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OPINION: Stronger Western Response Needed Against Iran’s Brutal Regime

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via @Mojahedineng on Twitter

The United States, Britain, and the European Union have all duly condemned the Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown of recent protests. But vague expressions of support are not enough in light of thousands of Iranian citizens risking their lives on a daily basis as part of a long-frustrated effort to secure their most basic rights.

Western powers issued similar messages of disapproval at the outset of crackdowns on prior nationwide uprisings, but at no point did those words prove capable of manufacturing shame in the hearts and minds of Iranian officials, and so mass arrests, killings, and torture went on unabated.

In November 2019 alone, Iranian authorities killed upwards of 1,500 people when the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) carried out mass shootings. Now, they are threatening more aggressive treatment not only of those participating in the current uprising but also those sharing videos and eyewitness accounts which the IRGC describes as “rumors” and “fake news”.

There is little doubt that the judiciary, headed by notorious human rights abuser Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, is prepared to follow suit. He was promoted into his position after serving as deputy to Ebrahim Raisi, before the latter was tapped by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to take over the presidency last year. This reshuffle of key positions led to a predictable upsurge in the regime’s familiar human rights violations, and the current uprising is a response to its effects. Ordinary Iranians are also tired of decades-long poverty, rampant inflation, structural corruption and the regime’s brutal oppression.

On September 16, Mahsa Amini, 22-year-old, was pronounced dead while in detention by the clerics’ “morality police”. She was accused of wearing her mandatory head covering too loosely, showing too much hair. Mahsa’s story is part of a broader revolting and despicable pattern of gender apartheid in Iran.

After Raisi’s directives for more suppression against women this summer, countless videos and personal accounts have circulated on social media depicting similar mistreatment of other women. In some cases, the targets of that harassment pushed back against it or even challenged the forced veiling laws themselves.

The latest protests indicate the expansion of anti-regime sentiment to virtually all of Iran’s communities and demographics. Prior uprisings have been notable for their inclusion of poor, rural Iranians who were once falsely viewed as strongholds of support for the theocratic dictatorship. Worsening economic conditions and growing awareness of government mismanagement has turned many of them strongly against the regime and has helped to reveal the regime’s true Achilles’ heel.

The regime’s stability is most threatened by its own population. Recent protests, led primarily by women and young generations, have expanded to close to 162 cities in all Iran’s 31 provinces in a matter of days. Women have suffered some of the worst oppression since the theocracy was established. Their leadership is natural.

They have also played a prominent role in pro-democracy activism, with one woman, Maryam Rajavi, even being designated as Iran’s prospective transitional president by the main democratic opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

In Congress, I had the privilege of supporting the democratic objectives of the Iranian Resistance for many years. Mrs. Rajavi’s Ten-Point Plan for the future of Iran, which calls for a secular, democratic and non-nuclear republic in Iran that respects human rights and gender equality, is a beacon of hope for the country.

What is more, the coalition’s Resistance Units have sprung up across the country, leading and organizing protests in order to ensure their persistence and expansion. The regime’s top leaders, as well as various senior and lower-ranking officials, constantly express worry and anxiety over the growing role of the MEK and its Resistance Units inside Iran. Risking detention, torture and even death, these brave Resistance Units infuse ever greater inspiration into the broader society for the overthrow of the misogynist regime.

The uprisings in Iran have mobilized women from all walks of life. This is a terrifying prospect for the regime. And as prior crackdowns on nationwide uprisings demonstrate, it is one against which they will deploy all manner of political violence if they are permitted to do so.

Iranian women and men will surely continue to challenge that permission, but the only thing that will conclusively deny it is a vigorous international response. For their part, consistent with our Declaration of Independence, and the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Western powers must recognize the rights of the Iranian people to rebel and defend themselves against the regime’s repression and lethal onslaught with all possible means at their disposal.   

America should remember the words of President John F Kennedy 60 years ago: “let every nation know, whether it wishes as well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to ensure the survival and success of liberty.” The people of Iran are looking are fighting for LIBERTY.

Judge Ted Poe represented the Second district of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2005 to 2019 and is the former chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade in the House Foreign Affairs Committee

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EXCLUSIVE: Former Trump appointee explains an ‘America First Strategy’ in the ME

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Screen Shot 2024 03 13 at 9.50.09 AM
Photo: Israeli Government

The author interviewed Ellie Cohanim, one of the authors of the new book: “An America First Approach to US National Security.” Ellie is the former U.S. Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism under the Trump administration. She is currently a Senior Fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum focusing on Iran, Israel, and global antisemitism, and is a national security contributor for the Christian Broadcasting Network. In 2021, Ellie launched and hosted for Jewish News Syndicate 30 plus episodes of the show “Global Perspectives with Ellie Cohanim.” Ellie spent 15 years in media and NGO management before serving in the public sector. How would you define an “America First” strategy in the Middle East?

Cohanim: An America First strategy in the Middle East would seek to advance American national security interests in that region, while maintaining our status as THE global superpower. To do that, the US would ensure that our principal allies in the region, countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel, are economically and militarily strong, and that our adversaries in the region are deterred.

Postal: How has the United States’ standing in the Middle East differed between the Trump and Biden administrations?

Cohanim: Under President Trump, for four years we had peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region. Under President Biden, in just three tumultuous years there has been war in the region, which holds the potential for becoming a regional conflict and even a nuclear confrontation. Meanwhile, the US’ status in the region and the world has diminished due to Biden’s disastrous mishandling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, his emboldening of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and his weak response to Iranian attacks on our personnel and assets in the region. 

 

Postal: Do you think the United States and Israel are/were in a stronger position to deter Iran’s nuclear and territorial ambitions in Biden or Trump’s administration?

Cohanim: America’s position of strength has not changed under either administration vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran. What has changed is our Iran policy. Under President Trump’s administration, the US contained and constrained Tehran. Trump applied a “Maximum Pressure” sanctions campaign which left the Iranian Regime with only $4 billion in accessible foreign currency reserves by the end of his term, giving the Iranians less cash and less ability to fund their terror proxies and their nuclear program, and Trump eliminated Qassem Soleimani. While all President Biden needed to do was to continue implementing such successful policies, his administration instead did the exact opposite.  Under the Biden administration, Israel, our leading ally in the region, was attacked for the first time directly from Iranian soil. This was an unprecedented escalatory attack by the Iranian regime, and could only happen under the Biden administration.

Postal: In your chapter of the book, you discuss the weakening of US relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia under the Biden administration. How has the Biden administration affected the likelihood of future normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and deals between Israel and other Muslim countries (i.e., new Abraham Accords)?

Cohanim: The good news is that the Abraham Accords have withstood the test of multiple Hamas provocations against Israel, and now the current war. Despite numerous claims from the Biden administration regarding “successful” efforts to normalize ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, I do not think that the Biden administration will be able to clinch such a deal. In the Middle East, people have a long memory. Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has not forgotten President Biden’s snub when he first came into office, and Biden’s incredibly poorly advised behavior towards the Crown Prince when he made his first visit to the Kingdom as president. The last thing the Crown Prince wants is to hand Biden his first foreign policy success with a Rose Garden peace deal ceremony. So, I do not believe President Biden can broker Saudi/Israeli normalization.

However, I am also convinced that it is a matter of “when” and not “if” such a peace deal will happen between those two countries, as it serves both of their interests to make such a deal. The Saudis understand better than anyone that it is the Islamic Republic of Iran that threatens the Kingdom’s security and stability, not Israel.

Postal: What do you think of the Biden administration’s latest statements withholding arms to Israel?

Cohanim: President Biden will go down in history for his abject moral failure in not standing by Israel while she fights a five-front war. Biden has shown his despicable personality for trying to keep his anti-Israel arms embargo concealed until he could first deliver a speech on the Holocaust. Biden’s behavior is despicable on so many levels.

Ultimately, Biden is betraying the American people. He came into office presenting himself as a “centrist Democrat,” but has proven repeatedly to be beholden to the radical, extremist, pro-Hamas wing of his party.

Postal: How does the Biden administration’s support of a Palestinian state differ from the Trump administration’s support of a Palestinian state under its Peace to Prosperity framework?

Cohanim: The Biden administration stated that they will “unilaterally recognize” a Palestinian state. What the borders of that state are and who would lead it, nobody knows. 

The Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” was a detailed plan that was premised on the realities on the ground in Israel. The plan required that the Palestinians reach benchmarks proving a real desire to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors. It included over $50 billion in investment in the region, which would have been a road to prosperity for all. Perhaps most significantly, the Palestinian state envisioned under the Trump plan would have been demilitarized, the wisdom of which could not be more clear following the October 7 massacre and attack.

The author would like to thank Ellie Cohanim for participating in this interview.

 

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