Winston Churchill famously said “Jaw-Jaw is better than War-War.”
He was right, of course. But with Iran, the mullahs have made War-War while
engaging us in Jaw-Jaw. They have played us along with these nuclear talks.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. This extended transcript is worth the time to study. The stakes could not be higher.
This is the voice of Iran’s freedom front. It’s been said that Iran’s mullahs with a nuclear weapon is “1,000 times more deadly” even than ISIS.
Please take the time to read President Rajavi’s response to my questions: 1. In your view, why did the Iranian regime and the West fail to reach an accord on the nuclear issue despite the concessions offered by the West and especially the United States?
The most important reason is that the regime’s absolute ruler, Ali Khamenei, has not yet decided to abandon the path of developing nuclear weapons. The development of a nuclear weapon is one of the three facets of the clerical regime’s survival strategy. The two others are repressing both the citizenry and the opposition (particularly the Mujahedin-e Khalq or the MEK), as well as regional aggression. The absence of any one of these three elements would spell the collapse of the regime’s entire strategy, opening the floodgates for popular uprisings.
Despite their insatiable appetite for western concessions, the mullahs do not want to lose power. Therefore, they would only forego the bomb if they sense that their survival is in danger
, and if they feel that the risk of insisting on the nuclear project outweighs the risk of abandoning it. This balance can only be realized when the clerical regime is placed under maximum international pressure and sanctions. It cannot be realized when fruitless negotiations continue and the regime is actually rewarded and granted concessions for flouting UN Security Council resolutions or disregarding IAEA demands. These concessions have been counterproductive and they have rescued the mullahs from reaching their point of desperation. 2. What do you think of the extension of the negotiations? The extension of the talks grants greater opportunities to the mullahs to obtain a nuclear bomb
, and there can be no guarantees or optimistic outcomes. The extension revealed the failure of the U.S. policy,
which was based on the assumption that it can convince this medieval regime to act rationally through appeasement, negotiations, not toughening the sanctions and even reducing their impact. Sanctions forced the regime to come to the negotiating table in Geneva in the first place. The easing of sanctions and western concessions to the regime have enabled Khamenei to expand the scope of his red lines and avoid the signing of a final deal.
It must be noted that this regime, on the basis of the red lines dictated by Khamenei and due to the profound crises it is facing, especially the explosive nature of social discontent, will dodge the signing of a comprehensive agreement as long as it possibly can, unless international pressure forces it to retreat. 3. How do you view the Obama administration’s conduct toward Iran, including moves like sending letters to Khamenei? This conduct is not limited to writing letters. It has other dimensions, particularly maintaining silence with respect to human rights violations in Iran and inaction toward the attacks by the mullahs’ puppet government in Iraq (Maliki) against Camps Ashraf and Liberty and the displacement of Ashraf residents, who had repeatedly been given written assurances for their safety and security by the United States.
As indicated in his speeches, Khamenei saw this as a sign of the U.S. weakness
and was emboldened in his suppression of the Iranian people, development of nuclear weapons and pursuit of regional hegemony.
But as far as it concerns my compatriots, the people of Iran, they are extremely aggravated at such policies. They are the ones paying the price of this misguided policy with their blood and suffering. One can easily imagine how angry millions of Iranian families, who have had their children executed, tortured or suppressed by the mullahs, would be when they witness such conduct.
The slogan chanted by millions of Iranians during the 2009 uprisings is still relevant today: “Obama, you are either with the mullahs or with us.” 4. Has this approach been helpful for solving the nuclear crisis?
The failure of the intense negotiations from November 2013 to November 2014 indicated that displaying weakness, offering all sorts of incentives to the mullahs and indefensibly overlooking the regime’s international obligations have ironically undermined the process of resolving this crisis. It was an unreasonable mistake for the United States and its allies to officially allow the Iranian regime to violate UN Security Council resolutions on its nuclear program
. It was a mistake to permit the regime to enrich uranium in contrast to the same resolutions, and it was a mistake to tolerate the regime’s ballistic missiles program and its export of arms to other counties. 5. Has the recent regional crisis had an impact on Tehran’s behavior during the negotiations?
It has certainly increased the significance of acquiring nuclear weapons for Khamenei. Despite all his meddling, threats, and murders in Iraq, Khamenei failed to prevent the downfall of his proxy government (Maliki)
. This was a fundamental blow to the mullahs’ domination over Iraq and it made Khamenei more fearful of the status of his rule in Iran itself.
This is particularly the case since the regime has been unable to save Assad from the crisis in Syria
over the past three years despite perpetrating an inhumane war through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The actual fear over the crisis spilling into Iran, which would rattle the entire regime, has increased Khamenei’s need for the bomb.
