Revelations About Iran’s Missiles Point to Both Need and Opportunity for Regime Change
Last week the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) released a book detailing the recent and ongoing growth of Tehran’s ballistic missile program, which could one day provide the delivery system for an Iranian nuclear weapon. The credibility of that publication’s findings is underscored by the fact that the NCRI’s principal constituent is the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, which has revealed key details of the clerical regime’s nuclear activities and the locations of its secret enrichment sites over the years. As such, the international community needs to begin broadening its view of how to deal with the threats posed by Iran.
It needs to take a serious look at the position that has long been advanced by the Iranian Resistance: That the Iranian regime must be approached from a position of strength, with an eye toward halting its nuclear ambitions, containing its ballistic missile program, freeing its political prisoners, interrupting its support of terrorism, and so on.
Furthermore, the reality of the situation is that the only way of conclusively achieving all of these aims is by pursuing a set of policies that helps to facilitate a change of regime in Tehran. In a statement released last week, NCRI’s President-elect, Maryam Rajavi declared, “Eradicating the clerical regime’s nuclear and terrorism threats means getting rid of the regime in its entirety. A regime based on the principle of velayat-e faqih (absolute rule of the clergy) cannot exist without terrorism, suppression, and weapons of mass destruction.”
This explicit endorsement of regime change will no doubt ring alarm bells among those who are defenders of the status quo with regard to Iran policy in general. Those alarms will grow louder as the situation will become more precarious for the mullahs.
The recent developments underscore that fact that was were of course highlighted by Mrs. Rajavi in the NCRI’s recent statement. “Democratic change in Iran is inevitable and a free Iran is within reach,” she said after pointing to the mass anti-government protests that took place in every major town and city of Iran and gave rise to provocative chants like “death to the dictator.”
The implications of this nationwide uprising and subsequent protests will be explored in detail on June 30 in annual Iran Freedom gathering in Paris. The event typically attracts upwards of 100,000 Iranians and their international supporters from around the world, along with supporters of the Iranian Resistance from the political, academic, and security establishment of nations throughout Europe, North America, and beyond.
As Tehran contends with an increasingly restive population, there is a clear opportunity for world powers to put their support behind the Iranian Resistance and thus facilitate domestically-driven change that will resolve all of the persistent issues tied to Iran, and without any threat of new military entanglements in the Middle East.
The world’s narrow focus on the nuclear agreement, to the exclusion even of closely related issues like the ballistic missile program, was driven by the assumption that a broader policy would not be workable or would carry with it the risk of war.
If world leaders will only pay attention to the recommendations that will be voiced at the NCRI rally, they will surely come to understand that this assumption was mistaken. Although it is true that foreign nations cannot force a change in Iran’s behavior either through negotiations or at the point of a gun, it is also true that they can exert enough pressure on the clerical regime to leave it at the mercy of its people and their long-frustrated demands for freedom and democracy.
As the international community grapples with questions about the way forward for Iran policy, the least it can do is acknowledge that those demands are legitimate and that the NCRI, as the leading voice for those demands, is legitimate as well.
Shahin Gobadi is a member of Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the Parliament in exile of the Iranian Resistance.