Iran exiles demand regime change as nuclear deadline looms

The international community is literally hanging in the balance over the upcoming May 12th Iran nuclear deal deadline. Advocates of the accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), continue to claim anything but the deal will lead to a new war in the Middle East.

The Iranian people, however, represented by thousands of exiles taking part in Saturday’s “Iran Freedom Convention” in Washington, DC, voiced their demand for regime change in their home country. Their call is coupled with significant support provided by a long slate of American dignitaries and elite Members of Congress.

This is the beginning of even more turbulent weeks and months for the Iranian regime.

Strong voices

The event was hosted by the Organization of Iranian-American Communities, a group supportive of the 2017-2018 protests and advocating regime change to realize freedom and democracy in Iran.

“The people of Iran are calling on the international community, in particular the West, to support their uprising for the overthrow of the Iranian regime,” said Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi in a message to the rally.

As President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Rajavi is a known voice of the Iranian people’s four-decade struggle against the ruling regime that many accuse of hijacking the 1979 revolution and now wreaking havoc inside the country and abroad.

“Since the JCPOA was forged, the Iranian Resistance stressed that the nuclear deal had provided ‘unwarranted concessions’ to the regime and any agreement must take into account Tehran’s meddling in the Middle East,” she explained, adding “the experience of the past three years has confirmed that the mullahs took advantage of the concessions in the JCPOA to suppress the people of Iran and massacre the people of Syria.”

Former New York City mayor and current Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani delivered a speech at the gathering to place his support behind for regime change, saying the American President is “as committed to regime change as we are.”

“I truly believe that we will have one of these conventions in Tehran… Protests are now all over Iran. 142 cities and growing… We have a real chance of escalating these protests,” he explained.

And in his remarks to reporters Giuliani explained regime change in Iran is “the only way to peace in the Middle East” and “more important than an Israeli-Palestinian deal.”

Giuliani also referred to his recent visit to Tirana, the capital of Albania, home to members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main entity member of the NCRI, praising their determination and calling for supporting their ongoing cause.

“Now that they don’t have to be worried about being slaughtered by the Iranians and the Iraqis, who have become a satellite of Iran, they can do a lot of productive things. They’ve now speeded up dramatically our ability to bring freedom to Iran,” he said.

And on the JCPOA’s future, Giuliani, known for his blatant stance against the accord, took a piece of paper in his hands and pretended to rip it apart.

Bipartisan initiative

Former US ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson also attended the event and signaled how NCRI supporters enjoy bipartisan backing amongst America’s political elite.

“The Iranian people want regime change… We are here to recognize there is a legitimate opposition, right here. The National Council of Resistance of Iran,” Richardson said his speech.

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle also sent messages of solidarity and underscored their ongoing support for the Iranian people’s struggle against the oppressive regime.

“Your message as well as of those in Iran is a message of peace. You want democracy in Iran, not war or repression,” said Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), debunking all claims raised by Iranian regime apologists against Tehran’s sole organized opposition that delivers a platform for Iran’s future.

“Know that you have friends and supporters in the US Congress, willing to work toward peace and stability in Iran,” says Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a senior figure amongst US Democrats.

“You are here and you continue to be the voice of Iranian people, together with the people marching in Iran,” said Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-FL) in her message, proving yet again how Tehran’s rulers do not enjoy popular support and the Iranian opposition in-exile is the true representative of the restive Iranian populace.

This major development, covered widely by the US media, comes as Congress continues to weigh a slate of different measures aimed at escalating pressures on Iran’s conglomerate of belligerencies, including its ballistic missiles program, meddling and support for terrorism in other countries, and a completely unnecessary nuclear program.

Turbulent week

Only days are left to the JCPOA deadline and all parties are preparing for a new era of Washington pulling out of a deal Trump views as highly flawed.

