Apeasing the Ayatollahs and Suppressing Democracy: U.S. Policy and the Iranian Opposition

Publish Date: 1 July 2006

ISBN: 978-1599752976

Iran is emerging as the primary threat against the United States and its allies: Iran s drive to acquire nuclear weapons, continuing support for and involvement with terrorist networks, publicly-stated opposition to the Arab-Israel peace process, disruptive role in Iraq, expansionist radical ideology, and its denial of basic human rights to its own population are challenges confronting U.S. policymakers. In trying to solve the puzzle posed by Iran, IPC's report suggests that Iranian opposition groups play a central role in U.S. policymaking.

Foreword from the Authors
Professor Raymond Tanter and General Thomas McInerney

As President of the Iran Policy Committee (IPC) and, respectively, Chairman of its Advisory Council, we are pleased to introduce the first book under the auspices of the IPC--Appeasing the Ayatollahs and Suppressing Democracy: U.S. Policy and the Iranian Opposition.

A central theme of the book is that appeasing Iran's ruling ayatollahs suppresses democracy. By contrast, a policy of strengthening the Iranian opposition reinforces democracy and, ultimately, the prospect of resolving differences with Iran through reason and compromise. The radicalism of Iran's ruling ayatollahs makes it highly unlikely that, absent radical regime change, a negotiated resolution can prevent the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran.

The book is not an indictment of diplomacy; indeed, it backs diplomacy based on strength to test whether the ruling ayatollahs are willing to engage in compromise. Meaningful diplomacy is stalled by acceding to the demands of the ruling ayatollahs to suppress pro-democracy opposition parties within Iran. Appeasement would allow the regime to continue its quest for nuclear weapons, and ultimately increases the likelihood of the use of force.

When the theocrats of Tehran do negotiate, one of their key demands is to place restrictions on the main opposition group--the Mujahedeen-e Khalq. But, if the Iranian democratic opposition is thus constrained, it can hardly be effective against a repressive regime.

In this context, the United States should, at the least, allow democratic opposition groups to express themselves and not be crushed in the oppressive environment of Iran. But the United States is not even neutral in this struggle. Neutrality requires an end to the listing of the main Iranian opposition as a terrorist organization. This listing simply appeases the regime to no good effect and suppresses democracy.

The United States should not only stop the delegitimization of the democratic opposition but should step up support for the process of democratization. Empowering the Iranian people to build a liberal democracy would result in an Iran dedicated to peace rather than expansion of its extreme form of Islam.

At a minimum, neutrality in Iranian politics would help democratic forces establish liberty in their homeland, which would be consistent with the words of President John F. Kennedy, who stated in his Inaugural Address of 1961: "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty."

Such an approach, with emphasis on liberty, conforms to the words of President George W. Bush, who stated in his State of the Union Address of 2005 to the Iranian people that, "As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you."

Now is the time to remove restrictions on Iran's opposition and stand with the Iranian people against the ruling ayatollahs.

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