Sunday, February 05, 2006

How the West can help us Iranians choose our own future and win our own freedom

Kash Kheirkhah

Earlier today Iran's president ordered the resumption of uranium enrichment and an end to UN inspections of its facilities after the International Atomic Energy Agency voted to report Tehran to the Security Council.

For days Iranian officials from Ali Larijani to the the President himself had warned that it would make such a move if IAEA voted to refer Iran to the UN Security Council.

But why? Why has Iran resorted to threats in the face of being referred to the United Nations? Didn't they already lead everyone to believe they didn't care at all about a "referral" or even sanctions?

They did. But the fact of the matter is they were bluffing and the World for the first time called their bluff in unison.

Iranian leaders know that once Iran's referred to the UN, the US and its allies can make life very difficult for them if they choose to do so. They very well know that Washington may consider using evidence of Iranian involvement in a number of past terrorist attacks-- such as Killing 300 US servicemen in the bombings of US Marines headquarters in Beirut in 1983 and bombing of the Khobar Towers in June 1996, killing 19 US servicemen and inuring 372-- against them and even call for the appointment of a UN investigator to look into Tehran’s role in them (just like what's happening now in Syria).

But more importantly, the Iranian regime perfectly knows that the current crisis has also the potential to awaken the long-suppressed longings for freedom and democracy that lie within the majority of Iranian people.

It is true that the majority of my compatriots believe they have a right to nuclear technology but it is also true that they are fully aware of the risks and consequences such technology can have at the hands of their current leaders. The Iranian people once paid dearly for mullahs' war ambitions 20 years ago and are not ready to go through such an ordeal again. What's more, they are fed up with this regime.

Believe me THAT's what has got Tehran so scared.

Since the very first day of its existence, the Islamic regime, modeling on the former Soviet Union's system, employed all possible means to coerce and intimidate the Iranian people into believing they had no choice but to accept this regime warts and all. The idea here was to disabuse the Iranian people of any hope that the opposition or West would ever be of any help to them.

And it worked. The first ten years of mass executions, brutal elimination of major Iranian dissidents (many of them in Europe as the European Governments stood aside watching) and persecution of opposing voices at home left Iranian opposition forces in total disarray. Also, In parallel with their domestic strategy, Tehran began to buy the world's silence over its dismal human rights record and its terrorist activities around the world by offering major industrial powers, fat economic contracts, thus leading the masses to believe it has the world's tacit approval to pursue whatever policy it desires to.

All these years, all the support Iranian people ever needed was to see the free world putting pressure on mullahs. Instead, the US kept ignoring both the Iranian people and the Iranian government's growing threat whereas Europe, while ignoring the Iranian people, continued its profitable relations with Iran under one of the funniest political terms in our contemporary history, "critical dialogue."

That's why the Iranian people stopped trusting the West. All these years, all we've seen from the US and its allies has been just empty talk and no action.

But now for the first time in Islamic Republic's history, things seem to be moving in a different direction. Iran's nuclear defiance has now brought the whole world together against a domestically and internationally despised regime. This new development gives the United States and its close allies an excellent opportunity to bridge the trust gap with the Iranian people and strengthen their hands in their quest for freedom and democracy. It is within this context that I believe the phrase "smart sanctions" makes perfect sense.

Smart sanctions are the sanctions that will help break the fake "untouchable" image of the Iranian regime in the eyes of its suppressed people; sanctions that would target " the Iranian officials", barring them from traveling abroad, suspending their membership in the world's most prestigious bodies such as the UN and cutting their finances, particularly their economic, military and nuclear-related trades.

It will be sanctions of this nature that will not only embolden the Iranian people into taking action, but will eventually convince Iran's armed forces ( including the Revolutionary Guard personnel) to stop supporting an ostracized regime whose existence only jeopardizes people's lives and the country's sovereignty.

The West has a credibility gap to fill with the Iranian people. It should work hard to address the Iranian people's concerns and help them regain their lost confidence in their fight against an oppressive regime. It should reach out to the Iranian people and assure them it is ready to, once and for all, stand up to a dangerous regime. That's how my compatriots can be helped to choose their own future and win their own freedom.

Related articles:

Babak Dehghanpisheh and Christopher Dickey, Newsweek - How dangerous is Iran?

Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek - Islam and Power