International community must hold Iranian regime to account
Iranian authorities continue to employ desperate measures to suppress protesters and those who oppose the regime’s policies.
Iranian citizens from all walks of life have been protesting for more than a week about the additional hardships imposed on them by the regime through its arbitrary withdrawal of food subsidies. At least half the population rely on these subsidies. Several people have been killed by regime forces so far and many have been arrested.
Many people in Iran are suffering financially. For the past 10 years, the unemployment rate in the country has been in the double digits and in spite of the fact that Iran has a highly educated youth population, which accounts for more than 60 percent of the total population, almost 30 percent of them are without jobs.
By further expanding the economic sanctions and other pressures targeting the regime in Tehran, the US could very well provide the Iranian people with precisely the added push they need to realize the goal of regime change that has been quite explicit in an unprecedented number of public protests since the end of 2017. Such actions will serve as a warning to the regime that it will be held accountable for its human rights violations.
Some Iranians, inside the country and abroad, have also been appealing to the international community for assistance in preventing a dramatic rise in the number of fatalities resulting from the crackdown. The leader of the opposition group the National Council of Resistance of Iran, Maryam Rajavi, echoed that sentiment recently, noting that support from the US and its allies would greatly help the Iranian people in their efforts to “free Iran, the Middle East and the world (from) the evil of the nuclear mullahs.”
The UN could invoke Chapter VII, Article 41 of its charter to impose additional economic sanctions on the Iranian regime and further isolate Tehran, from a diplomatic perspective. Western policymakers, and the entire international community, should make it clear that they support any effort by the Iranian people to push back against state repression and advocate for democracy.
Only the immediate and overwhelming threat of a coordinated international response can guarantee that the bloodshed resulting from the regime’s response to current or future protests will not be even worse than that which occurred in November 2019.
Iranian people desire a free and democratic republic that is focused on the future.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
The problem here is that if international policymakers offer no such threat they will be turning their backs on the Iranian people, thereby solidifying the position of a theocratic dictatorship with nuclear ambitions that is desperately struggling to find a lifeline.
This is why there have been some criticisms of the Joe Biden administration’s policy when it comes to supporting Iranians protesting against the regime and its ruling clerics. For instance, Mike Pompeo, the former US secretary of state — who recently met Rajavi in Albania at Ashraf 3, the headquarters of the main constituent of the NCRI — criticized the US government for its failure to provide substantial political support to the Iranian resistance.
He said that the “regime in Tehran went to the extreme to massacre 30,000 political prisoners,” and the threat it poses “extends far beyond Iran’s borders, with the regime having waged terror plots in Europe and the US against the leaders of this movement.”
It appears that the Iranian regime’s hold on power has largely depended upon a strong sense of impunity that has grown out of the avoidance of any consequences for its egregious human rights violations, including incidents such as the 1988 massacre in which nearly 30,000 political prisoners were executed.
In fact, the failure of the international community in this regard was acknowledged by several UN human rights experts last year when they wrote an open letter about that crime against humanity and noted that no bodies had followed up on a December 1988 resolution that highlighted an increase in politically motivated killings that year.
“The failure of these bodies to act had a devastating impact on the survivors and families, as well as on the general situation of human rights in Iran,” the authors of the letter noted, before articulating the responsibility of the international community to compensate for its prior failings. The US could lead the way in that endeavor.
Iran is most likely to follow a clear political course if its supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and the theocratic establishment are not in power. The country has a better future ahead. Hopefully, the international community is going to wake up to the fact that it is on the brink of major change, and that the Iranian people desire a free and democratic republic that is focused on the future, not on past dictatorships.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist.