Struan Stevenson is a Conservative Member of the European Parliament for Scotland. He is President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq and is also Chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran intergroup in the Parliament.
Last week in Brussels, I attended an extraordinary conference on the policy on Iran. Several high-ranking former US officials from administrations past and present, including former US ambassadors to the UN John Bolton and Bill Richardson, national security advisor James Jones, former attorney general Michael Mukasey and senior members of the European Parliament discussed options to counter the threats of Iran. The conference called for a firm stance against the regime, more protection of Iranian dissidents in Camp Ashraf as well as lending support for the opposition.
The week before, we had a debate at the European Parliament on the situation in Iran, where I compared the Iranian regime to Nazi Germany. The mullahs have hanged close to 100 people so far this year. Ten were hanged in a single day two weeks ago after being brutally flogged. Anyone who tries to speak out, such as human rights activist and lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, is targeted.
The mullahs have now taken to arresting, torturing and hanging the parents of refugees in Camp Ashraf, Iraq, home to 3,400 members of the main opposition Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK). Simply visiting your son or daughter is enough to guarantee a death sentence when you return to Iran, as we saw with the horrific judicial murder of Ali Saremi in late December and two other activists on January 25. The mullahs are desperately trying to cling to power by using fear and brutality as their only viable control mechanism over an increasingly traumatised and volatile population.
In a pathetic attempt to appear dismissive, the criminal regime in Tehran describes the principal opposition PMOI as a ‘terrorist grouplet’ as if they are an insignificant nuisance. Yet this so-called ‘grouplet’ features on top of every agenda at every meeting between the mullahs and their neighbours in Iraq, or at every meeting with representatives from the EU and the US.
The truth is that they fear and loathe the PMOI in equal measure because they are the only realistic opposition to their corrupt, fascist regime. The PMOI networks inside Iran were the ones who risked their lives to expose the regime’s aggressive nuclear plans to the West. That is why the mullahs’ number one target is that iconic symbol of resistance to their regime – Camp Ashraf.
I know from my own personal experience how hysterical the regime became when we invited Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, to come to the European Parliament to address the ruling EPP Political Group.
But we won those battles. We invited Mrs Rajavi to the Parliament. We exposed the lies and distortions used to justify the PMOI’s listing on the British and EU terror blacklists and in successive court cases we were victorious, finally forcing the British and the EU to remove the PMOI from their lists and to restore their reputation as valid campaigners for freedom and democracy. We exposed the wretched policy of appeasement which led to the terrorist listing in the first place.
It is now time for the US to side with its allies across the Atlantic and remove the PMOI from its own blacklist.
Like the majority of Iranian citizens, we know that there is no realistic alternative inside the regime. The real hope of tens of millions of Iranians is the PMOI, which is why they are feared by Tehran. The mullahs believe they can handle the West, but they don’t know how to deal with the PMOI.
They play games with the West, stretching out the West’s obsession with dialogue at any price, while secretly trying to produce their first nuclear warhead. And we fall for it again and again. Baroness Ashton left Istanbul empty handed last month. If we go on playing for time we will end up paying for time and we will pay dearly.
At the same time, Iran spreads its evil influence across the Middle East. Thousands of trained agents of the Iranian regime have infiltrated every strata of Iraqi society. It is the same in Lebanon. For Iran, Hezbollah serves as a live and successful model for revolutions across the region.
We must stop this ludicrous game of ‘hide and seek’, abandon the failed policy of appeasement and confront the mullahs before they gain hegemony in the Middle East.
That doesn’t mean armed invasion. It means backing the main opposition in overthrowing the fascist dictatorship. It means taking the MEK and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) off the US terror list. It means recognising the symbolic importance of and providing protection for the brave residents of Camp Ashraf. It means stop talking to the despots and start listening to the people. Recognise the Iranian people’s right to resist the ruling tyranny.
We need to back the PMOI and Mrs. Rajavi in their efforts to create a democratic and nuclear-free Iran that respects human rights and abolishes the death penalty. That is only way to remove a threatening theocracy and give way to an Iran that harbours democracy and stability in the Middle East in these volatile times.