US is emboldening, not deterring, Iran


US is emboldening, not deterring, Iran

With a deadline of Nov. 24 looming for a nuclear deal, the Iranian regime seems more emboldened than ever. Its Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has outlined an unworkable position, while the West continues to compromise. The result could either be a bad deal or a nuclear-armed Iran, both catastrophic.

One thing, more than any other external dynamic has contributed to Iranian regime’s emboldened position both at home and abroad: Western inaction.

Domestically, Tehran has radically increased the number of executions – many in public.  Last month, a 26-year-old woman was senselessly executed for defending herself against a regime intelligence official who had tried to rape her. More than 1,000 have been hanged since the “moderate” president Hassan Rouhani took office, a little more than a year ago.Externally, the mullahs are executing an audacious scheme, especially in nuclear talks with their Western appeasers.  The foxes ruling Iran have long ago discovered that the more they dig in the more concessions they can extract. Regionally, Tehran has stepped up its interference in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and now Yemen.

Iran’s atrocious rights records notwithstanding and if containing/managing the Iranian threat was an acceptable outcome, then the Western policy is failing miserably.  The latter was predictable due to the following three fundamentally erroneous assumptions: 1) Even a bad nuclear deal is better than no deal; 2) Iran could be a partner in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL); and, 3) Iranian regime is domestically stable.

It is certainly true that mullahs in Iran sense that Washington is so desperate for a agreement with Iran that it would even sign onto a bad deal. This calculation is strengthened by the observation that the US is extremely reluctant to challenge Iran’s meddling in Iraq and Syria.

Tehran sees Washington as too afraid to rattle the cage, calculating that the current administration is too anxious to provoke it on other issues – including the egregious rights violations and a destructive regional role.

For years, former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki did Iran’s bidding by instituting deeply sectarian policies that alienated Sunnis and many Shiites. Washington’s insistence on continuing support for al-Maliki and remaining on the fringes of regional decision making allowed  ISIL to thrive.

ISIL’s increasing reputation as the main security threat in the region has actually overshadowed the much greater threat from Iran, raising suspicions that Iran is actually helping it behind the scenes. Not only is Tehran benefiting from the ISIL scenario, it played an instrumental role in creating this threat by empowering Bashar al-Assad in Syria and supporting al-Maliki in Iraq.

Tehran is now using the situation in Iraq and Syria as leverage in nuclear talks with the West.

The second reason for an emboldened Tehran is the vocal position by some inside the Beltway that Iran could actually be a partner in the fight against ISIL.  This position ignores the fundamental synergies in Iran/ISIL entities. – Both are misogynist, using extremist Islam as cover and extreme violence to gain & maintain power.

Third, the West’s lack of condemnation of Iran’s human rights violations has unwittingly assisted the mullah’s reign of terror within Iran. Failure to recognize and support the organized democratic Iranian opposition led by the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and thousands of its members at Camp Liberty in Iraq has unnecessarily deprived the West of considerable leverage.  The message within Iran and regionally has been clear: Iran controls the events in the region despite U.S.’s logical co-ownership of the prevailing situation in Iraq.

The growing international standing of the MEK and its vast popular support at home have terrified the mullahs, provoking them to launch a broader campaign of suppression. Through violence and terror, they hope to shock Iranian citizens into silence.

A seismic shift in the current dynamics and a change in Western response is thus essential.

First, Washington must prove to Tehran that it will not risk global security by signing a bad deal. For the final agreement, the US must insist on a complete halt in Iranian uranium enrichment, the full implementation of all UN Security Council resolutions, and snap inspections of all suspicious sites in Iran. Anything short of this would leave the door open for Iran to obtain the bomb.

Second, Washington must realize that Iran has been the main part of the problem in Iraq/Syria and hence cannot offer a solution. The prerequisite for the strategic defeat of ISIL is the expulsion of pro-Iranian Shiite militias and agents from both Iraq and Syria.

Third, Washington and its allies must side with the Iranian people to challenge the regime at home. Iran’s organized opposition offers the most appropriate and realistic conduit for democratic change.

The mullahs, like all dictators, have an insatiable appetite for concessions. Absent a firm stance by the West, the bullies in Tehran will ask for more while dancing towards the bomb. If the final destination of America’s Iran policy is a deterred regime instead of an emboldened one, it is certainly walking – very fast – in the opposite direction.

Sadeghbour is political director of the Organization of Iranian American Communities in the United States (

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