As a result, he avoided any sort of flexibility during the negotiations. 6. How do you react to the idea that there should be a role for the Iranian regime in Iraq and specifically in the fight against ISIS, which could lay the groundwork for cooperation?
This would be a repeat of disastrous past experiences, the consequences of which are still haunting the Middle East and the entire world, including in the United States. I am talking about the cooperation with the Iranian regime during the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and more importantly opening Iraq’s doors to the Iranian regime, its surrogates and militias after the war to gradually solidify their control in Iraq.
In practice, this policy has turned Iraq into a launching pad for the expansion of terrorism and fundamentalism led by Tehran. The rise of ISIS is one of the by-products of this policy. The people of Iraq see the clerical regime as an occupying power. Any form of cooperation with this regime would cast a shadow of doubt over the legitimacy of operations carried out by the international coalition. Such hypothetical cooperation would also fuel a conflict desired by ISIS, because ISIS is trying to paint its acts of terrorism as a battle between Shiites and Sunnis in a bid to recruit Sunnis to its ranks. 7. What do you think can solve the current regional crisis?
The solution and the main key lies in the hands of the peoples of the region themselves. Confronting terrorism and extremism masquerading as Islam (whether in the form of ISIS or militias tied to the Iranian regime in Iraq) is only possibly through uniting people and anti-fundamentalist forces in the region. This is a war that has no answer in the battlefield without the complete participation of Sunnis and Sunni tribes. There can be no solution without the meaningful participation of the real representatives of the various Sunni factions in the Iraqi government. But, in order to realize that outcome, the Iranian regime and its militias must be evicted from Iraq. They are the obstacle to such a participation, and they inspire sectarian war and religious killings. 8. What shortcomings does American policy have?
U.S. policy towards Iran and the entire Middle East suffers from lack of firmness toward the religious fascism ruling Iran, which is the central banker of terrorism and the godfather of ISIS. As a result, it hobbles from one mistake to the next. This happens for a number of basic reasons:
9. What are your thoughts on fundamentalism and Islamic extremism and the reasons for its expansion?
Islamic fundamentalism, which in contrast to true Islam, is known for its characteristic religious dictatorship, misogyny, religious discrimination, inhumane punishments, and unimaginable deception, was born with the mullahs’ regime in Iran in 1979. The mullahs proliferated this reactionary thought throughout the region starting three decades ago. These are characteristics that are exactly the same for fundamentalists under the Shiite banner and fundamentalists under the Sunni banner. The growth of fundamentalism, which has today manifested itself in ISIS, is culturally and historically the result of the proliferation of such ideology by the mullahs in Iran. From a political standpoint, the cruel suppression of Sunnis in Iraq by the Iranian-affiliated Iraqi government and their marginalization and widespread massacre of people in Syria, again at the hands of a dictatorship tied to the mullahs and the IRGC, created the breeding ground for this phenomenon.
But the solution to Islamic extremism lies in an alternative that is based on a democratic and tolerant Islam. In Iran, this alternative is represented by the MEK, which has been able to promote a pioneering role model for the entire region. This is one of the reasons for the 27 attacks and massacres of residents at Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, which have taken place in recent years at the hands of the mullahs and their puppet government in Iraq. The residents of Ashraf and Liberty are the representatives and advocates of such an alternative.
10. What is your assessment of Rouhani’s one-year record in various arenas, specifically human rights in Iran? Have there been any changes?
Mullah Hassan Rouhani’s sixteen-month record reveals a complete defeat for him and for the entire regime. More than 1,200 executions during his tenure, including hangings of juveniles, a slate of acid attacks and stabbings against women, detaining of lawyers, journalists, new Christian converts, Sunnis, Dervishes (a branch of Shiism) and Bahaiis, and the ratification of extremely suppressive laws are only a part of his record. In April, Rouhani personally defended the executions and said that they can be considered either as Islamic edicts or as man-made laws, and in both cases we are responsible for implementing them. In October, the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), on his orders, actively defended the hanging of Reyhaneh Jabbari, a young woman who had defended herself against a man trying to rape her. In the second week of December, the Intelligence Minister, who is very close to Rouhani, proudly boasted about a list of dissidents his ministry was responsible for assassinating outside of Iran’s borders.
Rouhani has also failed to deliver on his promises to improve the economy. The value of the country’s currency is even lower than its lowest point during Ahmadinejad’s tenure, the price of bread has increased to the highest level in Iran’s history, official estimate put the number of starving people at 12 million, and two in five people are unemployed.
As a result, once more it has been proven that the hopes for the rise of a “moderate” inside the religious fascism is nothing but a mirage.
