Unseating the mullahs from power in Iran

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

Busheir nuclear power plant [IAEA/Flickr]

As the June 31 deadline for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear programs draws closer, there are no signs that Tehran is ready accept the terms of the international community, writes Alejo Vidal-Quadras. it’s high time for Western leaders to support the democratic opposition and permanently unseat the mullahs from power, he argues.

Alejo Vidal-Quadras was Vice-President of European Parliament from 1999-2014. He currently chairs the Brussels-based International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ).

The Iranian Foreign Ministry is fuming this week as 220 members of the European Parliament released a statement supporting the democratic opposition to the regime and demanding that a possible international accord over Iran’s illicit nuclear program include provisions for inspections of its military sites.

I served as Vice-President of the European Parliament for 15 years, and during that time, much of my international focus was on Iran. I came to learn that Tehran’s main fear is of its best organised opposition movements, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the PMOI.

Given my experience, while I strongly welcome the recent joint statement of MEPs, I anticipated a panicky response by Tehran. But I too have been surprised at the level of the mullahs’ anxiety, which tells me that they are in deep trouble.

The Foreign Ministry of Iran on Tuesday described the statement by European lawmakers as “hysteria” and “media cant” propagated by the PMOI, according to the official state news agency, IRNA.

Tehran took aim at prominent and well-respected Belgian lawmaker Gérard Deprez, chair of the Friends of a Free Iran informal intergroup at the European Parliament, an outspoken advocate of democracy in Iran.

“Deprez’s record brings into serious doubt the basis of his claims”, it said, adding that “support for a text by this number of MEPs is probably news fabrication by the [PMOI] and their lobbies in the European Parliament”.

The semi-official news agency Nasim on Wednesday protested that the MEPs had written to EU Foreign Policy High Representative Federica Mogherini with “baseless claims” of human rights violations in Iran and supporting Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi’s political platform for democratic change.

Why all the hysteria by the mullahs?

Because the 220 Members of the European Parliament, including 4 vice-presidents and 16 Committee and Delegation chairs, touched on Iran’s two sensitive nerves.

First, their declaration calls on Tehran to comply with international demands of stringent inspections of its military sites, despite an outright rejection of that last week by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei: “Iran needs to adhere to all UN Security Council resolutions with regard to its nuclear program and it should respond to all outstanding IAEA questions while allowing intrusive inspections of all its military and non-military sites whether declared or undeclared.”

Second, it crosses Tehran’s ‘red-line’ of political support for the organized Iranian Resistance movement in Camp Liberty, Iraq, and Mrs. Rajavi’s 10-point plan for the future of Iran.

The Euro MPs who represent all political groups in the European Parliament and are from all 28 EU Member States also gave a realistic analysis of what should be done to end the current crisis in the Middle East: “Iran is at the heart of the crisis in this region and not part of the solution. If fundamentalism and extremism is to be uprooted in this region, Iran’s destructive influence and interference should end.”

Many parliamentarians and I will be hammering this call to our EU leaders when we go to the annual gathering of the Iranian opposition in Paris on June 13, which customarily draws together some 100,000 ex-pat Iranians and their international supporters, including hundreds of distinguished personalities, in support of democratic change in Iran.

As the June 31 deadline for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear programs draws closer with no signs that Tehran will accept the terms of the international community, it’s high time for Western leaders to heed the calls of their elected representatives and support the democratic opposition to permanently unseat the mullahs from power in Iran.

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