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For the Sake of Western Security and the Iranian People, Halt Concessions to Tehran

Each of the parties currently participating in negotiations in Vienna has insisted that efforts to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are now in their final stretch. However, it’s not entirely clear what this means, since the US, Britain, France, and Germany have been insisting for weeks that the window for an agreement was closing and that Iran would be subject to additional pressures if it didn’t change its posture. There’s no indication that it has done so, yet Western interlocutors seem to be scaling back their expectations.

Officials from the US State Department previously set late January as an unofficial deadline for the Vienna talks to conclude, but now that deadline has been pushed to the end of February. There’s no guarantee that the US or its allies will stick to this new timetable, even though it appears to be generally understood that the regime is only weeks away from advancing its nuclear program to the point at which the original terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will no longer be sufficient to extend its “breakout time” to more than a year.

That being the case, one has to wonder why the US decided, early this month, to waive the sanctions that prevented foreign countries from collaborating with the regime on “civilian nuclear projects.” Although the White House has made downplayed this, there can be little doubt that it constitutes a concession to the Iranian regime and an unearned one at that.

The waivers demonstrate an obsessive commitment to restoring the JCPOA regardless of the security and strategic cost. European leadership generally appears to be just as committed to that outcome, perhaps more so. As I and many of my colleagues in the European Parliament emphasized in a conference and subsequent statement on Wednesday, the Iranian regime has never reciprocated concessions, only exploiting them to accelerate its malign activities.

It would be bad enough if those belligerent activities were limited to the enrichment of uranium to near-weapons grade levels or the production of uranium metal, a substance with virtually no function other than being part of the core of a nuclear weapon. The regime’s strategy includes the proliferation of militant proxies across the region, too, in addition to the development of vast stockpiles of ballistic missiles and conventional weapons, and the violent suppression of dissent both at home and abroad.

Western policymakers risk amplifying each of these categories of behavior every time they offer the regime an unearned concession, however small. Major concessions like those written into the JCPOA provide Tehran with a financial windfall that is inevitably channeled into terrorism and paramilitary projects instead of being spent on the vital needs of the Iranian people, a third of whom live in absolute poverty.

Wednesday’s statement from the Friends of Free Iran parliamentary group called upon the European Union, its member states, and their allies to “adopt a firm and decisive policy toward the Iranian regime, to condemn four decades of crimes against humanity and genocide perpetrated by this regime, and to take the lead on the referral of the dossier of the regime’s crimes to the UN Security Council.” The document’s supporters all recognize that this is the only reliable means of containing the regime’s nuclear program, and holding Tehran accountable for its behavior.

Even more importantly, the resolution recognizes that firm policies and consistent pressure are the only way to a truly permanent solution to the myriad crises that currently emanate from Tehran. This policy would complement the pressure Tehran is already facing from its domestic population in the wake of eight nationwide uprisings and countless other protest actions in the past four years alone.

The movement for democratic regime change is being driven by activists under the leadership of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the leading pro-democracy opposition group that survived a massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners in 1988.

As our resolution notes, the regime’s violent suppression of the massive November 2019 protests, which killed 1,500 people, “failed to stem the outbreak of additional nationwide uprisings or protests by teachers, pensioners, workers, nurses, students, among many others.” It revealed the extent of the regime’s vulnerability in the face of a growing opposition movement, which has clear leadership and an explicit plan for establishing democratic governance after the mullahs’ overthrow.

The international community must support the National Council of Resistance of Iran as a viable alternative to the regime, endorse NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi’s 10-Point Plan for the future of Iran, and officially acknowledge the right of the Iranian people and Resistance to topple the regime and to establish democracy and people’s sovereignty.

Giulio Terzi is a former foreign minister of Italy, former Italian Ambassador to the United States, former Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations.