New Internationalist

Talk of Iran’s new, moderate future is premature

Supporters of President Rouhani [Related Image]
Rouhani supporters had high hopes for a more moderate future for Iran. Tabarez2 under a Creative Commons Licence

The world may be debating the significance of a non-handshake between Presidents Obama and Rouhani , but it was already clear earlier this month, when Russia forced Obama to backtrack on his much publicised ‘red line’ regarding Syria, that the US President does not have the bottle for further conflict in the region. As the ‘red line’ was blurred beyond repair, Iran looked on with interest – seeing, no doubt, a green light for themselves. They can now look to manoeuvre in such a way as to allow boundaries to be stretched.

Iran will see the result in Syria as an enormous success for itself and its pragmatic approach. In the battle for Syria, Iran has undoubtedly backed President Assad with significant military support by providing funds and weaponry. However, as a military strike loomed large, Iran publicly stepped away. Senior Iranian figures, including Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, accused Assad of using chemical weapons against his people, while others spoke of aid to the Syrian people rather than support for Assad.

Look at the Iranian regime’s recent manoeuvres over its nuclear weapons programme and you can see that, rather than Rouhani turning over a new (moderate) leaf, he is a pragmatist. In public, the new President is making all the right noises. He has transferred nuclear policy to the Foreign Ministry and he has extended a hand of friendship to the world in voicing support for nuclear negotiations.

Talk is rife now of Tehran’s new moderate future. However, look more closely at the reality and the desperation of many to find moderates within the Iranian regime should worry us all. Tehran has not overnight become a moderate regime willing to change its path. The regime continues to silence opposition with arrest, torture and execution. It continues to push forward with its nuclear ambitions while at the same time arming and funding terrorist groups.

This is not a moderate future, but rather a highly pragmatic one.  The regime knows all too well that a Western leadership desperate for dialogue at any cost is a Western leadership which it can happily trample over with the promise of negotiations. During the time of President Khatami the West was all too happy to turn a blind eye to the suppression and suffering of the Iranian people if it felt Tehran would turn its back on its nuclear ambitions. Today, once again, the West appears happy to do the same. Falling for the Iranian regime’s new approach without actual results will have deadly consequences for us all. And for Iranian exiles in Iraq those deadly consequences have already been felt.

Iran has taken the West’s weakness in dealing with Syria and the desperation for dialogue as an opportunity to strike, with devastating consequences for the Iranian opposition. As the world discussed Syria’s chemical weapons attack, Tehran was busy using its proxies in Iraq to massacre members of Iran’s largest opposition group on 2 September. The defenceless residents of Camp Ashraf were brutally murdered by Iraqi security forces. YouTube videos show unarmed individuals being gunned down, with others handcuffed and executed with a shot to the head, leaving 52 murdered. The silence on the attack against Camp Ashraf is reprehensible. To turn a blind eye as defenceless civilians are massacred in this way in a land the West supposedly ‘freed’ is unacceptable.

We must not fall for the tricks of the Iranian regime again. We have a clear duty to protect these Iranians at Camp Liberty and Camp Ashraf and we must do so immediately. President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron should call for the immediate release of the seven hostages taken from Camp Ashraf. They must further call for a UN armed force to immediately be based at Camp Liberty to protect this group of Iranians.

Turn a blind eye to this massacre in Iraq and the message we send the people of the Middle East is that the West is divided, weak and unwilling to support their democratic demands. The future will be an emboldened and nuclear-armed Iran ready to dominate the Middle East.

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