Europe is understandably striving to safeguard the accord while also adopting measures aimed at preserving its economic interests come the day the US pulls out of the JCPOA. It would be highly unlikely, and safe to say illogical, for Europe to stand alongside the Iranian regime and go against the US

As heated discussions continue and many in the anti-JCPOA camp demanding a return of crippling sanctions, Rajavi goes one step further and delivers a complimentary solution that will further cause major alarm soundings in Tehran:

“Recognizing the NCRI as the democratic alternative to the clerical regime.”

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How Will Iran Respond To The Syria Attacks?

Forbes

We can consider the April 14th airstrikes against the Syrian regime’s chemical infrastructure as a point of no return in regards to this country’s future developments. For many years Bashar Assad and Iran were able to take the utmost advantage of the Obama administration’s policy of appeasement, and thus pave the path for Russia’s entrance into the Middle East. The main victims have been directly the peoples of Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other regional states.

Iran seeks to respond to these attacks, both to lift the spirits of its military and security forces across the country, and in regards to the regional balance of power. Facing increasing anti-government protests and its consequences, however, Tehran lacks the capacity to take on measures outside of its borders .

Considered Assad’s main sponsor after spending dozens of billions of dollars in Syria, Iran had prior to these attacks threatened repeatedly that such a US-led initiative will not go unanswered.

Tehran, however, has yet to take any action after the early morning April 14th airstrikes, while further reports in Middle East outlets indicate other bases associated to the Assad regime and Iran-backed militias in Syria are being targeted.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei unprecedentedly described the leaders of the United States, France and the United Kingdom as “criminals,” going against all diplomatic norms. Can such remarks be considered a green light for terrorist attacks by Iran and/or its affiliates?

The semi-official Tasnim news agency, associated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force, claims the Asaeb al-Haq, a 40,000- strong militia group affiliated to Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) with long-term relations with Iran, has several units currently besieging U.S. forces stationed in the Al Zahra airbase located northwest of Baghdad.

Tehran’s rulers are comprehending clearly how Obama’s appeasement policy, in the face of this regime’s crimes inside the country and those of its affiliated militias abroad, has ended. Ever since the Trump administration has entered the White House, we have witnessed firm actions against Iran’s belligerence, rendering significant results.

For some time, we are no longer hearing reports of IRGC boats harassing US warships in international waters of the Persian Gulf. It has been months since Tehran last test-launched a ballistic missile. Instead they are using Yemen’s Houthis to launch Iranian missiles into Saudi Arabia to both cover any tracks and save face to some extent.

In the nationwide uprisings of the past months that rocked the very pillars of Tehran’s entire apparatus, the Iranian people are extensively protesting the regime’s Middle East meddling. This, parallel to the recent currency nosedive crisis, is preventing the Iranian regime from executing widespread military initiatives in the region.

Trump’s firm policy has also forced North Korea to agree into significantly curbing its nuclear weapons program and ballistic missiles. Russia, able to voice demands in the past few years due to Obama’s weakness and gaining a significant Middle East foothold through its Syria campaign, refused to respond to the US-led airstrikes against Assad’s forces.

Iran took advantage of the highly flawed appeasement policy by staging military attacks seeking physically elimination, and also demonizing its opposition, being the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and specifically the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main member of this political coalition that is considered the alternative to the Iranian regime.

In Iraq PMOI/MEK members were target to numerous ground and rocket attacks by Iran-associated militias. Tehran resorted to such methods to  balance in the face of regional defeats, including a lethal September 2013 raid into the PMOI/MEK’s main base in Iraq as Tehran’s nuclear negotiators began secret negotiations to curb their nuclear program.

Following the transfer of all PMOI/MEK members to Albanian in the Balkans, Tehran’s ability to carry out military attacks against them is limited. Iran, however, has launched an active propaganda machine and extensively expanded its embassy mission in Albania.

The PMOI/MEK in Albania have hosted senior American dignitaries such as Trump’s new National Security Advisor John Bolton, Trump’s cybersecurity advisor Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senator John McCain and senior delegations from Congress all on separate occasions. Tehran’s lobbyists, especially those in the U.S., label such developments as the U.S.’ leniency towards war against Iran. This is Tehran’s effort to distract attention from the main issue at hand, being the existence of a popular resistance movement and an Iranian democratic alternative representing the Iranian people’s true will of regime change.

In response to senior U.S. figures supporting the PMOI/MEK and the policy of regime change in Iran, Tehran is focusing its main demonizing measures against this organization to both distort Albanian sympathy regarding the PMOI/MEK’s presence in Albania on one hand, and claim the Iranian regime has no alternative.

“Considering their own experience with dictatorship and oppression, Albanians understand the PMOI/MEK’s pain and suffering,” said former Albanian MP Namik Kopliku. “We are proud to provide a safe haven to the PMOI/MEK who seek freedom for Iran. On the other hand, we are witnessing a long slate of measures by Iran’s lobbyists in Albanian media attempting to spread lies and tarnish the PMOI/MEK’s image amongst our people.”

As a result, this possibility exists of Iran responding to setbacks in Syria by launching a new media campaign against PMOI/MEK members in Albania through its ties to western media outlets, attempting to delegitimize this alternative and portray the Iran dossier as a decision merely between war and appeasement.

If Washington intends to materialize its firm Middle East policy into meaningful results it must place its crosshairs on Iran . This is not a call for a new and unnecessary war in the Middle East. In fact, this is a call to support the Iranian people and their organized resistance movement in the ongoing anti-government protest, coupled with imposing crippling sanctions against the IRGC and Iran’s Central Bank. US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin recently signaled the possible return of “very strong” sanctions against Iran.

These coordinated measures will significantly weaken Tehran inside the country and abroad, and facilitate true change by the Iranian people and their rooted opposition.

New Round In Iran’s Nationwide Protests?

Celebrating fire festivities marking the last week of Iran’s calendar year, people in many cities across the country took to streets staging yet another round of protests challenging the mullahs’ rule.

People transformed this national celebration into a major act of protest. This followed a recent call issued by a network based inside the country associated to the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) encouraging people to take advantage of this opportunity to stage nationwide demonstrations. People from all walks of life have also issued letters and statements supporting this new initiative.

Prior to this event Tehran’s concerns focused on such an occasion providing the people an opportunity to stage a large number of pocket, hit-and-run protests throughout various areas of all cities and towns.

Fox News interviewed a protester inside the country saying, “We are like a wave — we come back even stronger, and the Iranian people want regime change… There is no going back.”

Following the Dec 2017/Jan 2018 nationwide uprising that caught the regime by surprise, Iran has witnessed a surge in over 8,000 arrests and more than 50 protesters killed in custody, according to the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

Greater Tehran police chief Hossein Rahimi emphasized all measures are being taken in regards to a variety of possibility forecasted for such an occasion, adding all forces are on full alert. Tehran’s main concern focuses on such protests avalanching into sweeping and uncontrollable storms.

Authorities insist people can uphold their traditional ceremonies on the condition of not disrupting public order. Interesting is how this regime hangs people and carries out lashings in public, yet now is thumping its chest about “public order.” Based on the Iranian regime’s terminology, “public order” is tantamount to the mullahs’ rule.

One should ask why such authorities are taking no measures to provide decent education, create jobs and the needed recreation needed for the country’s younger generation.

While claiming many people were killed and injured in such celebrations held in previous years, there is no action taken to resolve increasing air pollution across the country that is sending thousands of people to hospitals. Why are no measures blueprinted to prevent thousands of road accidents each year?

Iran has the highest number of deaths caused by road accidents in the world, according to the World Health Organisation’s most recent report on road safety.

Iran’s authorities are facing a crackdown impasse, extremely concerned of opening fire on such increasing protests across the country. There was a time, however, that Iran’s mullahs severely quelled any dissent, such as the 1994 Qazvin uprising where authorities even launched rockets at protesters, according to former senior intelligence officer Saeed Hajjarian.

