In Iran, people are turning against the mullahs as they use foreign mercenaries from Iraq’s militias and Hezbollah to keep control, writes Struan Stevenson.
Donald Trump’s decision to cancel the temporary waivers that had enabled countries like Iraq, Turkey, India, Japan and China to continue purchasing Iranian oil without breaching US sanctions has hammered the final nail into the mullahs’ coffin.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained that the decision had been taken to “deprive the outlaw regime of the funds it has used to destabilise the Middle East”. The US administration’s goal is to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero.
Coming on top of Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from Barack Obama’s failed nuclear deal and the re-imposition of tough sanctions against the theocratic dictatorship in Tehran, the Iranian economy was already in freefall, with the rial collapsing and inflation soaring against a background of nationwide protests which have continued almost on a daily basis for the past 16 months.
Last week the US also announced that it had added the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to its list of foreign terrorist organisations. The IRGC controls almost 90 per cent of the Iranian economy, so it will be virtually impossible for anyone to trade with Iran without breaching US sanctions or facing severe penalties for dealing with a listed terrorist organisation.
Now there are calls for the US to blacklist Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence & Security (MOIS), the network of spies and assassins responsible for extra-territorial terror attacks.
In June last year, an Iranian diplomat from its embassy in Vienna was arrested by German police and charged with handing a bomb to two suspected MOIS agents, allegedly instructing them to detonate it at a peaceful opposition rally in Paris.
In December, the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama expelled the Iranian Ambassador and his First Secretary on the grounds that they posed a risk to Albanian security.
Once again, these ‘so-called’ diplomats were revealed as trained MOIS agents who had been plotting bomb attacks and assassinations of regime opponents in Albania. There are growing demands for Iran’s embassies, which are clearly being used as bomb factories and terrorist cells, to be closed down throughout the EU.
Following the blacklisting of the IRGC, the mullahs orchestrated a protest in the Iranian parliament, where MPs dressed in IRGC uniforms shouted “death to America”.
Their catcalls are not being echoed by the Iranian people, however. Cries of “the enemy is here, not in America” are routinely heard in the daily street protests. Iranians are sick to death of the repression and brutality they have been forced to suffer for four decades under the medieval fascist dictatorship.
They have watched as the elderly, bearded, misogynistic mullahs have corruptly enriched themselves while also sponsoring international terrorism and proxy wars. The mullahs’ support for Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, the brutal Shi’ia militias in Iraq and the terrorist Hezbollah in Lebanon have turned Iran into a pariah state. Protesters can be heard shouting “Forget Syria, forget Hezbollah, what about us?”
The mullahs’ response to the protests has been to send in the IRGC, their equivalent of the Gestapo, to arrest thousands of the demonstrators, who are sentenced to long terms on imprisonment. Several have been tortured to death. Rather than reimbursing striking truck drivers, sugar cane workers and teachers, whose wages haven’t been paid for months, the IRGC has crushed the industrial disputes, assaulting and arresting the strikers.
Widespread protests about government inaction following catastrophic floods that left towns and villages inundated and scores dead were similarly crushed by the IRGC. When the protests began to threaten the regime, the mullahs even resorted to mobilising foreign mercenaries to reassert control, sending in Iraqi Shi’ia militias and Lebanese Hezbollah units, who came bearing weapons rather than shovels, to repress the flood victims.
This has caused outrage throughout Iran where the tipping point to trigger a new revolution will rapidly be reached.
Eighty million Iranians have lost their fear. They have watched as the appeasement policy of the Obama administration and his EU allies has been consigned to the dustbins of history. They long for the freedom, justice, human rights, women’s rights, an end to the death penalty, an end to the nuclear threat and the restoration of a secular democracy that is being offered by the main and best organised opposition movement, the Mojahedin e-Khalq (MEK) and its charismatic leader Mrs Maryam Rajavi.
Revolutionary units of the MEK are now active in every town and city of Iraq, planning and encouraging the street protests and increasingly displaying posters of Mrs Rajavi and graffiti supporting the MEK, at huge personal risk to their lives.
The Iranian population now recognises that they have support in the West. They know that the US administration will continue to turn the screw until this evil regime is replaced and peace and stability in the Middle East and worldwide can be restored.
Struan Stevenson, a former MEP for Scotland, is coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)