by Dr. Antonio Stango
This February brings the 36th anniversary of the Iranian revolution, when Iranians bravely took to the streets across the country forcing the Shah out of power to end his oppressive rule. It was to be the dawn of a new era, of newfound hope and endless possibilities, but it all turned to dust with the establishment of a theocratic Islamic Republic under Ayatollah Khomeini.
The passion, which had driven the populace to rebel against the Shah, who heavily relied on the secret police to torture Iranians and enforce his rule, soon turned into discontent to Ayatollah’s repressive agenda. Those, who had wholeheartedly taken part in the revolution for freedom and rights, found themselves and their secular ideals victimized and vilified by the mullahs, who were quick to seize power and have been guarding it jealously to this day.With Khomeini’s rise to power, the threat of Islamic fundamentalism was introduced and it has evolved to become a global menace that the world must fight today. Since the very beginning, the Iranian regime has been an active supporter of terrorism – including, among else,. the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran, bombings in Argentine, and murdering of dissidents in exile. Today, the regime has become far more ambitious and bold than it has ever been with its influence spreading across the Middle East, even to horn of Africa.
In Syria, Iran is backing the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad, not only politically, but also providing him fighters and monetary assistance. It would not be wrong to say that Assad would not have survived if not for Iran’s unprecedented support against the wishes of the Syrian populace.
In Yemen, the Iranian regime is backing Houthi rebels, who have attacked the capital Sana’a and lead to severe destabilization in the country. Iran’s interference there has served also to create more space for al-Qaeda.
In Iraq, the terrorist Quds Force is working with Shiite militias and carrying out massacre of Sunnis in certain provinces – occasionally, under the pretext of fighting ISIS. In reality, Iran’s sectarian bloodletting has only strengthened ISIS as aggrieved Sunnis turn towards it for protection and revenge.
President of National Council of Resistance of Iran, Maryam Rajavi, has warned the international community about Iran’s counterproductive role in Syria and Iraq, and stressed on its eviction from the regions to ensure peace and stability. Speaking on the issue, she said, “Without uprooting the Iranian regime and its militias from Iraq, even if the war against ISIS were to weaken the group in Iraq, its influence will spread internationally.”
It is important to understand that the wishes of the majority of the Iranian people are irreconcilable with the regressive ideology and dangerous objectives of the regime that rules over them. The democratic countries can no longer be silent bystanders, as the regime continues to trample over the peoples’ rights and aspirations in a bid to maintain power and control. An alternate version of Islam, which preaches tolerance and respects democracy, is the only way to bring about sustainable change. In order to achieve security in the region and beyond it, we should better lend to support to voices of dissent and sanity coming from Iranian society and highlighted from the platform of NCRI. While it would be simply wise to push for regime change by intensifying sanctions and empowering Iranian people, it would be a grave error to give a dying regime another lifeline in the form of relief from sanctions or a nuclear deal.
Dr. Antonio Stango is the President of the Helsinki Watch in Italy