaviour of the Qods Force as external to that of the Iranian regime. This is a considerable miscalculation of the nature of Iran’s leaders. Unlike the rest of Iran’s military, that answers to a chain of command, the Qods Force answers directly and exclusively to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. All major terrorist acts sponsored by the force and its deadly meddling in Afghanistan and Iraq take place with Khamenei’s prior say so.
The regime has no qualms in placing great emphasis on its support for terrorist entities in the Middle East. The regime’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki â€“ who by the way was instrumental in terror attacks against Iranian dissidents while he was ambassador to Turkey â€“ attended the funeral for top Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniye in Beirut last Thursday. In yet another sign of Tehran’s ominous intentions, Khamenei sent condolences to the militia group’s chief Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday after Mughniye’s death, hailing him as a "great man".
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the Parliament-in-exile of which I am a member and which was the first to blow the whistle on the mullahs’ clandestine nuclear projects, has routinely exposed the criminal activities of the Qods Force. Most recently it revealed a number of secret training facilities in Iran, where terrorists are trained in the art of death and destruction and sent to Iraq and the wider region to inflict this bloodshed on civilians as well as Coalition forces.
If the West wishes to see an end to such terrorism they must adopt a two-pronged policy on Iran, which has been put forward by Mrs Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the NCRI. The West must adopt comprehensive sanctions against all organisations and banks affiliated to the regime. Such bodies act as the financial lifeline for all such terrorism. Secondly, there must be support for the Iranian people. The answer to the Iran problem lies with the opposition movement, fronted by the student and female population.
The largest opposition group is the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MEK) which has strived to bring freedom and democracy to Iran. However, in an extraordinary scenario, the PMOI has been labelled a terrorist organisation by the British government â€“whose Ministers have themselves admitted that this was done at the behest of the clerical regime. The PMOI has fought this terror tag in a European and British court, both of which found in the organisation’s favour.
Unfortunately, the EU and the UK government have failed to abide by the rule of law and the organisation remains listed as a terrorist entity. It seems extraordinary that they are hindering a group whose effort and emphasis has been to end the terrorist activities of the Iranian regime.
The lead-up to the upcoming parliamentary elections offers an opportunity for a change in policy towards Tehran. Already the regime’s vetting bodies have barred close to 2,000 candidates. Rather than continuing the hopeless search for so-called "moderates" in the upcoming elections, the West should look to support the Iranian population who will be boycotting the elections in their millions. An end to the restrictions placed on the Iranian opposition and support for the dissenting Iranian population will help bring about the democratic change that the Iranian people want and put an end to the terrorist activities of this regime once and for all.
Failure to act in such a manner will embolden the regime to intensify its terrorist activities which when coupled with its nuclear ambitions will leave peace and stability in the region a distant memory.
Hossein Abedini is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. He was seriously injured during an assassination attempt on his life on March 14, 1990 in Istanbul, Turkey by agents sent by Tehran.