What Would a Realistic Policy on Iran Look Like?

What should be the United States’ policy toward Iran now?

The Iranian nuclear issue is once again raising concerns within the international community. Antony Blinken, Joe Biden’s choice for secretary of state, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently: “We would then have to evaluate whether they [Iranian regime] were actually making good if they say they are coming back into compliance with their obligations, and then we would take it from there.”

Blinken added Biden’s ultimate aim would be a deal that also limits Iran’s missile program and support for regional proxies. 

But the experience of the past four decades has proven that the regime cannot give up the instrumental means for its survival, including the nuclear or ballistic missile programs. The regime has rejected significant economic and political incentives in exchange for abandoning these programs. 

Tehran cannot cope with the prevailing international order because it is, essentially, a pariah state. Much like its sister entity the Islamic State (ISIS), the Islamic state of the mullahs in Iran sees the export of terrorism and bloodshed as its strategic tools for survival. 

The regime uses blackmail and aggression to bully and coerce other international actors. It recently seized a South Korean ship in international waters to bully South Korea into violating international sanctions on the regime. Similarly, it uses its missile program to intimidate neighboring countries. 

Just like any other bully, by design, the ruling theocracy only understands the language of firmness. The ruling mullahs consider silence, accommodation, and diplomacy as signs of weakness. They want to propagate the notion that the Biden Administration has no choice but to negotiate with Tehran. In reality, however, it is the regime that has grown so weak and vulnerable that it has no option but to surrender. Caving into the regime right now would only serve to embolden it.

The United States has continued to describe the Iranian regime as the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism for a reason. As recently as 2018, the regime used its diplomat in Austria, Assadollah Assadi, to carry out terror plots in France.

Assadi is currently facing trial for plotting to bomb a 2018 large gathering of Iranian opponents. The plot specifically targeted Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Hundreds of American and European political figures, diplomats, and dignitaries, including members of Congress, were also in attendance.

At home, misogyny, suppression, terrorism, and warmongering are weaved into the regime’s DNA. That is why it commits the highest number of executions in the world.

In such a closed system, the “president” is simply an instrument to enact the Supreme Leader’s policies, a “Supreme Leader” who has banned import of COVID-19 vaccines from the United States because he has no compassion whatsoever for the Iranian people who have lost more than 200,000 of their compatriots to the deadly disease so far. 

The Iranian regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and regional mercenaries are carrying out massacres in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. That does not seem to augur a stable regime in full control. It is, rather, indicative of a weakening theocracy that is draining its strategic reserve faster than ever before. Any retreat from such theaters would lead to the regime’s collapse, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has warned on multiple occasions.

A group of top U.N. human rights experts sent a communication to the Iranian regime last year warning that past and current violations related to the 1988 prison massacres could constitute crimes against humanity and that they would call for an international investigation. That massacre led to the regime killing over 30,000 political prisoners.

Amnesty International noted that the U.N. letter “is a decisive step in the longstanding struggle of families of victims and survivors, with the support of Iranian human rights organizations.”

As many as 54 of the 86 criminals who were members of the infamous “death commissions” that carried out this massacre are currently holding official posts in the regime. These include Ebrahim Raisi, head of the judiciary, the minister of justice, the deputy speaker of parliament, and many of the regime’s highest judicial officials. Khamenei was president of the regime during the massacre. And the current president, Hassan Rouhani, was a senior security official at the time.

Is that a type of government the Democratic Biden Administration would like to negotiate with?

If the regime is not confronted through a U.S. policy of firmness and resolve, Tehran will become more aggressive and will pour more fuel on the fires raging all over the region.

John F. Kennedy once famously said: “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 the success of liberty.”

American diplomacy and determination must lead by example. It must honor its human rights ideals and call for an end to executions and for respect for the rights of Iranians and organized resistance movements.

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About Hamid Enayat

Hamid Enayat is an expert on Iran and a writer based in Paris. He is also a human rights activist and has been a frequent writer on Iranian and regional issues for thirty years. He has been writing passionately on secularism and fundamental freedoms, and his analysis sheds light on various geopolitics and complex issues concerning the Middle East and Iran. Recently, he has also been collaborating with Media Express Press Agency.

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