Editor's Note: This is the second of a two-part op-ed series examining Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his regime. The first part of the op-ed series, "Khamenei's final act: Persecuting Iran's religious minorities," can be read here.
The U.S. Approach toward the Mullahs — President Obama
Unfortunately, President Obama decided to take a conciliatory approach toward the occupying regime in Iran and deal with the mullahs through negotiation. He surrounded himself with people that included some sympathizers of the regime in Iran. His advisor for Iran policy was Vali Nasr, whose approach was to placate the regime in Iran through negotiations and the exchange of concessions, ignoring the mullahs’ state-sponsored international terrorism and egregious and blatant human rights violations in Iran. Additionally, President Obama’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, was and is a close friend of Khamenei’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif. Recently, Mr. Kerry, in clear violation of national security laws and against a sitting President’s policies, advised Zarif to endure President Trump’s first term in office at any cost in the hope of a different President being elected in four years. Apart from the signaling of support this provides to the Iranian regime, this is arguably an act of “Treason” that has not been addressed as of yet.
During the uprisings of 2009 (commonly known as the Green Revolution), the Iranian nation rose to oppose Mr. Ahmadinejad’s reappointment by Khamenei, which was disguised as a free election, and nearly overthrew the regime, which was caught off guard and unprepared to handle the situation. One of the primary slogans of the protesters was “Mr. Obama, are you with them or with us?” Sadly, Mr. Obama decided to side with Khamenei. At the height of the protests, he sent a warm letter to Khamenei wishing him a happy Persian New Year and expressing hopes for warm relations between the two nations. This simple act diffused the movement’s momentum as Iranians realized that they must confront not just the Russians, Europeans and Chinese for their support for Khamenei, but the U.S. as well; it was too much to bear.
Later on, after the signing of the Nuclear Deal, President Obama released Iran’s frozen funds into the hands of Khamenei, which were in turn funneled into Khamenei’s terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and many more. Tragically, President Obama’s misguided policies toward Iran have added years if not decades to the life of this regime.
The U.S. Approach toward the Mullahs — President Trump
Immediately after taking the Oath of Office of President, President Trump took a drastically different approach toward the mullahs: no negotiations until the occupying regime in Iran changed its behavior and started to act like a civilized member of the nations. As such, he abandoned the Nuclear Deal – the so-called hallmark of President Obama’s administration – and imposed economic sanctions on the mullahs’ regime and any entity dealing with them. The results are spectacular. Without sacrificing a single American life, President Trump has managed to bring this evil regime to its knees. In the 40 years since its inception, the occupying regime in Iran has never been this weak and vulnerable. The lifeline to its existence and its terrorist activities has been cut off. Khamenei’s top terrorist, Ghasem Soleimani, has been eliminated and the world is a better and safer place for it.
EU, Russia, and China
The EU, and France, Germany, and the UK in particular, have been maintaining a policy of double standards to maximize concessions and benefits from both the occupying regime in Iran and from the U.S. On the one hand, they proclaim to be defenders of human rights and condemn Khamenei’s regime for its constant gross human rights violations, and on the other hand, they obtain lucrative and often one-sided contracts from the occupying regime in Iran in exchange for their silence. In this capacity, the EU has consistently attempted to sabotage President Trump’s policies towards the mullahs and constantly attempts to circumvent the U.S. sanctions against Iran. Instances of such betrayals abound — from perpetually turning a blind eye to the numerous assassinations of prominent Iranian opposition leaders all across Europe, to French President Macron’s secret attempts to broker a deal between the U.S. and Iran on behalf of Khamenei’s regime, to Chancellor Merkel’s repeated attempts to send bales of cash to the mullahs in the most desperate time of their existence — and all these acts of complicity have been rewarded with the profitable contracts EU nations have for Iranian resources.
