Lord Maginnis: The West must listen and act with honour on Iran

Posted On: 
21st September 2016

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass looks forward to the future when 'Western Governments will no longer seek to conceal the atrocities of the Republic of Iran'.

Prime Minister Theresa May and President Rouhani of Iran hold a bilateral meeting during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, 20th September 2016.
Credit: 
PA

Throughout the 37 years since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, American policy has constantly sought to compromise with a supposed moderate element within the ruling regime. It began with President Reagan’s sale of arms to Iran in exchange for American hostages; was exacerbated when the Clinton administration wrongly defined the main Iranian opposition group as a terrorist organization; and has proceeded to where the Obama administration has endorsed a dubious nuclear agreement and just last year paid 1.7 billion dollars in “ransom” for Americans being held prisoner in the country last year.

The latter issue clearly demonstrates how slowly the West has made amends over the almost four decades of mishandling its relationship with the Islamic Republic. This is not to say that we have made no progress. Whereas President Clinton oversaw the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK) defined as a ‘Foreign Terrorist Organisation’ (FTO) Mrs Hilary Clinton did correct that mistake in her former capacity as Secretary of State. Earlier this year, her successor visited Albania to offer support to its government in taking in MEK members who had been stranded for years in the former US military base of Camp Liberty, Iraq.
 
These developments are clear signs of progress in the sense that they seem to reflect a newfound understanding of the Iranian Resistance, at least in terms of the hardships it has suffered and continues to suffer. More still needs to be done in alleviating those hardships. The MEK members were totally relocated from their settlement at Ashraf to Camp Liberty, where they have had to endure a blockade of medical supplies and basic services, been systematically robbed of personal possessions and subjected to a series of five missile attacks carried out by proxy forces of the Iranian regime. More than that, the MEK and even its most casual affiliates continue to be leading targets of violent repression inside Iran, and even of assassinations abroad.
 
There is much that the US can do and should be doing to positively alleviate this situation. Obviously continuing support for Albania and any other nations that see fit to help Iran’s pro-democratic activists establish stable homes from which they can continue advocating a free Iran is essential. But realistic attention to Iranian human rights issues in general has surely to be a priority! Unfortunately, this attention has been virtually non-existent in recent years. Human Rights organisations and activists continually remind us that single-minded obsession with last year’s Iran nuclear agreement has only distracted from the ongoing abuse of the death penalty, the arbitrary arrest of activists and dissidents, the usage of torture.
 
Such distraction is indicative of the fact that the larger problem remains: the US and its allies still maintain an unjustifiably optimistic attitude view of the prospects for internal change in the Iranian regime. The nuclear agreement itself was regarded in some circles as a victory for moderation, having been spearheaded on the Iranian side by President Hassan Rouhani. But in the three years that he has held office, Rouhani’s alleged moderate credentials have repeatedly been shown to be an illusion. Under his leadership, the death penalty has spiked to levels not seen in the past 25 years.
 
The last time that the Iranian judicial system was as bloody as it is now was in the immediate aftermath of a massacre that claimed more than 30,000 lives in the summer of 1988. As it happens, the main target of that massacre was the People’s Mojahedin. On 9th August this year an 1988 audio recording was revealed which featured leading participants in that massacre discussing it with the only serious dissenter, Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri. The recording underscores the fact that some of the architects of the massacre sought to execute anyone who expressed the least sympathy with the Iranian resistance, even those who simply read MEK newspapers or magazines. Some 28 years later some members of that ‘Death Committee’ are still in power!
 
The more recent treatment of the MEK, as in the missile attacks on Camp Liberty clearly demonstrate that the regime’s attitude toward it has not moderated in the least over the past 28 years. The current rates of executions and politically-motivated arrests in Iran demonstrate that the more general attitude toward judicially-sanctioned violence have not changed, either. Anyone who aspires to a realistic understanding of the Iranian regime should not be seeking to cloak the awful reality of what has and still is happening.
 
The West should have learned from its mistakes regarding its compromising and immoral Iranian policy long ago. It really shouldn’t have required decades of advocacy by the Iranian resistance to unmask a regime that’s rotten to the core. Our relationship with the PMOI had to change for the better before our understanding of the regime did the same. Fortunately, that appears to be happening at last.

As the US involves itself in the process of relocating the MEK, the truth will hopefully emerge to an extent that the current crimes of Tehran’s mullahs will no longer be under-reported by the free world’s press and Western Governments will no longer seek to conceal the atrocities of the Republic of Iran.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass is prominent member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom (BPCIF). He is an Independent Ulster Unionist peer.