They will go to the brink

Column: How to support the Iranian people and stop an Iranian bomb

Protesters in Iran / Reuters

Mateo Continetti • September 23, 2022 5:00 am

Unforeseen events have created a crisis of legitimacy within the Iranian regime. For the third time in 13 years, mass protests directed against the ruling theocrats have broken out across the country. The riots are an opportunity for the American president to speak directly to the Iranian people and tell them that the United States is on the side of freedom. President Biden, the microphone is yours.

“Today we stand with the brave citizens and brave women of Iran who are demonstrating right now to secure their basic rights,” Biden told the UN General Assembly on September 21. Her words of support are welcome. But more needs to be said and done.

For those of you who just tuned in: Iran has turned off cameras monitoring its declared nuclear sites. His nuclear centrifuges spin and spin. His agents conspired to assassinate a former US national security adviser and secretary of state on American soil. Last month, the decades-old fatwa of Iran’s former supreme leader, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, inspired a man 24-year-old New Jerseyan to stab author and US citizen Salman Rushdie 10 times at a public event in Chautauqua, New York. Last month, Iran sent its first shipment of drones to Russian forces. The invaders and occupiers of Ukraine use weapons.

These latest protests began after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in state custody. She had been arrested and detained by the “morality police” for the crime of wearing an “inadequate hijab”. Widespread disgust at official explanations and excuses for Amini’s cruel and senseless death has led hundreds of Iranian women to burn their own hijabs. Iranians of all persuasions are marching through the streets in defiance of the authorities. Some call for the end of the Islamic Republic. In this writing, at least seven protesters have been killed. The government is making efforts to shut down social media and electronic communications. The crisis is real. It has the potential to threaten the regime itself.

Why? Because the rupture comes at a critical moment in the sad and bloody history of the Islamic Revolution. The state that emerged from that revolution in 1979, the Islamic Republic, faces both a leadership crisis and a demographic transition at the same time that negotiations on reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) , also known as the Iranian nuclear deal, have ended. reached a dead end.

These are not the actions of a state that will give up its nuclear ambitions and be brought into the fold of the “international community”. They are the actions of a mad state whose main export is not energy but terrorism, violence and death. The Iranian government’s malignity extends beyond the nation’s borders, for sure. But its main victims are the Iranian people. They are the first to suffer the economic, social, cultural and physical costs billed to the regime. Their discontent is the clearest record of the regime’s criminality and the most visible sign of its decline.

The overlapping challenges for Iran add to the fragility of the regime. Therefore, the best course of action for the United States: End our nuclear negotiations with Iran, reinstate snapback sanctions, restore a credible military threat, and demand that the Iranian government recognize the human rights and dignity of the Iranian people. .

Ayatollah Khamenei is 83 years old. He’s not in good health. Yes, he has done some. public appearances In recent days. But the few images we have seen of him do not exactly project strength. As in all authoritarian regimes, his acolytes and sycophants must be vying for position in anticipation of his ultimate demise. If so, then there must be an atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty at the highest levels of the regime.

The cries of the Iranian youth for personal freedom have undoubtedly worsened the disorder. There are 88 million Iranians. Half of the population is under 32 years of age. They are ruled by a grizzled, sclerotic clergy who funnel resources to their private army, the terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Mahsa Amini represented a generation of Iranians who want more than the limited options, cruelty and state-imposed religion that have been offered for 43 years. That is why he has become a symbol for all those who disapprove and dissent from the hard-line mullahs.

A push from the United States would make all the difference. There is no better time for a change in American strategy. The nuclear deal is going nowhere. Accepting Iran’s most radical demands at the negotiating table would make the United States look weak, foolish and callous. Give in to Khamenei while he murders his citizenry and provides Russia with weapons to use against the Ukrainians? My stomach churns at the thought.

If the current upheaval were a test, Biden got the first question right. She still has to complete the exam.

The two previous US CEOs did not approve. In 2009, President Obama was speechless as students took to the streets in the so-called Green Revolution. In 2019, President Trump delivered mixed messages while the Iranians rebelled against government corruption and economic mismanagement. Obama did not want to jeopardize his detente plans with the mullahs. As a rule, Trump’s personal foreign policy downplayed human rights and democracy. Crippling sanctions were his weapon of choice.

The motivations of the two presidents differed. The results do not. In both cases, the regime used brutal means to survive the turmoil. And Ayatollah Khamenei continued to build his nuclear infrastructure and wreak havoc throughout the region and the world.

Draw the line here. US officials say they have made their final offer to Iran. Penalty fee. The Ayatollah rejected it. Now the United States must also reject it. Isolating and punishing the Iranian regime for its malign behavior abroad and oppression at home would further US interests in the Greater Middle East. It would undermine one of Russia’s few allies. And it would help the Iranian people in their fight to put their government where it belongs: on the ash heap of history.

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