Need for Essential Changes in Mid-East Policy

10/06/2016 15:20 | Updated 10 June 2016

This summer promises to be highly eventful; full of politically significant events that will help to shape the future of global security and international relations. In the U.S. in July, the Republican and Democratic National Conventions will lead into the peak of a very hotly contested presidential campaign season. Earlier that same month, another event will take place across the Atlantic, which should have considerable impact on how the next American President and his colleagues, both at home and abroad, formulate and exercise their Middle Eastern policy.

On July 9th, some 100,000 people are expected to gather in Paris for a convention and demonstration of global importance. The majority of participants will be Iranian expatriates who will be joined by top dignitaries and politicians from their various adoptive homes, including the U.S. and the European Union. They will represent a broad spectrum of political persuasions, but will all endorse the view that the Iranian regime, through its regional meddling and support of Islamic terrorism, is the root cause of many of the most pressing issues currently facing Europe and the world as a whole.

The gathering as a whole will serve to repudiate the current false narrative that is the foundation for mistakes in current Western policy toward Iran's Islamic Republic. Across Europe and the U.S., public opinion is being told that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is the head of a "moderate" faction of Iranian politics, which is leading the country down a path of progress and international acceptability. This "change" is supposed to save us from the dangers of a nuclear armed Iran, to soothe regional conflicts fuelled by extremism, improve rights for Iranians within their own country and, of course, help Western companies to profit from newly reopened Iranian markets.

We have had time to observe this narrative, gauge its validity and respond accordingly but reality clearly informs that the Iranian government's actions have shown all these hopes and promises to be both sad and tragic wishful thinking under-pinned by treachery.

At home, Rouhani has presided over 2,400 executions, making Iran the world's biggest executioner, with those executed being disproportionately religious and ethnic minorities, as well as political dissidents and human rights defenders. While Rouhani uses Western-oriented social media to encourage "the narrative of moderation", Iranians themselves are barred from using those same platforms of communication. Meanwhile, any deviation from the regime's traditional hard-line, reactionary ideology is harshly punished, as when 35 students who attended a gender-mixed graduation party in May receive 99 lashes each as punishment. While Iran's leaders often "talk the talk" regarding reform and moderation, their actions within the country portray an entirely different story.

Abroad too, Iranian actions have made claims of moderation ring hollow. Over 10,000 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' Qud's Force are either directly or indirectly involved in spreading violence and terror across the region, supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Assad regime in Syria, and countless Shi'ite militias in Iraq and Houthi Rebels in Yemen. There has been little change in Iran's foreign intrusions; if anything, regional terror campaigns and destabilising intervention in internal affairs of regional countries have increased under Rouhani.

Weapons caches and operatives were even discovered in Bahrain and Kuwait, two countries where little Iranian influence was recognised prior to Rouhani's ascendency to the presidency.

And what has become of Iran's nuclear weapons programme? We really do not know. Since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action did not establish a truly rigorous inspections regime, we need to largely rely on the regime's cooperation. And with a long history of nuclear deception, that's worrying.
Rouhani himself was at one time in charge of negotiating with the West over the nuclear issue, and he openly bragged on state television about misleading international inspectors. In addition, Iran's development of ballistic missiles has continued unabated.

We are already facing consequences from all of this, and it makes Iran policy crucially important in the months ahead. Many of the refugees coming to Europe, as well as many of Europe's worst terror attacks have been an indirect consequence of Iran's regional actions. It was Iranian policies of sectarianism and brutality in Syria and Iraq that created a vacuum for ISIS and that continue to fuel that most barbaric of organisations.

This has spawned both an increase in attacks in Europe as well as an unprecedented refugee crisis that extends across the continent. Here, strategically inept bureaucrats and fresh-faced politicians with little or no worldly experience embrace a policy of indifference in the face of an evil that infringes what are (or should I say "used to be") Western values and moral consciousness and again run counter to the history lesson briefly learned from the Neville Chamberlain debacle of last century.

These threats and consequences are what bring together some 100,000 people in Paris this July. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its allies stand for more sensible policy and a "Free Iran". The coalition of Iranian opposition forces are led by a Muslim woman, Maryam Rajavi, who, for years, has strongly advocated and pressed for a tolerant interpretation of Islam as the antidote to Islamic extremism. Their message is clear, Iran has not moderated, and we cannot realistically expect to change Tehran's policies by making deals and ignoring reality.

Though change may not come overnight, this conference in Paris is both timely and important - a potentially crucial pointer in the right direction towards resolving to one of the most difficult and dangerous foreign policy issues of our time, namely Iran. It surely deserves greater strategic comprehension and attention from our Governments.