From the inception of the regime, the Soviets have played a prominent role in its creation and survival. Through a series of bombings in the early days of the regime, all the prominent Ayatollahs who could potentially pose a threat to Khomeini’s authority, as well as all the possible candidates who could overshadow Khamenei — a low level cleric with no prominence or regard among senior Ayatollahs — were eliminated. After Khomeini’s death, with the crucial help of Rafsanjani and Russian agents such as Ayatollah Koeiniha, Khamenei was appointed as the next Supreme Leader of Iran. Khoeiniha is the primary architect of the invasion of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, where Americans were held hostage for 444 days and all the shredded embassy documents were reconstructed and handed off to the Soviets. Upon taking the position of Supreme Leader, Khamenei amended the Constitution with laws that enabled him to retain this position with absolute power, indefinitely. According to reports by Soviet and Russian media (Nov. 25, 2003 by Kommersant and Feb. 5, 2010 by Russia Today reporting on the 50th anniversary of the Patrice Lumumba University or the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia), Khamenei is a graduate of Patrice Lumumba University. Therefore, it is not difficult to see why and how Iran has become a pathetic colony of Russia, Iran’s worst enemy in the past two centuries. Iranian military bases are routinely used by the Russian military to conduct its policies in the region. It is Iranian soldiers — IRGC and Basij — who are conducting the war in Syria and advancing Russia’s interests, at great human and financial cost to the Iranian nation. Over a year ago, Khamenei’s delegates abdicated practically all of Iran’s rights to the Caspian Sea (Iran holds a 50% interest in Caspian Sea) in return for Russian support of the occupying regime in Iran. Khamenei and Putin recently signed a security pact allowing the Russian military to enter Iran in the event of a military conflict, which basically allows Russia to occupy Iran as in the time of Stalin during and after WWII.
The Chinese government is a relative newcomer to the scene. As with Russia, they have been granted huge contracts and concessions by Khamenei in return for their strategic and technological support. All the fishing rights of the Persian Gulf have been granted to the Chinese with devastating environmental impact. Chinese tech giant Huawei provides to Khamenei’s regime most of the technology needed to spy on and control the Internet and wireless communication devices. China also actively circumvents the U.S. sanctions on Iran and provides financial support to the regime, with the objective of surviving President Trump. Additionally, both the Chinese ruling government and the occupying regime in Iran have used COVID-19 to their fullest advantage — China against the world and the U.S. in particular, and Khamenei, tragically, against the Iranian population in order to quell the previously nascent mass uprisings in Iran.
China intentionally withheld the truth about COVID-19, knowing full well that its containment in open democratic societies will be much more difficult and its potency and harm much more severe. Through a strict widespread quarantining of almost 800 million people, possible only under a totalitarian rule, China managed to contain the spread of COVID-19 early on and provided fabricated reports to the World Health Organization and the rest of the world, downplaying the dangers and contagiousness of the disease. The Chinese ruling party knew full well that the democratic societies would pay a much heavier price both in human lives and economic terms, and would suffer through a much longer period of recovery. In Iran, through several critical intentional decisions coupled with a lack of will, resources and expertise to contain the spread of COVID-19, Khamenei has managed to spread the virus to every corner of the land in a very short amount of time. His regime has also been the primary source of the spread of the virus all across the region and most of Europe, to a point that all the neighboring countries closed their borders to Iran soon after. The role of these two governments in contributing to the COVID-19 pandemic is an issue that the international institutions of justice should address and hold them accountable for.
What is Next?
By the next presidential election in Iran in about a year, Khamenei will have his ultra-hardliner thugs at the helm of all three branches of the government and, together with the IRGC, will rule with an iron fist where even the slightest hints of dissent are crushed violently and harshly. In the event of further pressures from the U.S., which have been devastating for Khamenei, the next step will be to start a regional war by first attacking the U.S., Israeli, and Saudi sites, with full support from Russia and China in the background, to drag them into a long and never-ending war that will provide the time needed to develop his atomic bomb, the ultimate guarantee of his regime’s survival.
If and when Khamenei obtains an atomic bomb, it will be a tragic and catastrophic day for humanity. It means that the world will have to face constant state-sponsored terrorism as a new norm.
It means that the survival of Israel will hang by a thread. It means that nowhere will be safe from the reaches of this evil. It means that the assassinations of dissidents outside of Iran will continue as it has in the past four decades.
It means that this evil regime cannot be held accountable for any of its crimes. That is a frightening reality that I, and I am sure others, would very much prefer to avoid.
The ruling regimes in China and Russia, in their current form and structure, will always be enemies of the U.S. and its ideals — freedom and democracy. It is the Europeans that have to change their policies and old ways — hypocritical cross-dealings and valuing economic interests over human lives and ideals — to side with the U.S. in confronting this growing and malignant monstrosity that threatens all of humanity.
Hamid Gharagozloo is a representative of the International Organisation to Preserve Human Rights (IOPHR) in Washington, D.C.