11. Your movement has had a central role in exposing the regime’s nuclear program. What do you think is the nature of this program?
There is no doubt that the program entirely has military objectives. Since revelations about the existence of the secret sites in Arak and Natanz in 2002 until now, the Iranian Resistance has made over 100 documented revelations about sensitive and wide-ranging details of this program, all of which expose its military objectives.
The Iranian Resistance has in this way trapped the mullahs, even as western governments have for years offered incentives to the mullahs instead of adopting a firm stance, which has granted the mullahs an opportunity to expand their nuclear program.
But the role and activities of the Resistance have created an extensive social awareness inside Iran in protest to this program, depriving it of any sort of legitimacy whatsoever. On the basis of such public opposition, our movement seeks a non-nuclear Iran in its political platform.
12. Is Tehran still seeking a nuclear weapon?
The regime is certainly pursuing a nuclear weapon. In the course of the year-long negotiations in Geneva and Vienna, the P5+1 and the mullahs openly talked about a nuclear breakout capacity. Moreover, the mullahs have still not provided a complete list of their nuclear installations; they have not responded to IAEA questions about “explosive trigger tests” and “computer simulations related to nuclear explosions;” they are still not prepared to allow inspections of the Parchin site; and in the words of the UN nuclear watchdog, there are still no guarantees about the absence of “unannounced nuclear materials and activities.” If the regime truly is not pursuing nuclear weapons, then what explains such resistance and obstructive behavior when it comes to the IAEA?
13. In your opinion, what elements should a nuclear agreement with the Iranian regime include and what elements should the West insist upon?
For the ruling regime in Iran to forego nuclear weapons, the following are necessary:
- The full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, especially the complete halt of enrichment;
- Acceptance of the Additional Protocol;
- And, granting of free access for inspectors to the regime’s suspicious installations and sites.
Anything less than this would leave open the regime’s path toward obtaining a nuclear bomb.
14. What is your idea of a correct policy toward Tehran?
The correct policy is for the global community to stand with the Iranian people and the Iranian Resistance instead of appeasing the religious fascism. One of the prerequisites to this policy is making diplomatic and trade relations with the mullahs contingent upon an end to executions and torture, and putting an end to the regime’s intransigence in the region.
So long as the mullahs have not been compelled to end execution and torture, they would neither forgo nuclear weapons nor their ambitions of domination and terrorism in the Middle East.
The other prerequisite for a correct policy is the recognition of the Iranian people’s Resistance to bring about change in Iran.
In their confrontation against a decaying tyranny, the Iranian people have a democratic alternative with a clear platform that seeks a secular and pluralistic republic, gender equality, a society based on respect for human rights and the abolition of the death penalty, abdication of the mullahs’ Sharia laws, providing equal economic opportunities to all, a non-nuclear Iran, and peace and co-existence with the rest of the world.
15. Would you agree with more sanctions on the regime?
The mullahs will only forgo their nuclear program, human rights violations and export of fundamentalism to the region if they are at the height of despair and desperation. Therefore, the pressure of sanctions on the regime must be increased. This is exactly the opposite of the mullahs’ plan, who have put their focus on lifting of the sanctions.
But sanctions must include all financial, trade, oil, military and diplomatic aspects. Several UN Security Council resolutions, particularly UNSC Resolution 1929, have called for an arms embargo on the regime and the prohibition of all regime activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads. And they permit all countries to inspect cargoes originating from or destined to Iran. But as a result of the policy of western governments, and especially the U.S., even these resolutions are not being implemented.
16. How do you see the prospects for change in Iran?
Change in Iran is inevitable. This is not only due to the crises gripping the mullahs, the regime’s nuclear impasse, or the blows it has received in Iraq and Syria. Beyond all this, change is inevitable because of the intense social discontent in Iran and the social readiness to revive popular uprisings. This is the most important reason that explains why the mullahs have resorted to splashing acid on women’s faces and why they have increased the number of executions to levels not seen in the last quarter of a century, not to mention the attacks and imposition of pressures against the Iranian Resistance and especially the residents of Camp Liberty.
The mullahs’ regime in Iran represents the rule of a minority of less than 5 percent of the population that relies on sheer force. Without torture, daily executions, censorship, and complete control, they cannot remain in power even a day longer. But, this exceedingly wobbly and unstable situation is not at all sustainable.
As a former U.S. Ambassador to the UN for Human Rights, I can verify that the failure to address the horrific record of the Tehran regime will guarantee failure when dealing with a dictatorial regime like the mullahs have run in Iran since 1979. President Rajavi should be thanked for helping us as Americans return to our best traditions and our greatest success.