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Iran Cries Freedom: Can the EU Hear?

Submitted by on 06 Oct 2011 – 12:21

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale By Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, Chair, All-Party British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom

Like a rabbit frozen into reaction by car lights on a dark road at night, neither the EU or US knows what to do to halt Iran’s bid to develop nuclear weapons. It is now the turn of the Danes to find a way ahead.

On the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 outrage, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair called for regime change in Iran saying it “would make me significantly more optimistic about the whole of the region”. He added: “If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons capability, it would destabilise the region very, very badly.”

What a pity he did not say this while leading the government. Nor did he slap down his Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who insisted in the House of Commons that the UK was not in favour of regime change when he was leading the failed P5+1 group of UN Security Council countries (China, Russia, France, the US and UK + Germany) in years of trying to talk Iran into coming clean about its nuclear ambitions.

Mr Blair was also wrong on the 9/11 anniversary to cite Iran as the “real enemy” in the decade ahead. It has been the real enemy to its own people, the region and the world almost from the day the mullahs stole democracy from the Iranian people after the Shah was overthrown in 1979.

As ever in many such revolutions, the victors turned on those who had the main role in the popular uprising, the Iranian Resistance, led by the PMOI. Over three decades 120,000 PMOI members and supporters were executed, and in 1986 the organisation was forced to set up base across the border in Iraq, although its underground social network remains active in Iran.

That cleared the way for the mullahs to continue to torture, imprison and kill those who spoke against them. The country hangs more men, women and children than the rest of the hanging world put together bar China. Its persistent attacks on human rights have been censured by the UN more than 50 times.

Its use of terror at home is matched by its sponsorship of terrorism abroad – funding and arming Hezbollah and Hamas and now using terrorist groups in Yemen in a proxy war with Saudi Arabia.

That’s why its brand of militant fundamentalism and nuclear weapons is such a lethal mix.

But it is not all bad. Did the first ripples of the Arab Spring start after the stolen presidential election in Iran in 2009 when hundreds of thousands demonstrated in spite of bans and murderous assault, peacefully demanding “Where’s my vote?”

Significantly that soon became a demand for an end to theocratic rule and for a secular democracy – exactly the demands of the Iranian Resistance which the mullahs and their supporters in the UK Foreign Office say has “no support”.

As in Egypt and Libya it is difficult to envisage negotiations for democratic change with the ruling theocracy. Organised opposition is imprisoned, usually without trial, so who is to speak for those millions who cry freedom?

The P5+1 seem to believe that the odd voice calling carefully for democratic change represented the will of that 65 percent of the population who are under 40 (with half under 25) who have no memories of the 1979 revolution. And in any event the main spokesmen for the “Green Movement” are former prominent officials of the Islamic Republic. That’s not to say they haven’t changed their minds but they are strictly yesterday’s men and more important they want the religious regime to stay.. Any genuine change would lead to the regime’s fall.

The best hope of peaceful democratic change is more in the hands of the well-educated under-40’s than those tainted with service to the mullahs’ fundamentalist regime. Young Iranians like their counterparts in Arab countries are the best promise of finding the strength to face the regime’s dreadful oppression and face it down.

Hopefully next year’s Parliamentary elections will give new encouragement for protests to those who cry freedom, loud enough to persuade the mullahs that their time is up.

En route there are frightening realities over Iran especially for EU member countries. If Poland has not had to deal with one of the main issues then the Danes will certainly have to. The present prospect for 3,400 members of the Iranian Resistance at Camp Ashraf 60 miles North of Baghdad is a Srebrenica-style massacre by the end of the year.

Iran has ordered compliant Iraqi Prime Minister Mr Nuri al Maliki to ensure the Camp is “erased”. Joint Iraqi-Iranian forces have twice attacked Ashraf’s unarmed residents killing 47, injuring over 1,000 and then denying medical treatment to survivors.

Ashraf residents were individually given protected persons status under the Fourth Geneva Convention by the US on behalf of the coalition. In any event, Iraq has obligations under international humanitarian law to protect these refugees. Helpfully, the UNHCR has now declared them asylum seekers under international law with the basic protections this provides.

While the UK and EU responded to court rulings that the Iranian Resistance be removed from the list of proscribed terrorist organisations, the US has yet to do so – thus giving cover to both Iran and Iraq that their attacks on Ashraf are part of the “war on terrorism”.

The EU and US need to signal to the Iranian people they do not stand alone when they cry freedom. They should call on the UN to station a permanent team at Ashraf and provide the logistics for its operations. They need to support the call for the one thing which the mullahs will well understand spells their end – democracy.

Can Poland and Denmark find the will to lead the EU into doing just this?