It is always my pleasure to address the International Liberty Association and it is a particular pleasure for me to be here today with my great friend and colleague Paulo Casaca. The ILA’s long-standing fight against human rights abuse in Iran and the wider Middle East is a noble cause and one that both Paulo and I have dedicated our political careers to support.
Last month, the US State Department published a 48-page report entitled “OUTLAW REGIME: A Chronicle of Iran’s Destructive Activities.” In a foreword, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained why President Trump had decided to withdraw from Obama’s nuclear deal, calling it: “a failed strategic bet that fell short of protecting the American people or our allies from the potential of an Iranian nuclear weapon.” He pointed out that Barack Obama’s deal had “plainly failed to contribute to regional and international peace and security.” In fact, he said: “Iran’s destabilizing behavior has grown bolder under the deal.”
In explosive comments, Mike Pompeo went on to list some of the Iranian regime’s ‘destructive activities’ covered by the report. He said: “The Islamic Republic of Iran is not a normal state. Normal states do not attack embassies and military installations in peacetime; fuel terrorist proxies and militias; serve as a sanctuary for terrorists; call for the destruction of Israel and threaten other countries; aid brutal dictators such as Syria’s Bashar al-Assad; proliferate missile technology to dangerous proxies; conduct covert assassinations in other countries; and hold hostage citizens of foreign nations. Normal states do not support terrorism within their armed forces, as Iran has done with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its Qods Force. Normal states do not abuse the international financial system and use commercial industry to fund and support terrorism. Normal states do not squander their own natural resources. Normal states do not violently suppress legitimate protests, jail their own citizens or those of other countries on specious crimes, engage in torture, and impose severe restrictions on basic freedoms.”
The report makes for interesting reading.It points out how Iran trained and deployed Shiia fighters from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to help Assad crack down on innocent civilians in Syria. It reveals how Iran’s Central Bank Governor has allowed the movement of millions of dollars through banks to support the Qods Force and Hezbollah.
It shows how hundreds of universities around the world fell victim to an IRGC-led cyberattack that resulted in the theft of intellectual property. It reminds us that public executions, including of children, are still common in Iran, and citizens are routinely subjected to unfair trials where confessions extracted by torture are often the only evidence allowed. Pompeo concludes that the international community does not stand for this type of behaviour from any state, and he says we should not make an exception for Iran.
Of course, many of us have been aware of these destructive activities by the Iranian regime for decades.What is interesting here is that these crimes should now be comprehensively listed in an official US State Department report. Clearly, the days of appeasement are over as far as America is concerned. Sadly, this does not appear to be the case in Europe, where the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, is a frequent visitor to Tehran, where she pays homage to the ayatollahs, on the last occasion even donning a headscarf to offer submission to the clerical regime’s misogyny, then posing for selfies with the mullahs. Now she is engaged in an operation to find ways of compensating Iran for the sanctions that have been re-imposed by Trump, in the hope that this will enable European business and industry to continue to sign lucrative contracts with the Iranians.
Mrs Mogherini chooses to ignore the fact that on30thJune this year German police arrested Assadollah Assadi, a diplomat from the Iranian Embassy in Vienna, and charged him with terrorist offences. On the same day Belgian police arrested an Iranian couple from Antwerp after 500 gm of high explosives and a detonator were found in their car. They admitted Assadi had given them the bomb and instructed them to detonate it at the Iranian democratic opposition rally being held in Villepinte, near Paris that weekend, attended by hundreds of political leaders including Rudy Giulliani and Newt Gingrich. I’m sure many of you were there too. I was there.
The mullahs have Ministry of Intelligence & Security (MOIS) agents implanted in every European embassy. Their job is to track down and eliminate political dissidents or enemies of the fundamentalist regime. Assadollah Assadi was one of these trained MOIS agents. He was ordered by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and by the regime’s President Rouhani, to carry out the indiscriminate terrorist bomb attack, which would have killed and maimed EU citizens. President Macron of France has declared his outrage at this attempted terrorist atrocity on French soil and has imposed sanctions on Iran. Only last month Danish police arrested an MOIS agent and accused him of plotting to assassinate a leading Iranian opposition figure in Denmark.
But despite these repeated attempts to commit atrocities on European soil, Mrs Mogherini thinks that a regime which sponsors acts of terror in Europe should be regarded as a friend and trading partner. Well I beg to disagree!
Iran, despite its rich, civilised and open culture, has now become an international pariah, its religious fascist regime condemned for human rights abuse and the export of terror, while its 80 million beleaguered citizens, over half of whom are under thirty, struggle to feed their families against a background of power outages, water shortages and food prices that have risen by more than 50%.
It is not surprising that the uprisings, which have raged across Iran since last December, have targeted the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani. The angry protesters are not demanding that hard-liners should be replaced with moderates, a myth that still beguiles many western governments, who think there is room for gradual change. The chants of “Hard-liners, reformers, the game is over,” “Death to Hezbollah” and “Leave Syria, think about us instead”, haveclearly demonstrated the people’s opposition to the fascist clerical government’s belligerent regional meddling and their demand for regime change.
Iran’s descent into economic chaos can be traced directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani. Their policy of aggressive military expansionism across the Middle East has seen them consistently pour men and resources into Bashar al-Assad’s murderous civil war, the genocidal campaign against the Sunni population of neighbouring Iraq, their support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen and their vast funding for the Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon. Combined with the mullah’s predilection for corruptly lining their own pockets, it is little surprise that the country with the world’s second largest gas reserves and fourth largest crude oil reserves is now facing economic meltdown and nationwide protests. Of course, the mullahs have tried to plead for international sympathy by claiming that the US sanctions are affecting the supply of food and medicines to the Iranian population. But Rouhani himself gave the game away in a speech on 10thNovember, when he admitted that the sanctions have not affected the supply of food and medicine. It is the mullahs own corruption and repression that has created the crisis in Iran.
The so-called ‘moderate’ President Rouhani has presided over a brutal offensive on the protesters, sending in the regime’s Gestapo, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), who have gunned down dozens in the streets and arrested over 10,000 protesters, many of whom have been tortured to death in prison. Striking truck drivers have been sentenced to death. Environmental campaigners have been sentenced to death and one was recently murdered. Workers from Hepco, the Iranian company that provides heavy road construction equipment, have been sentenced to flogging and long prison terms for taking part in the protests.
Rouhani’s government claims to represent God’s will on earth, yet regards women as second-class citizens, hangs people in public, condones torture, arbitrary imprisonment, eye-gouging, stoning, whipping and amputation. Amnesty International last August published a 94-page report entitled “Caught in a web of repression: Iran’s human rights defenders under attack.” It detailed 45 specific instances of what the organization described as a “vicious crackdown”.
Indeed, the UN now has irrefutable proof thatin 1988, when Rouhani was deputy military commander and a senior government figure, the regime coordinated the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in prisons across Iran, an atrocity that must rank as one of the worst crimes against humanity of the late twentieth century. The mass executions were carried out on the basis of a fatwa by the regime’s then-Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. A ‘Death Committee’ of four senior officials approved all the executions, which Rouhani would certainly have been aware of.
Nevertheless, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, a member of that ‘Death Committee’, was until mid-2017 President Rouhani’s Justice Minister. When his part in the murders became known publicly and he even admitted and boasted about his role, he was replaced by Alireza Avaie, who himself was a prominent executioner during the 1988 massacre. Avaie has been on the EU’s terrorist blacklist for years. How is it possible to describe Rouhani as a moderate and reformist, when he appoints known terrorists and executioners as his Justice Ministers?
As the arrests and violent repression continue, the international community must not remain silent. The United Nations Security Council must adopt punitive measures against the regime. They must hold to account the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, most of whom were supporters of the PMOI. Many of these murderers are still in positions of power in Iran today. The international community must demand the release of the thousands of protesters arrested during the on-going uprisings and issue strong warnings against any torture or execution of these prisoners.
They must demand the restoration of full and unhindered access to the internet for the Iranian public and importantly, they must express solidarity with the Iranian people in their bid for democratic change.
It is astounding to me that with all of these atrocities, human rights abuse, proxy wars, sponsorship of international terror and dictatorial repression in Iran, we still see limited coverage in the press and what we do see is often on the side of appeasement and what the appeasers call “constructive dialogue” with the fascist clerical regime. Those who advocate this kind of “quiet, calculated diplomatic pressure’ in our dealings with Iran, should remember the catastrophic appeasement policy of Neville Chamberlain. Chamberlain’s softly-softly approach simply encouraged Hitler to go to war. Similarly, Obama’s Iran policy encouraged the regime to export its terrorism and aggressive meddling throughout the Middle East.
It is worth noting that the UN has now tabled its 65thcondemnation of Iran’s human rights record. Why is that not mentioned in the press? The UK’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is in Tehran this week, telling the mullahs that we support the nuclear deal and oppose US policy on Iran. He seems to have ignored the mass protests that are taking place under his nose. Why do we continue to consort with the devil in this way? There is only one way to stop the current wars and conflicts in the region; adopting a firm line with the Iranian regime and supporting the popular uprising and the democratic opposition, the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
The mullahs are terrified of the growing strength of the PMOI/MEK and have sent scores of agents and assassins to Albania to try to disrupt the courageous Ashrafis who are based in Tirana. The MOIS have also intensified their propaganda campaign aimed at demonising Mrs Rajavi and the PMOI/MEK. They have even used their considerable financial muscle to buy western journalists, who willingly do their bidding. These ‘useful idiots’ naively lap up every shred of misinformation about the Iranian opposition and every iota of propaganda about the regime. They crop up repeatedly in newspapers, radio and television in the EU and America, echoing their predecessors who trod a similar dishonourable path during the rise of the Nazis and the oppression of the Soviet Union.
We must remain vigilant and on our guard against such false propaganda and we must always remember that only a firm and strong policy can restore freedom and justice in Iran and prevent more war in this troubled region. Please let me end by thanking you sincerely for your great support for the ILA?
Liberty for the Iranian masses is coming and when it comes it will be largely thanks to your efforts and the efforts of thousands like you who have steadfastly refused to accept the brutality and oppression of the mullahs in Iran.
Campaign for Iran Change (CIC)
Struan Stevenson was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.