This year, however, protesters across the country are chanting “Death to (Ali) Khamenei” and “Death to (Hassan) Rouhani” targeting the regime’s supreme leader and president, respectively.

IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari specifically said, “the PMOI prevented us from taking measures to silence the recent Dervish Gonabadi protests in the northeast suburbs of Tehran.”

If authorities order forces to open fire, the uprisings will flare in an uncontrollable manner. If they refuse to open fire, the protests will spread gradually expand and engulf the entire country.

Tehran cannot deny the undeniable. Iran’s 80-million+ population is demanding change. Regime change.

Washington has realized the changing times and the Trump administration has been showing signs of intending to stand alongside the people. Further measures targeting the regime’s Central Bank and the Revolutionary Guards are necessary to support Iran’s uprising nation.

In line, Europe should build upon its recent pressures on Iran to significantly curb its ballistic missile program and meddling across the Middle East. These demands must expand and also place the crosshairs on Tehran’s atrocious human rights record.

This is how the West can stand alongside the Iranian people and their organized resistance in the face of a malevolent regime.

We Should Listen Closely To Iran

As the world continues to debate the recent Iranian outburst of protests, its “lack of leadership” as they claim, and the road ahead, there is no doubt in the minds of senior Iranian regime officials over who led, and continues to lead, this latest uprising that continues to rattle the very pillars of the mullahs’ rule.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei made his thoughts crystal clear.

“The incidents were organized” and carried out by the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), he said although using a different term. “The [MEK] had prepared for this months ago” and “the [MEK’s] media outlets had called for it.”

The MEK is best known for first blowing the whistle on Iran’s clandestine nuclear program back in 2002 and raising awareness over the possible military dimension (PMD) of this drive, a subject awaiting full clarification as we speak.

Interesting is how Khamenei’s remarks, however, mirror those of influential American figures.

“The resistance is making a difference,” said Newt Gingrich, former House of Representatives Speaker and an individual very close to U.S. President Donald Trump, at a “Regime change in Iran” meeting held recently by the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, the sole significant Iranian opposition coalition. The MEK is a member of this umbrella group.

Maryam Rajavi and Newt Gingrich are meeting on January 19, 2018 in the office of NCRI, Auvers sur Oise, north of Paris, France. They support the uprising of the Iranian people for regime change. (Photo by Siavosh Hosseini/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“The MEK is making a difference. I have no doubt that, in the long run, you are on the right side of history. The resistance is knitting together both in the country and in the world a tremendous force that is sustaining the right to believe that you can be free,” Gingrich added while joined by former Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli.

Their participation marks bipartisan support the NCRI and MEK enjoy in Washington, considered rare these days.

“This is the beginning of a revolution. A regime that stays in power by killing its people has a numbered life. When Rouhani called French President Macron and asked him to clamp down on the MEK it made one thing clear: This is not a revolution without a leader. The leader is sitting here,” Senator Torricelli, in reference to NCRI President Maryam Rajavi.

“I agree with Khamenei on nothing except one thing: he is putting responsibility on the MEK and the PMOI and blaming Mrs. Rajavi. He is right about it. This has been organized for years, network has been created, by never compromising with the regime, never being part of it. The MEK and Mrs. Rajavi have kept credibility… So in identifying the MEK and Mrs. Rajavi, he is right because the MEK and the entire international community that supports it, we are all coming for Khamenei to end this nightmare,” he added.

Iran’s history of uprisings and the 1979 revolution specifically have witnessed their ups and downs. The current movement is undergoing a similar phase today and any argument that this round of protests have come to an end are baseless.

“The uprising showed that Iranian society is in an explosive state, simmering with discontent,” Rajavi said in her speech. “It showed that the regime is much weaker than perceived. It showed that the billions of windfall dollars from the nuclear deal did nothing to cure the regime’s instability. And finally, the uprising showed that the people of Iran detest both regime factions and want it overthrown in its entirety.”

