The footage of ruined cities, mass graves, burnt bodies, and images of one happy mother and her three-month-old infant boy killed last week in Ukraine make the heart of any human being sink. People across the globe, regardless of their political orientations, condemn the war of occupation in Ukraine and Russia’s atrocities. But as evil always finds evil, it seems that the murderous mullahs in Tehran enjoy the humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine.
After all, what could be expected from a murderous regime that gunned down 1500 peaceful protesters in days in November 2019 and hanged over 30,000 political prisoners in a couple of months in 1988? It is parochial to believe that the mullahs’ moral nihilism and their violent nature have prompted them to side with Russia. The Iranian regime faces a volatile society and the daily protests in Iran by people from all walks of life are testaments to this fact. The country’s economic crunch has put Tehran’s anti-west rhetoric of “economic resilience” at stake.
Since the regime couldn’t let go of its warmongering policies and strike a deal with Western powers, which have increased its international isolation and by far the country’s economic meltdown, it started the so-called “look to the East” policy. The regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei initiated this strategy. He knew both domestically and internationally that he could no longer continue the game of moderation and keep a façade of reformism. After pulling out Ebrahim Raisi, wanted for crimes against humanity, out of the ballot box in June, Khamenei and his regime started rigorously implementing the look to the East policy. This policy is briefly as follows: auctioning Iran’s resources to China and Russia in exchange for their support during talks with world powers to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
With the wind of appeasement blowing in the direction of autocrats, and as the West failed to hold criminals accountable, Russia and Iran believed they could exploit the situation. Having Europe’s fuel lifeline in hand, Moscow invested in the unprecedented rising inflation and the post-pandemic economic woes in Western countries. Besides, Putin knew he had the mullahs in his pocket since they needed him for nuclear negotiations and they wouldn’t endanger his strategy by cooperating with the West. So, the war began.
On the other hand, Tehran thought it could also take advantage of the current situation because as Europeans imposed sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas and the U.S. showed no intention of entering any conflict with Russia, they would wrap up the JCPOA negotiations and consent to Tehran’s bodacious demands. While Raisi rushed to the scene to support Russia, Khamenei claimed his regime “does not need negotiations.”
Then came Ukraine’s heroic resistance. Men and women decided to defend their country and keep the flame of liberty ablaze in the cold winter of appeasement and inaction. Their sacrifice turned the tide, revived the spirit of resistance at any cost, and united the West against Russia. Tehran’s quick defense of Russia’s war of occupation trampled on its head and increased the regime’s international isolation and infighting.
On the other hand, due to the rising domestic pressure in the United States, the Biden administration abandoned its initial proposal to revoke the terrorist designation of the regime’s Revolutionary Guards or offer Tehran more incentive packages. Negotiations reached another dead-end, the tone of Western powers changed and recently there were talks of joint actions against Iran by Washington and Israel.
Khamenei understood that he had bet on the wrong horse. Raisi’s foreign minister, Hossain Amir Abdollahian, quickly declared that they were ready to resume negotiations. Khamenei, in a meeting with his Basij paramilitary last week, acknowledged that Russia has failed, saying that the balance of the “bipolar world is being disrupted,” so the regime should “pay attention to its interests.”
Now Tehran is coming back to the negotiating table on its knees. So, the question is: Would Western powers follow Ukraine’s lead and show some courage by holding Iran’s genocidal and terrorist regime to account? Or they would continue the failed policy of appeasement?
Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a Spanish professor of atomic and nuclear physics, was vice-president of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014. He is currently president of the Brussels- based International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ)