Supporting Iran’s Resistance

Bipartisanship is a rare commodity in today’s political environment. And to the extent that members of both parties are able to achieve consensus in principle, it is even rarer for both to lay claim to accomplishments in the same area. Nevertheless, Democrats and Republicans have each contributed to similar foreign policy goals while pushing for similar changes to the status quo as it concerns the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Their agreement was on display this past weekend at a conference hosted by the leading Iranian resistance organization, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Held outside the Albanian capital of Tirana, at Aharf-3, the MEK’s newly-constructed home, the event was attended by no less than 350 bipartisan dignitaries, lawmakers, military officials, and foreign policy experts on both sides of the Atlantic and the Middle East, representing 47 countries.

The impressive show of force served to display the stunning ability and prowess of the Iranian Resistance in its domestic and international campaign to unseat Iran’s ruling theocracy. It also effectively counteracted the Iranian-inspired propaganda and misinformation warfare directed at the MEK and the umbrella coalition of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

In conferences held at Ashraf 3, stories heard and video clips from various parts of Iran showed young MEK members inside Iran expressing their readiness to bring about regime change in Iran, signaling that the group has gained remarkable support inside the country of 80 million. The MEK supporters, abroad have held major rallies in Brussels, Washington, DC, and Berlin in recent weeks.

In reversing the four-decade-long policy of appeasing Tehran, the Trump administration’s approach has been spot-on, reflected, among other measures, in the designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

The IRGC terror designation is now a key part of what the White House calls “maximum pressure” on the Iranian regime. As of last month, it also included sanctions on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who directly controls the IRGC and wields ultimate authority over all policy matters in Iran.  In this way, the U.S. has recently taken very significant steps toward undermining the undue legitimacy bestowed upon the Islamic Republic by the previous administration.

But this progress has not come quickly enough, and it has not yet gone far enough. This is especially obvious when one considers the bipartisan agreement that was on display among the American delegation to Albania, which included Mayor Rudolf Giuliani among others.

Giuliani and I also attached our names to a statement urging the U.S. government and the international community as a whole to recognize the sacrifice and the noble goals of those Iranian dissidents as a hopeful precursor to freedom within their homeland. Our statement emphasized that the ongoing shift away from the status quo in Iran policy constitutes recognition of a “viable and democratic alternative to the current regime,” and one whose “democratic principles prioritize the return of Iran to its rightful owners, its citizens.”

At a time of escalating tensions in the Middle East, when many people are anxious about the possibility of war, it is important to note that those citizens are to be the instrument of their own government’s overthrow. Just as there is growing bipartisan agreement about the viability of Iran’s democratic alternative, there is longstanding bipartisan agreement about the goal of avoiding war with the existing regime. Unfortunately, advocates of the status quo have failed to recognize that the best way to achieve this goal is by lending political support to the NCRI while they work to oust the government that is responsible for all the crises plaguing the region today.

As Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the Iranian Resistance, said in her speech to “Ashraf III” on Saturday, “Everyone can see that so long as this regime remains in place, war and crises will continue and intensify in the region. Therefore, anyone who seeks freedom for Iran, anyone who wants to save Iran from destruction and chaos, anyone who wants global and regional peace and stability, must rise up to demand the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime.”

In the United States, people on both sides of the aisle have begun to do so. Supporters of the Iranian Resistance both there and throughout Europe have done so in the form of rallies and demonstrations expressing solidarity with Iran’s domestic population. And within the Islamic Republic, dissidents and activists have been rising up in ever greater numbers, with ever greater boldness, as evidenced by the chants of “death to the dictator” that have been recurring ever since a nationwide uprising at the beginning of 2018.

For this reason and many more, the U.S. and its allies should embrace those groups and complete the shift away from negotiations and appeasement, and toward maximum pressure on Iran’s terrorist regime. Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree on this, if on nothing else. And indeed, many of them already do.

Ken Blackwell is a former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, who writes on international matters.

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