Invited by numerous parliamentary groups, Rajavi continued her efforts on Wednesday in the European Parliament by calling on the Green Continent to break its dangerous silence in the face of ongoing protests in Iran and the regime resorting to numerous crackdown measures.

Khamenei understands the Iranian opposition’s threat and wastes no time in pinpointing the main sources of his regime’s concerns that is fueling and guiding the recent unrests. For decades West-based pro-Iranian regime lobby have also gone the distance in expressing their utmost abhorrence, especially in regards to the MEK.

A lobelog.com piece – later republished by the iran-interling.org, a site reportedly ran by known agents of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence to demonize the Iranian opposition– reads that rallies staged abroad recently in solidarity with Iranian protesters are “organized by a fringe, cult-like group,” referring to the MEK.

In this resort to yellow journalism, the piece fails to mention the fact that no other Iranian coalition or group was able to hold such organized rallies، and refuses to discuss the NCRI campaign calling for international action to pressure Tehran into releasing all political prisoners, especially the recently detained 8,000+ protesters.

The mere fact that such voices literally blow their horns in this regard not only raises eyebrows, it places us before this question of why?

The answer is simple. Iran’s regime is facing a major impasse, feeling the growing pressures of internal dissent and international isolation.

In response to Trump’s 120-day ultimatum to improve the Iran nuclear deal after waiving sanctions for “the last time,” France, Germany and the United Kingdom are discussing measures targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program and meddling in countries across the Middle East.

More than ever before, the Iranian people have shown their readiness for democratic change. The time has come for those governments that are pursuing appeasement policies with the Iranian regime to take a new approach.Washington and Europe should lead the global community into providing support for the Iranian people and recognizing the Iranian opposition NCRI in its call for regime change and the election of a representative government.

The Iranian people have spoken and continue to prove their legitimate demand for regime change to welcome a democratic and secular republic. Those countries continuing their appeasement vis-à-vis Tehran should set aside unreliable short-term benefits and begin thinking about their long-term interests.

The French “Pascal Coquis” recently wrote in an editorial piece describing the recent protests as a “volcano.”

“When it erupts, it can no longer be contained. The intensity of the fire may decrease, yet it will continue to erupt. Forever.”

Khamenei has genuine concerns over the NCRI, being the largest Iranian opposition coalition enjoying sweeping support on both sides of the Atlantic and having rooted connections to a vast network of supporters inside the country. This has provided the necessary tools for the NCRI to become the leading force of regime change with a clear blueprint for a democratic future for Iran.

On this highly imperative subject, we should actually listen to Khamenei’s words.

Human Rights: Iran’s Ultimate Vulnerability

Developments in the Middle East have placed the spotlight once again on Iran and its hegemonic temptations. This goes parallel to calls from parties such as France and Germany, whom Iran previously counted on in the face of U.S. pressures, demanding Tehran reel in its ballistic missile program and support for proxy groups across the region.

While all such measures are necessary and deserve escalation, Tehran’s human rights violations demand even more attention. This is the one issue that both shivers fear in the ruling regime and provides direct support for the Iranian people in their struggle for freedom, democracy and all the other values embraced by today’s 21st century world.

As the world marks International Human Rights Day on December 10th, we are also well into the first year of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s second term.

Dubbed as a “moderate” figure in Iran’s politics, with many arguing otherwise, the scene witnessed in Iran during his tenure has been far from it. Over 3,500 executions are merely the first stain of an atrocious report card of human rights violations.

new report by Iran Human Rights Monitoring reviewing the plight of human rights in Iran during the course of 2017 sheds light on a reality the regime strives to cloak from the world.

Mrs. Asma Jahangir, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, in a semi-annual report referred to the absence of an independent judiciary in Iran. Improving the country’s human rights situation hinges on reforming the judiciary, she added.

