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Obama’s Shortsighted Iran Policy

Obama’s Shortsighted Iran Policy

By Siavosh Rajizadeh
August 7, 2011

The Obama Administration has declared its support for the Arab spring and pro-democracy movements sweeping through North Africa and the Middle East region. The Arab Spring, however, cannot safeguard its achievements if not followed by a Persian Spring.

The peoples of the region will never enjoy their hard-won accomplishments for their courageous endeavors and sacrifices as long as the Islamic fundamentalist regime in Iran exists and continues to block any real change through its ideological, sectarian, and anti-democratic agenda by backing cruel dictators, like Assad in Syria,. Iranian interference in the current Syrian turmoil and political commentary on Iranian state television clearly indicate Tehran’s wish to prevent Assad’s downfall.

It should be obvious then that the Obama Administration should support the Iranian people’s desire for their Persian Spring. However, we have seen a misguided ambivalent attitude towards the watershed events of 2009 in Iran on the part of the Administration that has best been described as a lost opportunity to stand with the Iranian people. Had the Administration supported the Persian Spring, today we would see a much more successful Arab Spring with stronger democratic leanings.

Another aspect of the Administration’s misguided policy on Iran has been its attitude towards Iran’s main anti-theocratic opposition movement. Tying the hands of the MEK/PMOI (Mojahedin-e-Khalq) and continuing a de-facto appeasement of the Iranian regime may seem to serve the shortsighted US policy of engagement and dialog with Iran, but in the long run the Islamic fundamentalist rulers in Iran will be the ultimate winner by gradually gaining the upper-hand in the region and the US will lose a strategic partner in the struggle for democratic values in the region.

The MEK was put on the US FTO list in 1997 to curry favor with the mullahs during the presidency of Mohammed Khatami. The listing has been contested as a politically motivated move. The MEK fought the listing in the UK and EU which had followed the US during their own engagement with Tehran and succeeded to be removed from all those lists under court decisions that had reviewed all classified and public evidence.

The US Court of Appeals-DC Circuit found in July 2010, maintaining MEK in the FTO list to be flawed. In recent months, there have been very heated debates in the US Congress calling on the US State Department to revoke the FTO designation against the MEK.

Iran has made it clear that MEK delisting will harm any kind of future dialog with the US. It has fielded all its resources including its lobbies in the US and around the world in a massive demonizing campaign against the MEK to try to turn the public opinion against them and affect the decision by Secretary Clinton.

The State Department is hampering the pro-democracy movement in Iran by unlawfully restricting Iran’s most powerful and best organized opposition.

The people of Iran have suffered enough from two dictatorships of the Shah and the Mullahs for 58 years. They want freedom and democracy, like people of Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen. The US must remove impediments from Iran's main opposition instead of closing its eyes to the Iranian regime's crimes and suppression of youths and women.

US interference in 1958 to oust popular Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosadegh still lives on in the memory of the Iranian people. The US should not add to this by unjustly continuing the listing of the MEK.

In recent months, a numbers of former top US officials - from the full political spectrum - have highlighted the US’s wrong policy in the last 20 years vis-à-vis Iran and the unjust listing of the MEK as an FTO. Gen. James Jones, President Obama’s National Security Advisor until 2010, Governor Howard Dean the former Democrat party leader, Rudy Giuliani former New York City Mayor, Tom Ridge the first Secretary of Homeland Security, Andrew Card former White House Chief of Staff and many others have all backed this idea in many public conferences.

The MEK contributed to world peace by disclosing Iran’s secret nuclear activities in 2002. Its role in unveiling Iran’s efforts to export terrorism to Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine has been crucial to save lives of American soldiers who are on duty in the region. MEK has also been the main source in revealing Iran’s gross human rights abuses in the past 30 years. They were also very effective in motivating and mobilizing the youth during the 2009 protests as admitted many times by the Iranian regime. The popular slogan: “Mubarak, Ben Ali, now it’s time for Seyd Ali! (Iran’s supreme leader Khamenei)” chanted in an MEK rally in Camp Ashraf was echoed in February 2011 in Tehran protests.

This demonstrates of course the serious, effective and important role the MEK has to play for freedom and democracy in Iran and for world peace. The people of Iran want to decide their own future and they will finally overthrow the religious dictatorship. The best longsighted US policy, aligned with US interests for supporting democracy and human rights, preventing nuclear arms to Iran’s bellicose regime, and aiding the Arab and Persian springs, is to stand with the people of Iran and to respond positively to their slogan chanted in Tehran streets: “Obama, Obama, are you with us or the Mullahs?” by showing it truly stands with the Iranian people.

The US should back the Iranian people by delisting the MEK.


Siavosh Rajizadeh, is a law student and human rights activist with roots in Iran, who now lives in the Netherlands. Siavosh regularly writes about Iran's politics and human rights issues.

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