With 2018 coming to a close, it’s time for policymakers to re-examine strategies for confronting Iran’s dictatorship. There have been unique changes in Iranian affairs and policy since the end of last year. New opportunities — and new threats — have arisen.
One year ago, the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was still in full effect. Now, all U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic have come back into full force. One year ago, Iran’s domestic situation appeared relatively stable, but within weeks it had erupted into a mass uprising that spanned every major city and town, giving rise to virtually unprecedented anti-government slogans. And one year ago, the Iranian threat to Western nations was largely theoretical and vaguely defined; today, the United States and Europe have faced down at least four terrorist plots targeting Iranian activists on Western soil.
Proponents of Iranian democracy are overwhelmingly supportive of the assertive shift in Iranian policy spearheaded by the Trump administration in the United States. Though the nations of Europe were initially hesitant to align themselves with that shift, there are, increasingly, signs that this may be changing.
In the wake of a recent ballistic missile test by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the U.N. Security Council held a closed-door meeting at the behest of France and the United Kingdom, thereby bringing more pressure on the international community to sanction Tehran over its persistently belligerent activities. Even before that, a meeting of foreign ministers signaled that the European Union was considering the general adoption of sanctions that the French government had unilaterally imposed after completing an investigation into the June 30 plot to bomb an international gathering of Iranian expatriates near Paris.
That event, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)’s annual Iran Freedom rally was attended by an estimated 100,000 people. The international composition of the crowd highlighted the strong and growing pressure that exists for international support for the Iranian resistance movement led by its president-elect, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi.
In the year ahead, there ought to be renewed attention to the potential for transformative change in the Islamic Republic. Already, the Iranian expatriate community has been a source of support for the popular protests that the Iranian regime has been struggling to contain for the entirety of 2018. The mass uprising at the start of the year has spawned a wide variety of smaller but broadly interconnected protests, which have kept the same anti-government slogans alive.
Rajavi delivered a message at the Iranian New Year in March calling for a “year full of uprisings” leading to the people’s “final victory” over the dictatorial theocratic dictatorship.
While the nationwide uprising was still in full swing, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei publicly attributed this to “the rapid spread and the provocative messaging” of pro-freedom forces. This stood in contrast to the regime’s long-standing policy of downplaying the strength and popularity of the organized resistance movement.
Surely, this should have awakened Western policymakers to the potential for a wholesale change of government in Iran. But just in case the significance of Khamenei’s admission escaped the world’s attention, the Iranian expatriate community will highlight it once again on Dec. 15, alongside the various successes of the ongoing protest movement.
In the wake of that message, it will surely be more difficult than ever for the nations of Europe to resist the push for sanctions on Iran, or the American shift toward more assertive policies. Over the past year, the Paris bomb plot and other similar threats have made the danger of Iranian terrorism a chilling and imminent reality.
At the same time, the evolution of Iran’s domestic situation has provided the world with an unprecedented opportunity to effectively confront this threat while also helping the Iranian people to bring about change in their country — a change that would not only achieve political and social democracy for themselves but significant security benefit to the Western world.
Lord Maginnis of Drumglass is an independent Ulster Unionist member of the UK House of Lords and member of the British Committee for Iran Freedom.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.