Amnesty International in its 2016-2017 report indicated how, aside from China, Iran is host to 55 percent of all the world’s executions.

In June Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei used the term “fire at will” in a speech, leading to an increase in repressive measures and flagrant human rights violations.

This includes a 22 percent increase in the number of arrests, 25 percent increase in women executions, the execution of four juveniles, and a surge in inhumane and humiliating punishments, according to the Iran-HRM report.

Iran has witnessed 520 executions from the beginning of 2017 to the end of November, while only 91 such cases have been reported by the regime’s official news agencies. 28 of these were public hangings and five cases involved political prisoners.

The systematic murder of porters by state security forces in Iran’s border regions, counting to 84 such cases so far in 2017, raised a stir in social networks and even international media outlets.

Bent under the weight of their loads — smuggled cigarettes, alcohol, gasoline, and even home appliances — the mules are a common sight in Iran’s western border regions.

The report also sheds light on the atrocious conditions in Iran’s prisons, as severe crackdown measures have rendered jails packed with inmates. This has led to poor hygiene conditions, low quality food and many other dilemmas for the prisoners.

Iran’s jails are also home to at least 640 political prisoners, an issue Tehran refuses to recognize or provide any information about. These individuals are constantly tortured and placed under inhumane pressures, as more than 56 are victim to mental and psychological tortures.

One such hideous practice has been chaining inmates to a courtyard pole, seen carried out in Ardebil Prison, northwest Iran, according to the report.

Iran is also known to resort to inhumane measures resembling the Middle Ages. Five limb amputations, 32 lashings and more than 105 humiliating public parading of prisoners have been registered from January to November 2017.

Ruled by a regime founded on pillars of crackdown, Iran has long been criticized for its lack of press freedoms; more than 30 journalists and 18 bloggers are currently behind bars across the country. At least five journalists are banned from any such activities and dozens of others are serving heavy sentences.

In its April statement Reporters Without Borders ranked Iran as 165th among 180 countries on its index of press freedoms, adding the country ruled by Tehran’s regime is considered one of the world’s largest prisons for journalists.

After imposing censorship for decades and keeping the Iranian people cut off from the outside world, the regime ruling Iran understands the power of the internet and social media, in particular.

Women-in-an-internet-cafe-in-Iran.-specials.dw_.com_
Women in an internet cafe in Iran. (specials.dw.com)

While Iran cannot afford to completely cut off the internet, the mere fact that nearly 40 million Iranians are online daily is literally a time bomb for Tehran. The regime has gone the limits to ban and filter numerous websites and platforms, especially Telegram, considered to be very popular in Iran due to the privacy and security provides to its users.

Iranian officials have publicly announced the filtering of around 16,000 to 20,000 Telegram channels, went as far as blocking any live video streaming on Instagram and filtered Twitter.

Religious and ethnic minorities in Iran, specifically Christians and Baha’is, are experiencing similar restrictions, parallel to not being recognized by Iran’s ruling extremists and systematically placed under pressure from state officials and authorities. The UN Special Rapporteur in her report referred to the harassment of religious and ethnic minorities, specifically holding the IRGC responsible for arresting minority members.

For the first time the UN Special Rapporteur’s report refers to the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, consisting mostly of members and supporters of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

A panel of prominent American politicians participated in a recent discussion in Washington, DC, unveiling a new book published by the U.S. Representative Office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the main coalition consisting of the PMOI and other Iranian dissident groups.

U.S. President Donald Trump has twice expressed the American people’s solidarity with their Iranian brethren, signaling a stark contrast in policy with his predecessor who failed to stand alongside the Iranian people during their 2009 uprising.

Sanctions and a variety of restricting measures targeting Tehran’s nuclear drive, ballistic missile program, and support for terrorism and proxy groups are very necessary, and should increase. Parallel to such actions, measures targeting Iran’s senior officials and the entities behind human rights violations must be placed on agenda by the international community.