(February 12, 2023 / JNS) Iran went beyond hutzpah in its celebrations of the 44th anniversary of the Islamist takeover of the country. There were streamers, balloons and a parade of soldiers and weapons of war in the streets and squares of Tehran, with the usual chants against Israel and America. And all this as the world bears witness to the theocratic regime’s brutal crimes against its women and indeed all its people.
Iranian dissidents and protesters have now been fighting desperately for five months. They want freedom from tyranny. Yet at his obscene celebration, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi made Azadi Square into a celebration of that tyranny, with massive portraits of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his even more odious predecessor Ayatollah Khomeini. He seemed elated by the cheers of a crowd composed of either fanatics or a terrified populace.
Raisi, long noted for his affection for death sentences, was likely also elated by the murder of at least 530 protesters, including 73 children. 20,000 people, many of them women, have been jailed and subjected to beatings and rape. Some 100 rebels, many of them young, have been sentenced to death for defying the regime.
Of course, Raisi declared that all of this is a conspiracy, the work of insidious foreign agents. If it weren’t for these shadowy forces, he held, none of this would be happening and the people would adore his regime. Even the women wrapped in the black chador, he implied, would be happy, even though many of them are dying to rid themselves of such misogynist garb.
The conspirators against Iran, claimed Raisi, advocate the worst type of human vulgarity: homosexuality. Imagine how this sounded to the families and friends of the gay people who have been publicly hanged from cranes.
Raisi then pleaded with the dissidents, “Come and you will be welcomed.” The answer was quick in coming: For 44 seconds, the hacker group Edalate Ali (The Justice of Ali) succeeded in uploading a video on the event’s live feed calling on Iranians to join mass protests next week and empty their bank accounts. Some have testified that cries of protest came even from the carefully regimented crowd itself.
The regime appeared determined to appear festive on this occasion, but its own celebrations prove its increasing weakness. The parade included, for example, the drones that have been sent to Russia for use against the Ukrainians fighting Putin’s invasion. This is not a coincidence. Iran is at a fragile and therefore threatening impasse, entirely reliant on its alliance with Russia, from which it has purchased fighter planes and the S-400 air defense system.
As a result, the regime and its Revolutionary Guards are grasping desperately at their last resort, using terrorism to induce fear and silence while working towards blackmailing the world with an atomic weapon they are close to acquiring. Indeed, Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has testified that Iran has upped its enrichment of uranium to 60% and now has enough material for several bombs.
The U.S. and Europe are, at the moment, standing back from efforts to broker a new nuclear deal with Iran, mainly because the spectacle of the regime’s annihilation of its dissidents would make such appeasement look like a violation of the very concept of human rights.
Nonetheless, Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, is still pushing for a deal. U.S. envoy Robert Malley is also making noises in that direction, backed by powerful and well-funded NGOS—including J Street—that continue to advocate a deal in the name of peace while ignoring the heroic struggle of the Iranian people.
It would be an enormous and horrendous mistake to appease Iran. It would give succor to a regime that foments hatred and terrorism around the world while fighting alongside Putin, persecuting women and dissidents, and threatening to destroy Israel and attack the U.S.
The world should stand warned. What Iran is doing to its own people today, it will someday do to all of us, if it can. The Iranian regime is not a trustworthy interlocutor. It is only an enemy.
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.
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