Clearly there is a sense of panic in Tehran. When we called on the Scottish Police to arrest Ebrahim Raisi if he dared to set foot in Scotland to attend the COP26 summit, he immediately chickened out and announced that he wasn’t coming. A great victory. Raisi realised that, unlike his predecessors, he is unable to travel freely to the West, or indeed to any civilised nation, due to his pariah status as the ‘Butcher of Tehran’. However, I kind of wish he had come, so that we could see him arrested and charged with crimes against humanity and genocide.

Raisi’s humiliating climbdown may be because he has woken up to the fact that as president, he has inherited a poisoned chalice. He is the zombie president of a dying regime. The Iranian economy has collapsed due to corruption and incompetence. There is mass unemployment, plummeting household incomes and stagflation. In a disastrous attempt to repair the damage, the theocratic regime has attempted to manipulate the foreign-exchange rate, drained resources from the central bank, sold state-owned companies and factories and plundered the stock market. They have even begun to deal in bitcoins. 70% of the population now struggle to survive on weekly incomes below the international poverty-line. The regime’s economic collapse has been exacerbated by its deliberately bungled handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 460,000 people and is now entering a sixth wave. 

Raisi has tried to hide his embarrassment by claiming that he had never been invited to attend COP26 in Glasgow. That lie has been exposed by the fact that there is a team from Iran present here today at the summit. Of course, Raisi wanted to come himself to rub shoulders with world leaders who are here in Scotland. But he knows that the UN, the Swiss Federal Court, the Courts in Sweden, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and a list of other international organisations, governments and legislatures are actively discussing his involvement in the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, mostly from the PMOI/MEK, in 1988. He knows they are examining his role in the murder of 1,500 young protesters during the nationwide uprising in Iran in November 2019. He knows they are investigating the hundreds of executions that took place while he was head of the judiciary, executions that are accelerating now that he has become president.

Raisi also knows that even as a serving president, following his sham election in June, he cannot rely on diplomatic immunity to avoid arrest. He knows he could still be indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and charged with crimes against humanity, torture, murder and genocide. There is a cell waiting for Ebrahim Raisi at the ICC in the Hague.

In any case, it is simply a joke that the mullahs’ regime should pretend that they have the slightest interest in COP26. The head of the regime’s Environmental Protection Agency recently said that an enemy could never have damaged Iran’s natural resources and environment the way the mullahs have. The regime’s rank incompetence, venal corruption and voracious profiteering have increased the risk and the incidence of natural disasters in Iran. The devastating floods, raging forest fires, toxic air pollution, uncontrolled desertification and grave water shortages have all pushed the Iranian environment to the edge of destruction. The mullahs’ Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) are playing a key role in this environmental catastrophe thanks to their institutionalised corruption and destructive policies.

In the last 5 years alone, 60,000 hectares of the country’s forests have been destroyed due to fire, pests, disease, dams, road building, other construction activities and timber smuggling, much of it under the control of the IRGC. Forest fires are destroying another 12,000 hectares every year. Rapid desertification, due to the IRGC’s reckless dam-building programme, has caused Iran to lose more than two-thirds of its agricultural land. Air pollution is so severe in Tehran and most large cities that schools, businesses and government offices must be regularly closed because of dangerously high levels of toxins. Tehran and other large Iranian cities are among the top ten most polluted cities of the world.

The fact is, during its 40 years of power, the theocratic regime has not only slaughtered the Iranian people, violated human rights and spread terror around the world, it has also caused irreversible destruction to the Iranian environment. So, the answer to the environmental crisis in Iran, as well as the answer to the economic crisis, the answer to the social crisis and the answer to the security crisis across the Middle East and worldwide, is the downfall of this regime by the Iranian people and their resistance, for a free and democratic Iran, with a government for, by and of the people.