The Scotsman – George Santayana, the American political philosopher, famously said “Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are destined to repeat them.” We had better prepare ourselves for some sharp history lessons if current events in Iran are anything to go by. As the brutal, fascist regime tightens its grip in that beleaguered nation, the parallels with the rise of Nazi Germany are menacing.
Under the tyrannical rule of Iran’s Supreme Leader – Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – 120,000 opponents have been executed since the overthrow of the Shah 26 years ago. Women are hanged in public and stoned to death. Offenders are regularly flogged in public. Convicts have their limbs amputated or eyes gouged out. In August 2004 a girl, 16, was publicly hanged from a crane in northern Iran for "acts incompatible with chastity". On November 13, two young men were hanged in a public square in the northern city of Gorgan after being found guilty of lavat, or homosexuality. In a separate case, Delaram Darabi, 19, is to be executed following allegations that she murdered a woman when she was 17. On January 7, a young woman, was sentenced to die for accidentally killing a man, among a group three, who attempted to rape her and her niece. She was 17 at the time of the incident, wrote the daily Etemad. According to Amnesty International, Iran has recently executed at least eight individuals who were under the age of 18 at the time of alleged offences.
Since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office six months ago, some 130 people have been either publicly hanged or sentenced to death, with five sentenced to die by stoning. But Ahmadinejad doesn’t only hate minorities. This same man, who has called the holocaust “a myth” and said that Israel should be “wiped off the map”, possesses a hatred of Jews which would have gratified Adolf Eichman or Heinrich Himmler. His suggestion that Israel could be moved to Alaska or Europe mirrors the ideas promoted in ‘Mein Kampf’ by Hitler, who recommended that all Jews should be transported to Madagascar or Borneo.
But the West should not be fooled into thinking that these are simply the outpourings of an inexperienced political leader playing to his home audience. Addressing a group of Islamist student activists in a midnight meeting on 3rd January this year, Ahmadinejad said: "Some in Iran and abroad thought that we were making these speeches [against the state of Israel] without a specific plan and policy, but we have been pursuing a specific strategy in this regard". His strategy, which mirrors the Supreme Leader’s, does not stop there. Like Hitler, he harbours a deep desire to spread his particular brand of fascism much further afield and, like Hitler, he is re-building his country’s armaments in readiness to achieve his geopolitical goals.
A recent 55-page intelligence report leaked to The Guardian stated that the Iranian government has been successfully scouring Europe for the sophisticated equipment needed to develop a nuclear bomb. Scientists in Tehran are also shopping for parts for a ballistic missile capable of reaching Europe, with "import requests and acquisitions … registered almost daily", the report in the Guardian concludes. The document, dated 1st July 2005, draws upon material gathered by British, French, German and Belgian agencies, lists scores of Iranian companies and institutions involved in the arms race. It also details Tehran’s growing determination to perfect a ballistic missile capable of delivering warheads far beyond its borders.
Iran’s funding of the insurgency in neighbouring Iraq has long been recognised. By sending thousands of revolutionary guards and intelligence agents into Iraq, as well as spending hundreds of millions of dollars to recruit mercenaries and enlist support among destitute and impoverished Iraqis, Iran has sought to create civil war and lay the foundations for an Islamo-fascist takeover by the Mullahs. Their role in subverting the recent elections in Iraq has also been disclosed. On 30 December, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who heads the powerful Guardian Council, told Friday prayers worshippers that the world was witnessing “the emergence of Islam and the establishment of Islamic rule all over the world”, bringing about the “disgrace” of the United States in places such as Iraq.
These stark realities, however, have not deterred the ever-shrewd and business-minded Europeans. Claiming that any attempt to be firm with Tehran would be tantamount to starting an Iraqi-style war, the EU and its US allies continue to argue that the best approach is conciliation. Once again the parallels with history are uncanny. The failed attempts to appease Hitler and the Nazis scream out to us from history. But the cries of Hitler’s victims fall on deaf ears. Jack Straw has visited Tehran more often than any other major world capital, apart from Brussels and Washington. He constantly beats a path to the Mullahs’ door, oozing appeasement and ignoring the oppression, brutality and rising threat to Western civilisation. He even agreed to a plea from the Mullahs to keep the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI) – the main Iranian opposition movement and the only one feared and loathed by the fascist regime in Tehran – on the EU terrorist list, despite the fact that the PMOI have supplied the West with a constant flow of accurate intelligence identifying the key sites of the Iranian nuclear weapons programme.
But in facing up to the Iranian challenge, there is no need to choose between war and appeasement. As the exiled opposition leader Maryam Rajavi said during an address to the European Parliament in December 2004, “no concession is going to dissuade the mullahs from continuing their ominous objectives… The equation of ‘either a military invasion or appeasement’ is an exercise in political deception. A third option is within reach. The Iranian people and their organised resistance have the capacity and ability to bring about change.”
By putting the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran on its terror list, the EU has handcuffed itself. Europe should end the blacklisting of this anti-fundamentalist group and side with the millions in Iran who cry for freedom and a regime change. A modern, secular and democratic Iran would not only be the key to regional peace and security, but also a long term ally, as we try to spread democracy across the Middle East and the world.
Let us not forget the lessons of history and perhaps, after all, we shall not have to repeat them.
STRUAN STEVENSON, MEP
Struan Stevenson is a Scottish Conservative Member of the European Parliament and co-Chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup. He is Vice President of the ruling EPP-ED Group of 268 MEPs in the European Parliament.