Through the course of 2021, the U.S. administration and European governments practiced considerable flexibility with hopes of grinding out an agreement with the Iranian regime over the latter’s controversial nuclear program. So much so that, according to the regime’s envoys, the United States was prepared to lift a large chunk of sanctions. The only outcome has been Tehran’s clerical establishment taking full advantage of the West’s appeasement approach.
Even the European Union’s representative in the nuclear talks attended the inauguration of Ebrahim Raisi as the regime’s president, despite knowing about his involvement in Iran’s summer 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoner.
The result, however, has been none other than the establishment expanding the nuclear program with reported violations over the past year. The United Nations officials are emphasizing there is no civilian use in Iran’s recent production of uranium metal and enriching uranium at 60 percent purity, just mild steps from weapons-grade enrichment. What has gone completely unnoticed by Western officials and mainstream media is doubling in the number of executions in Iran compared to the same period in 2020, along with a long slate of other human rights violations.
Tehran is also pressing the gas pedal on its continuous support for global terrorism, providing a variety of weapons, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, to a variety of militias across the Middle East. In turn, these terrorist groups have repeatedly launched dangerous rocket and missile attacks targeting the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad or bases housing U.S. troops in different parts of Iraq, Syria, and even the United Arab Emirates. And most recently, the Iran-backed Houthis have been launching ballistic and cruise missiles, and drones, targeting UAE’s Abu Dhabi, and specifically aiming at a base where U.S. and UK forces are stationed. These carefully calibrated developments, parallel to nuclear talks in Vienna, raise important questions:
– Why is Iran resorting to such belligerence in response to the West’s concessions and appeasement?
– Why is Tehran expediting its nuclear program, in full breach of the 2015 nuclear deal, with measures that have no objective other than acquiring nuclear weapons?
– Why does Iranian regime Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei pursue policies that will presumably play against his regime’s ultimate interests?
The answer lies in the fact that Tehran’s regime is in a state of deep crisis that they are desperate to deny. For example, during the 2021 presidential elections, Khamenei eliminated all supposedly moderate candidates and factions within his regime. This is even if anyone seeking to become a candidate for any public office needs to first and foremost declare his/her utmost loyalty to the supreme leader. Knowing his regime would be facing unprecedented calamities, Khamenei needed to unify his ranks as much as possible.
A look at Iran’s economy proves to us that the regime is, as always, refusing to improve the Iranian people’s livelihood, welfare, health, education, employment, and housing. This is despite the fact that Iran has the world’s second-largest largest natural gas and fourth largest crude oil reserves. Knowing this will further aggravate public opinion, Khamenei has no choice but reinforcing his crackdown apparatus in an attempt to further protect his rule.
This is the very reason why shortages in water, electricity, food, housing, wages, and so and so forth further fuel public discontent. Inflation is currently around 50% and the regime has no basis to cover half of this year’s budget, leading to economists believing that deteriorating conditions in Iran are spiraling out of control.
To add to the regime’s growing list of concerns, there is clear hostility between the ruling regime and the Iranian people. Iran’s society is being described by experts as a time bomb and powder keg. The regime’s approach to social and economic issues, vital resources, the environment, women and youth, and Iran’s ethnic groups are extreme, to say the least. The Iranian people have only experienced an escalating environment of repression and executions. On January 22, the Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) reported 12 executions in two days and 45 in the span of just 30 days.
At least 1,500 protesters were killed during the November 2019 nationwide protests, many gunned down in cold blood, and thousands were arrested across the country.
As popular unrests began to threaten the regime’s very pillars, the coronavirus outbreak was seen as an opportunity to leave the Iranian people without support during the pandemic. Covid-19 has taken the lives of approximately half a million Iranians so far. That is one-tenth of the officially recorded fatalities worldwide. The import of American and British vaccines were also banned.
Just weeks ago, the villages of Sistan & Baluchestan province came under attack in southeast Iran. This takes us back to the year 2020 against the Iranian people was his orders to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) to shoot down Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752 using multiple surface-to-air missiles, killing all 176 innocent men, women, and children. Two years down the road, the regime continues to refrain from providing any answers to grieving families both inside Iran and abroad.
Under such circumstances, the nuclear program seems to have been activated. This is exactly why the establishment have prioritized obtaining nuclear weapons above all options. One can argue that Tehran, while constantly kicking the can down the road, has practically accepted the utter collapse of the 2015 nuclear deal (or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).
In our world today, if anyone would ask the regime in Iran whether it prefer sanctions relief or nuclear weapons, the answer would be both. When the international community refuses to adopt a firm policy, they degrade the value and impact of sanctions, buy more time during the talks to prolong their opportunity to obtain nuclear weapons.
The status quo situation has pinned the world, especially Western governments, to the wall. The West has long forced the Iranian people to pay the price of their appeasement vis-à-vis the ruling establishment. One bleak example is their continued silence in response to the human rights records, which are in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This includes the summer 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners across Iran.
The question now before Western governments is: Are they willing to allow Iran’s regime obtain nuclear weapons?
To answer this question, they should consider what they have been ignoring for years. The Iranian people play the most important role in determining the future of Iran. In 1977, the Carter administration’s assessment of Iran’s circumstances, viewing the country under the then Shah as an “island of stability.” In 1979 the Iranian people overthrew the Shah’s regime.
Do governments of the U.S. and Europe wish to learn from history or have history repeat itself? What is needed now is an international consensus on the need to hold the regime more accountable to the international community as well as focus on the aspirations of the Iranian populace at large.
How does this become possible?
The international community should refrain from entertaining the regime’s narrative and instead reinstate six UN Security Council resolutions on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions that are in clear violation of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Inspections should target all of Iran’s nuclear sites to prevent Tehran’s untrustworthy regime from ever seeking to obtain nuclear weapons.
The ongoing human rights violations in Iran should be looked from a closer scrutiny by the international community. It is high time for the international community to recognize the Iranian civil society’s long fight against the political and cultural repression, and their inalienable right to demand democratic institutions. The regime should be nudged to allow its citizens to access Humanitarian aid organizations for relief.
This approach, and not appeasement, is what will result in advancing freedom, democracy, and peace in Iran, and from Iran to the Middle East, and throughout the world.
Image – BBC