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Editorial: Exposing Iran’s real face at Paris meet

The world has heard a lot from the ayatollahs in Tehran. This week it had the chance to listen to the authentic voice of Iranians. Opposition activists gathered in Paris in their tens of thousands. The rally, called by the National Council for Resistance in Iran, was one of biggest in recent times.
Attendees came from all over the world to mourn 35 years of oppressive rule. And it was not simply Iranians who joined the event. One of the high-profile attendees was Prince Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies.
The prince did not mince his words. He referred to the “Khomeini cancer” that had gripped Iran. He said the Iranian people had been the first victims of the Grand Ayatollah. The regime had since gone on to interfere constantly in the affairs of its neighbors.
Many speakers referred to Iran’s catastrophic intervention in Syria. Tehran had supported Syrian government massacres of opposition forces. It had sent Revolutionary Guards to fight alongside Bashar Assad’s troops. It had sustained the ruthless dictatorship. There was frustration in Paris at the international community’s ending of sanctions. The regime had no intention of honoring the nuclear deal. Washington and the EU had allowed themselves to be tricked. The removal of sanctions should be halted. Those taken off should be reimposed.
As if on cue, proof of the Iranian opposition’s warning came from Germany. In Berlin, the secret service reported this week that Tehran’s agents had been trying to buy nuclear-related technology. Some of the equipment was applicable to the nuclear fuel-enrichment program that the Iranians had promised to halt for 15 years.
In Paris, the Iranian opposition also dwelt on the regime’s dark domestic oppression. Minorities such as Afghan refugees in the east of the country were persecuted. In the west, Iran’s Kurds are subject surveillance and repression. Arabs were regularly targeted by the authorities. Religious intolerance was rife. The Sunni community is a particular focus of the regime’s violence. More than 4,000 Sunnis have been executed in the last five years in a reign of terror. No new Sunni mosques can be built. Repairs to existing mosques are obstructed by officialdom.
The murder of Iranian Arabs reflects a wider surge in executions. Iran is now killing more of its opponents than at any time since the 1979 revolution. To many in Paris, this was a clear sign of a regime in panic. Regime change was urgently necessary.
Prince Turki’s presence as a speaker produced predictable ire in Tehran. The roar went up that the Kingdom was interfering in Iran’s affairs. Were it not for the bloodshed brought about by Iranian meddling in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia itself, this hollow protest would have been laughable.
It would have been better if the ayatollahs had listened carefully to what the prince had to say. He set out carefully the history of the Arab and Persian peoples. There were extensive cultural, religious and linguistic links. In the Gulf, trade had underpinned cooperation. There had been an exceptional history of cordial relations and mutual respect. Sadly, all this had changed under the current Iranian government.
Prince Turki’s analysis was greeted with considerable applause. But it was not simply his condemnation of the Tehran regime that drew approval. What people admired was his insistence that the time would come when the rich tapestry of Arab-Iranian relations could be restored. Renewed peace and friendship would bring regional prosperity. It would bring stability to a region of immense geopolitical significance to the rest of the world. Many Iranians at the Paris meeting were probably quietly proud of the achievement of their country’s nuclear engineers. But they were united in horror at the ends to which that technology had been put. Similarly, all had friends and relatives who had suffered as a result of the international sanctions. Top regime officials made sure the impact on their own corrupt way of life was minimal. It was the ordinary people who paid the price. Inflation destroyed the savings of a life time. Price rises, driven by the black market, made basic daily necessities unaffordable. The punitive sanctions that brought the ayatollahs to negotiating table also nearly brought them to their knees.
But the phoney Geneva deal let them escape. As the Kingdom predicted, Tehran is already cheating on its nuclear program. With sanctions being removed, state funds are escaping international control. Disastrously, the regime now has the resources to redouble its destructive meddling in the Arab world.

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