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What really scares Iran’s clerical dictators

At a little-reported but highly significant meeting in a northern suburb of Paris last week, former high-level US officials expressed their support for the Iranian people’s uprising to unseat the clerical regime, and specifically for the organized opposition under the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
“The resistance is making a difference,” the former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich told the meeting. “The MEK (Mojahedin-e Khalq) is making a difference. I have no doubt that, in the long run, you are on the right side of history. The resistance is knitting together both in the country and in the world a tremendous force that is sustaining the right to believe that you can be free.”
Such support empowers the ordinary Iranian people and opposition forces who desire regime change.
Gingrich, the former Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli and NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi addressed the meeting of representatives of Iranian expatriate communities in Europe, held at the NCRI’s headquarters. Its theme was “Regime change in Iran.”
The event was significant because it followed a series of urban uprisings that began in Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city, on Dec. 28, and rapidly spread across Iran. The MEK network, the NCRI’s main constituent group, reported protests in 142 cities, during which about 50 protesters were killed and at least 8,000 arrested. It has since become evident that a number of those detained were tortured to death.

Ayatollah Khamenei and senior cadres of the Revolutionary Guards fear that the soft power of Iran’s ordinary people is much more potent than the military capacities of foreign powers.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was blunt in his acknowledgement of the resistance’s role. “The incidents were organized” and carried out by the MEK, he said. “The MEK had prepared for this months ago” and “the MEK’s media outlets had called for it.”
Rajavi told the meeting: “The uprising showed that Iranian society is in an explosive state, simmering with discontent. It showed that the regime is much weaker than perceived. It showed that the billions of windfall dollars from the nuclear deal did nothing to cure the regime’s instability. And finally, the uprising showed that the people of Iran detest both regime factions and want it overthrown in its entirety.”
History has shown us that any attempt to promote moderation within the Iranian regime has led to failure. The US and the international community must continue to reach out to the Iranian people and the resistance, who reject the regime and call for a representative government.
More than ever before, the Iranian people have shown their readiness for democratic change. The time has come for those governments that are pursuing appeasement policies with the Iranian regime to take a new approach.
The Iranian opposition calls for a democratic system of governance in Iran, freedom of religion, social justice, the rule of law and respect for human rights. In addition, from the perspective of the opposition, the political establishment of the current ruling clerics is based on authoritarianism and a religious dictatorship.
One of the reasons that Khamenei fears the NCRI is that it is currently the largest Iranian opposition group in exile, and has connections with Iranians on the ground in Iran. 
Many believe that this gives the opposition the crucial resources to play a significant role in counterbalancing the power of the ruling ayatollahs, pushing for a democratic system of governance in Iran, and preserving the United States’s national and economic interests. It is also worth noting that the NCRI has previously revealed Iran’s clandestine uranium enrichment sites.
Khamenei also fears that foreign governments may cooperate closely with the opposition, magnifying its power in inspiring disaffected youths in Iran to protest against the regime. This fear is evident in Khamenei’s repeated remarks about such infiltrations.
When it comes to confronting the regime, the view of Khamenei and senior cadres of the Revolutionary Guard Corps is that the soft power of Iran’s ordinary people and opposition is much more potent than the military capacities of foreign powers.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business.
Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh