As Iran’s regime grows weaker with each passing weak, more and more voices are claiming to represent the alternative that the Iranian people desire. We argue that today the mullahs’ regime has three major weak points, and that genuine opponents of the regime could be distinguished by their stance in these three strategic areas.
Factor 1: International sanctions
International sanctions are the mullahs’ Achilles’ heel. The regime desperately needs money to pay its agents of suppression and to fuel its war chest. It tries to skirt sanctions through back channel dealings and offering huge discounts on oil and gas sales, which account for 80 percent of the regime’s income. At the same time, the regime tries to portray its opposition to sanctions as the desire of Iranian people, and even of groups opposed to the regime.
Since 1981, the PMOI (MEK) and NCRI have consistently urged the UN Security Council and all governments to impose comprehensive economic and oil sanctions against the regime.
The 2015 nuclear deal that lifted sanctions and released billions of dollars to Tehran, gave the regime a lifeline to continue its crackdown on dissidents at home, and support Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad, Lebanese Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen. The rest of the funds ended up lining the pockets of the mullahs and the Revolutionary Guards.
Iranian people blame only the mullahs for their economic woes. In major protests that rocked Iran in the past year over the crumbling state of the economy, a common chant has been: “Our enemy is right here; they’re lying when they say it’s America”.
For as long as the mullahs are in power, every dollar of trade with Iran is a dollar that helps the regime spread terror at home and abroad.
Those who oppose the new U.S. sanctions or seek to downgrade them by arguing for ‘targeted or smart sanctions’ are knowingly or unknowingly parroting the regime’s line.
The regime would be perfectly happy with a few of its officials appearing on ‘smart sanctions’ lists, while it gains billions through the sale of oil and gas.
The Iranian people and genuine opponents of the regime support crippling comprehensive sanctions against the regime.
Factor 2: Blacklisting the IRGC
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) forms the backbone of the regime. Without them, the mullahs can’t survive in power. The IRGC is the main force that suppresses popular protests at home, spreads terror and fundamentalism in the region and pursues the regime’s illegal nuclear and missile-related activities that threaten the world.
Any real opponent of the mullahs would seek to weaken and obliterate the IRGC. For years the NCRI has called on the U.S. and Europe to include the IRGC on their terrorist lists. Meanwhile, some groups, including the ousted Shah’s son, have based their political strategy on reaching out to elements within the IRGC and “the reintegration of the majority of the non-corrupt, non-criminal members of the existing paramilitary forces.”
Factor 3: The MEK
The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), also known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), is the largest and most active democratic opposition to the regime. The mullahs consider the MEK their main archenemy and have executed over 100,000 MEK members in the past four decades. The MEK is also the largest organization within the NCRI coalition. The MEK espouses a modern tolerant interpretation of Islam that is in diametric opposition to the mullahs’ fundamentalist viewpoints. The MEK’s Resistance Units in Iran have an instrumental role in organizing major protests calling for an end to the mullahs’ rule. The regime jails, tortures or executes anyone who dares voice support for the MEK. The regime fears political support for the MEK by democratic governments. Outside Iran, the regime’s strategy for eliminating the MEK involves both terrorism against the group and spreading disinformation to delegitimize it. The regime’s lobby try to discourage political support for the MEK abroad by demonizing the group. They claim, without proof, that the MEK has no support among the Iranian public. Those who repeat the mullahs’ misinformation against the MEK wittingly or unwittingly assist the regime’s agenda by undermining the democratic alternative to theocratic rule. Some have even gone so far as choosing the regime over the MEK. Genuine opponents of the mullahs, see the regime as the Iranian people’s number one enemy, and they have no interest in attacking the group striving most to oust the mullahs from power. We’re not opposed to outside criticism or disagreements with the MEK; but animosity and hostility to the MEK and choosing the regime over the group is exactly what the mullahs want.
What’s the best Iran policy for the international community?
Democratic governments should align themselves with the desires and interests of the Iranian people. They shouldn’t listen to the regime’s lobbies. Nor should they listen to those who falsely claim to speak on behalf of the Iranian people despite their messages only serving the decaying tyranny in Iran.
Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi rightly argues there are six principled steps that democracies like the U.S. and EU member states can take in the interest of global peace and security:
1. Recognizing the right of the Iranian people and the Resistance to overthrow the ruling religious fascism and to establish freedom.
2. Placing the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and other organs of suppression and export of terrorism and fundamentalism on the U.S. State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations and on the EU’s terror watch list.
3. Expelling the agents of the MOIS and the terrorist IRGC Quds Force from the U.S. and Europe.
4. Referring the dossier of the Iranian regime’s human rights violations and massacre of political prisoners to the United Nations Security Council and the International Court of Justice.
5. Expelling the illegitimate clerical regime from the UN and recognizing the Iranian Resistance as the true representative of the Iranian people.
6. Evicting the Iranian regime and its forces from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan.