Need for a comprehensive policy to counter Iran
American officials this week announced that a full range of UN sanctions had returned on Iran, including a permanent extension of the arms embargo. Some observers debate the efficacy of these measures, particularly as the European powers have signaled that they will not enforce them. But the efficacy argument serves as secondary to a much more significant dimension of Washington's resolve: Holding Tehran accountable for its current and future transgressions.
Regardless of the immediate material impact on the regime’s economic situation, accountability is a principle that undergirds a specific strategic calculus.
Consider the facts. American intelligence officials this month reported that Tehran had developed plans to assassinate the US ambassador to South Africa in retaliation for the elimination of terrorist mastermind Qassem Soleimani in January. Meanwhile, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran continues to increase its stockpile of enriched uranium, in violation of the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Tehran’s terrorist activity has also escalated and, if left unchecked, such behavior could simply spiral out of control. In 2018, a senior Iranian diplomat stationed in Vienna was caught red-handed by European authorities hand-delivering an explosive device to a terrorist sleeper cell as part of a plot to bomb a rally organized by the Iranian opposition group the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in Paris. At the gathering were hundreds of international personalities, including the NCRI’s President-elect Maryam Rajavi.
The detained diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, is scheduled to appear at a Belgian court in November to face trial. It is unprecedented in Europe’s modern history for a sitting diplomat to be tried on charges of direct involvement in a terrorist plot. Over the past two years, seven other Iranian diplomats, including an ambassador in Albania, have been expelled for similar reasons.
Against this backdrop, a profoundly consequential question arises for Iran policy: If the Europeans and Americans fail to show Tehran that its malign actions carry serious consequences, then what will stop the further escalation of such acts? If Tehran is not held accountable when it acts with impunity, it will be emboldened to try and impose itself on the regional and international order. That is why the Iranian people themselves are calling for accountability.
Rajavi last week said: “Faced with executions and massacres, the people of Iran urge the US, and the UN Security Council in particular, to restore snapback sanctions stipulated in the six UN resolutions against the clerical regime in Iran. Otherwise, (Supreme Leader Ali) Khamenei will continue to ravage the nation, as his regime’s survival depends on murder and suppression.”
Containing the regime’s regional meddling by eliminating Soleimani has already yielded historic results. As former US National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones told last week’s Trans-Atlantic Summit on Iran Policy, the UAE and Bahrain’s agreements with Israel show that “the circle of countries that are in direct opposition to what Iran is doing is growing by leaps and bounds.”
It is remarkable that, even during one of the most divisive election years in US history, the same strategic principle has vocal adherents on both sides of the aisle. For example, Rep. Brad Schneider, a Democrat from Illinois, told the summit: “We must always play a leadership role in holding the Iranian regime accountable for its misdeeds abroad and against their own people.” Similarly, Republican Sen. Martha McSally said: “The US and the international community must continue to hold Iran accountable for its human rights violations and reprehensible behavior.”
Both lawmakers were among the speakers who addressed the international summit on Iran policy, which was organized by the NCRI. It virtually linked 10,000 locations worldwide and was addressed by hundreds of public officials and lawmakers from Europe, the US and Canada. The high-profile speakers included Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Joe Lieberman and more than 30 sitting members of Congress, including Sens. Roy Blunt, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Kirsten Gillibrand and Bob Menendez. This shows that, despite their differences, members of both major US parties agree on holding the Iranian regime accountable for its malign actions.
The US and European countries must pressure the UN General Assembly and Security Council to take action on the Iranian regime’s atrocious human rights record.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Now, the US and European countries must pressure the UN General Assembly and Security Council to take action on the Iranian regime’s atrocious human rights record. The objective should not simply be to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; it should also be to put an end to Tehran’s destabilizing behavior in the region, stop its support for terrorism, and help the Iranian people have a representative, democratic and inclusive government. That is the ultimate strategic solution to the crisis.
Again, there is remarkable bipartisan agreement on supporting the Iranian people and the opposition. Menendez, the most senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, summed this up by saying: “While in Congress we may have differing approaches about the best way to address the threat from Iran, rest assured that we remain united against the regime’s fundamental abuses against its citizens.”
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh