An opportunity for transatlantic unity on Iran

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

epa06721803 A handout photo made available by the Iranian Supreme Leader office shows, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a ceremony in a university in Tehran, Iran, 09 May 2018. Media reported that following the withdrawal of the nuclear deal by US, Khamenei criticized Donald Trump and US as saying 'I didn't trust them from the first step', and then he asked his government 'If you want to continue the deal with the three European countries, get enough guarantee as I have no trust in them either'. EPA-EFE/IRANIAN SUPREME LEADER OFFICE HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the revolution that overthrew the Shah in Iran and created the Islamic Republic. It is a good time to review the position of the European Union and its member states towards this totalitarian theocracy, argues Alejo Vidal-Quadras.

Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a Spanish professor of atomic and nuclear physics, was vice-president of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014. He is currently president of the Brussels-based International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ).

The mullahs in Tehran may not have much to celebrate. Even if the calendar marks the 40th anniversary of the revolution that put them in power, the current scenario is far from being one to be happy about: a country with a shattered economy, a society boiling in anger and calling for change and growing isolation in the diplomatic arena, with no clear way out.

Over the past year, we have seen the Iranian people rising up in nationwide uprisings chanting that “the game is over for both reformists and hardliners”. The mismanagement and corruption in the higher levels of command have put the country in a dismal economic situation which is feeding a social situation that looks like a ticking bomb.

Iranians do not buy the mirage that apparently many of our misled Europeans diplomats believe so naively, that the “moderates” want some serious change. Both “reformist” and “hardliners” are two faces of one same coin and are equally responsible for both the bad state of the internal situation – economically and politically, with all its repression and suppression against opponents and minorities – and the regime’s foreign actions.

This precarious and worsening situation at home for the mullahs have caused a dangerous escalation of its terrorist activity abroad. In 2018 alone we have seen six Iranian diplomats – including an Ambassador in office – arrested or expelled from European countries for their role in plotting terrorism against their opponents on European soil.

We saw the failed Villepinte (Paris) bombing plot of the NCRI’s Free Iran rally in France in June last year; we had the foiled bombing of a Persian new year gathering of the Iranian opposition MEK in Albania in March last year, and other assassination plots in Denmark and the Netherlands.

The European authorities could not close their eyes anymore to this reality and have started to change their tone towards Tehran. The European Council recently put part of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security on its terror list and seems to be ready to hold accountable those responsible for the growing terrorist activity in our Member States.

The European External Action Service and the governments of our Member States must pursue this line of firmness and make clear that European law must be respected at all times. To achieve this, the EU has to put the entire Iranian Intelligence Ministry and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on its terrorism blacklist as it is clear that they are the organizers of these criminal plots.

We often hear from EU’s diplomats that this is somehow the work of “a few rogue” elements within the regime who conduct these terror attacks without the knowledge of the Iranian government. They often claim that President Rouhani and his Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are unaware and the Iranian State should not be held accountable for these terrorist activities.

Let me quote Mr Zarif himself, to demonstrate the absurdity of this claim. In a recent debate in the Iranian parliament on the confidential annexes to the nuclear deal, Mr Zarif said: “We are not a system in which people can act on their own […] We cannot do anything in this country without having to report it. It is not true that we acted against the will of the Supreme Leader.”

After 40 years of rule, it is abundantly clear that when it comes to important matters such as internal repression and foreign policy, the mullahs – no matter their internal differences – all sit on the same side of the table.

The tide is turning against the Islamic Republic. Let’s hope that this week’s Middle East Conference in Warsaw will mark the beginning of a continental shift towards a firm stand vis-à-vis the Iranian dictatorship. It is a good opportunity for the European Union to join more than 60 nations of the world on how to confront the main threat to the regional order and security which is the Iranian regime and its sponsoring of terrorism abroad.

The people of Iran have already declared in a year of protests that they loathe the regime. The Iranian diaspora and supporters of NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi held a rally outside the conference in Warsaw to urge the international community to support a democratic change by the people and the democratic opposition.

The EU’s current appeasement policy has not only failed in its goal of changing the Islamic Republic’s behaviour, but it has emboldened it to pursue increased repression inside its country and to multiply terrorist acts on European soil. Four decades seem like a good testing time to prove an approach as wrong. Consequently, the moment has come to try a new one.

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