By Professor Lord Alton of Liverpool
The Hill – “Our enemies are small worms … I saw them in Munich” were Hitler’s remarks to his generals in 1938 after the four-power summit meeting of Germany, Italy, France and Great Britain that resulted in the Munich agreement allowing Nazi Germany’s annexation of former Czechoslovakia’s border areas. Hitler’s drive for expansion was encouraged, especially by the inaction of Great Britain after annexation of Austria.
Appeasement was the motto of the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, convinced that he could contain the Nazi regime and its Fuhrer. What followed was anything but control, an unstoppable Hitler rapidly annexing European states and resulting in the Second World War that claimed the lives of millions.
The Iranian question today reminds us of those dark pre-war days of the 1930s as world powers ponder which policy to adopt toward a fanatic regime that aims to get its hands on nuclear weapons. It appears that some believe Hassan Rowhani, who was sworn in as President on August 3, will be setting the tone within the regime’s establishment, thus leading to a possible breakthrough on the nuclear issue. The diplomatic community of the P5+1, overexcited by this new “moderate” president, cannot wait for the new nuclear negotiation team to be introduced in order to continue their endless talks.
But are there really reasons for hope and optimism? This crucial question needs to be answered quickly for the sake of humanity, as Tehran is getting closer to a bomb that has the ability to wipe out nation states. With a service record like Rowhani’s, who played a key role in the Iran-Iraq war as head of the Department of Defence, mercilessly crushed domestic student uprisings (1999) and masterminded terror attacks abroad as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, it is irrational to assume that he will challenge the agenda of the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. In addition, Rowhani proudly stated that he deceived the international community by accelerating Iran’s nuclear programme while negotiating with the West.
That’s what he said loud and clear after the sham presidential elections — that this regime will continue enriching uranium and maintain its support for the Syria’s murderous Assad government and the terrorist organization Hezbollah, key issues that currently threaten global peace and security and on which the international community desperately seeks a consensus.
Shaping policy under the influence of the mantra of moderation and reform within the Iranian regime is insane, and reminds me of the words of Albert Einstein: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Indeed, the West has been appeasing this regime over and over again in the past three decades, reaching its peak during President Khatami’s era in the late 90s. The failure of appeasement has until now only served the Supreme Leader’s determination that Iran becomes a nuclear power, as he has not moved away one inch from his evil ambitions.
Further evidence emerged this week that, as Iran plays a game of political musical chairs, very little has changed in reality. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have inspired fear and loathing during his eight years as President but the West have been too quick to assume that Iran is under new management. Just one day after Rowhani was sworn in, Ahmadinejad was appointed to the country’s Expediency council and Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, heaped praise upon him.
Khamenei is calling the shots in Iran, as he is in charge of major policy questions such as the nuclear programme and his regime’s interfering role in Syria and the greater Middle East.
As the leader of Iranian Resistance, Mrs Maryam Rajavi, accurately pointed out during a grand gathering of some 100 000 supporters of the Iranian resistance movement in Paris on 22 June, if Rowhani’s promises for reform are genuine, he and his administration will have to uphold certain international standards.In the presence of 600 international dignitaries, she emphasised: “Without freedom of expression and human rights and as long as political prisoners and activities of political parties are not free, and the regime’s belligerent policies in Syria and Iraq continue, and it insists on obtaining a nuclear bomb, nothing will change.” The Iranian regime understands very well the implications of these standards because if it was ever going to uphold them, it would mean the end of its religious dictatorship.
The people of Iran have shown on many occasions in the last three decades their disregard for the clerical establishment — and their cries for freedom and democracy have always been met with gross human rights violations and ruthless violence by the authorities. According to many prominent lawyers these oppressive measures constitute crimes against humanity under international law.
Many historians stress that if Hitler had only been stopped in Munich, the course of history would have changed. Indeed, let us not be deceived by the myth of moderation and draw lessons from human history. It is now crucial to increase the pressure on the regime in Tehran, which is responsible for an annual inflation rate of 42%, an unemployment rate on a wild ride, and more importantly a disgruntled generation that is eager for change. It is a regime which has been responsible for the most egregious violations of human rights and is soaked in the blood of its own people. The West should shape its policy based on recognising the desire of the Iranian people for democratic change and support the main Iranian opposition movement under the leadership of Mrs Rajavi. Indeed, a democratic regime change in Iran is the only sustainable policy that will enhance global peace and security.
Alton, a cross-bench member of the UK’s House of Lords, is a member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom.