In the midst of a sea of attacks that have branded her a neo-fascist, Giorgia Meloni—who is poised to become Italy’s first female prime minister—has proven to be a force for democracy and freedom. Meloni, who has been savaged along with her Brothers of Italy Party for their allegedly suspicious past associations with the far-right, has spoken out with clarity in defense of Ukraine and condemned Russian aggression.
Even after the fake “referendums” that supposedly endorsed Russia’s annexation of large parts of eastern Ukraine and the recent anti-Western remarks from Russian President Vladimir Putin—which included veiled threats of nuclear war—Meloni has not backed down. This is the case even though parts of the Italian right would have her take the opposite position.
If Meloni spoke out for Ukraine in order to defend the West, the West Putin has now declared synonymous with colonialism, imperialism and satanism; and if she is now aiming for a pro-Western, Atlanticist, pro-democracy policy; then her path is clearly marked, and she must follow it.
In particular, alongside the struggle for Meloni’s own Christian Europe, a major revolution is currently taking shape in Iran. It springs from what the late historian of the Middle East Bernard Lewis considered to be Islam’s greatest flaw—the oppression of women—and it aims at achieving freedom and democracy for all. Its strength has been demonstrated by the way it has made Iran’s ayatollahs and their paramilitary forces tremble.
This revolution is different from previous uprisings, in that it has wide support across Iranian society and has already scored some major successes. Nonetheless, it could easily be extinguished in a bloody crackdown, as was its predecessor in 2009, which was crushed at the cost of 1,500 lives. We must do everything possible to prevent this from happening again.
It is crucial for the West, and indeed the entire world, for Meloni to declare herself a supporter of the Iranian rebels. This imperative is intimately connected to her support for Ukraine.
Not much has been written about the fact that Ukraine cut diplomatic relations with Iran last month because Putin has begun to employ Iranian-made drones in his brutal invasion. This alliance between Putin and Iran is not a coincidence. Putin is clearly working to create a new axis of anti-Western autocrats. At the head of this emerging alliance are Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and—to a certain, cautious extent—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
On July 20, during a rare visit abroad, Putin met with Erdogan and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran. Photos of the event appear to show a warm relationship between the three men, as do the agreements they reached, which include a $40 billion energy deal between Russia and Iran.
Putin’s strategy going forward involves support for the military and terrorist activities of his allies, as well as establishing something like hegemony over Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. His allies in this project include those like Iran who are among the foremost international promotors of violence and terrorism. At the United Nations, these allies work to block resolutions condemning Russia and, in return, Russia helps them neutralize sanctions. This is a global axis that will only become more dangerous over time, and hanging over it is the terrible threat of nuclear weapons, especially if the U.S. reenters the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
The protests in Iran have now spread to all of the country’s 31 provinces. If they succeed, they could topple one of the pillars of Putin’s malignant alliance. For Meloni, they also represent an opportunity for a powerful woman to express steadfast support for a sacred and far-reaching battle for women’s rights and indeed the rights of all citizens.
Meloni appears to understand that battle lines are being drawn. On the one side is an anti-Western and anti-Atlanticist front that wants to live in the past. She should choose the other side, which looks instead to the future. The protests in Iran are an excellent opportunity for her to do so.
Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian Parliament (2008-13), where she served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies. She served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she has written 13 books, including Israel Is Us (2009). Currently, she is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and is the author of Jewish Lives Matter.