By Cyrus S. Shahrezazi
Since the 1979 revolution, the United States has spent trillions of dollars in additional defense and foreign aid spending just to contain and counter the threats posed by the destabilizing terror sponsoring theocratic dictatorship in Iran. Thousands of Americans have been murdered by the proxies of the regime beginning with the Hezbollah bombing of US Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. Meanwhile, the Iranian people have been hostages in their own country, and denied freedom and economic opportunities they would have otherwise enjoyed under a civilized, responsible government.
Administrations after administrations have tried to reach an understanding with the Iranian regime in order to facilitate a peaceful coexistence with the theocratic dictatorship. But due to the ideological nature of the regime, that objective was never realized. The last and most aggressive attempt was during the presidency of Barack Obama. Though let us not forget that in that case, the mullahs cleverly kept the negotiations restricted to their nuclear activities avoiding any commitment to a change of behavior.
When Obama was first elected, Iran’s nuclear program was at a very primitive stage. The regime had inherited a US-gifted (during the the reign of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi) nuclear program. Yet, the regime was taking baby steps trying to figure out how to enrich sufficient uranium to become a nuclear power. The Bush administration forced the regime to significantly limit its nuclear activities.
Early in his presidency, Obama began sending signals to the mullahs indicating his eagerness to reach a deal. He reassured them that he did not intend to take strong measures to stop their nuclear program. While the sanctions (that were mostly unanimously passed by the Congress) squeezed the regime financially, the president’s soft tone served as an encouragement for the regime to seize the opportunity and take the program to the maximum capacity possible. The mullahs did this knowing that whatever they are capable of achieving could be used as leverage for negotiations and they can retain more of the program when and if they reached a deal.
Obama invested so much time and effort in reaching a deal with the Islamic Republic that by the time the mullahs became desperate for sanctions relief, Obama himself was equally desperate for a deal that he believed would have been his most enduring legacy. The mullahs were aware of Obama’s infantile desperation. So when the deal was reached, it became a toothless, non-binding agreement devoid of the signature of the head of the state, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ali Khamenei. Furthermore, it only temporarily restricted the regime’s nuclear capacity neither mentioning the regime’s expanding missile delivery capabilities nor its destabilizing and hostile behavior. The abysmal human rights situation in Iran or humanitarian crisis throughout Middle East that regime had been contributing to was never even discussed.
The “Iran Deal” they ultimately agreed upon was not one of peace and amity. In fact, the regime’s hostilities toward the US and allies only increased after $150 billion in frozen and blocked assets were released. The deal did nothing to improve regional and global security. The bulk of that money was not spent on the welfare of the Iranian people, but to further incite civil wars, sectarian violence, and genocides in the region. The once impoverished Houthi Jihadis suddenly had billions of dollars worth of state-of-the-art weaponry including guided mid-range surface-to-surface and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as millions of UN banned landmines. The Houthis took over the capital of Yemen and held the population hostage. Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad who had lost vast territories, suddenly got a financial boost, thanks to tens of billions his regime and genocidal militia backers received from Tehran. In Iraq, the mullahs backed Shia militias by arming and funding them. These militia conglomerates took advantage of the geopolitical disarray and the war on ISIS and dominated the Iraqi government and political institutions, effectively making Iraq a hostage to the Khomeinists.
The agreement did not and could not guarantee a nuclear-free Iran. It only covered the “declared sites” with no mechanism to fully inspect the countless suspected sites and activities. By restricting the number of centrifuges and production of new ones without stopping the enrichment program, the option of reigniting the nuclear weapons program on short notice. Now, they have a collection of tested missiles to mount on the nuclear warheads whenever they get them. It is only a matter of the regime prioritizing nuclear weapons development and sensing it can proceed with impunity.
The threat posed by the regime to global security and stability aside, human rights in Iran and personal liberty for the Iranians people has not improved an iota since the Khomeinists seized power in 1979. The majority of Iranians now believe that regime change is the only way they can regain freedom, prosperity, dignity and respect of the world the country once enjoyed prior to the Islamic revolution. It is not about the negotiations tactics, but the ideological nature of this totalitarian and expansionist Islamist system that refuses to accept peaceful coexistence with the rest of the world, or at least those defined as enemies by the regime’s Stalin-style Islamist theocracy.
Exporting the Khomeinist revolution, destruction of Israel, and fighting the US interests are the ideological foundations of the regime and to its leaders purpose of their very existence. The regime knows that reaching a deal satisfactory to the long term interests of the US and the legitimate interests of the allies in the region is going to be ideological suicide and therefore the beginning of the end of dictatorship, it has invested all its resources to establish an empire of terror throughout the region and will not abandon it at any cost. The mullahs will fight to keep the rule alive until it collapses like the Soviet Union or is removed by force. So a second Iran Deal is logically impossible, unless the US is willing to sacrifice its long term interests just to appease the nations that benefit from the oil-blood money of the Ayatollahs. What is in the best interest of the US and the civilized world is shared by the vast majority of the people in Iran. The “silent majority” in Iran long for a peaceful civilized government and to live free and become prosperous through cooperation with the Free World.
A regime as unpopular as the Islamic Republic cannot last for long regardless, but the longer this regime remains in power, the chaos, conflict and instability around the world would only worsen and the suffering of millions of Iranians continue.
There is a popular Persian idiom that says, “death once and crying and funeral once.” Imagine the extent of the war and turmoil the world could have avoided if Jimmy Carter had responded proactively and forcefully to the hostage crisis and removed the tyrannical terror regime. Iran with its highly talented and educated population could have been a prosperous peaceful democratic US ally and stabilizing partner on the world stage, as it was in the not so distant past.
I have been saying this for a decade: the only solution for Iran is in its civil society, especially the generation born after the 1979 revolution. The post-revolutionary generation is very eager to see the country become a peaceful, secular, democratic nation and a friend and ally of US and other nations. There are countless strategies and case scenarios for returning Iran to its peace loving citizens. Refraining from a policy of appeasement, in conjunction with sanctioning, bankrupting and isolating the regime’s leaders are certainly very positive steps toward its goal. However, replacing a military-terror dictatorship through a cost effective strategy with minimal bloodshed would require a lot more planning and groundwork. The ideal strategy would consider all case scenarios and minimize the use of force from either sides. Too many case scenarios and strategies can be explored and it must become a foreign policy priority for the US to bring the allies and world powers to accept a democratic alternative for Iran. The US Congress must also stop politicizing the Iran policy, admit the ineffectiveness of Obama’s Iran Deal and support the administration’s efforts to formulate a permanent solution to end the threat posed by the regime in Iran once and for all.
Mr. Cyrus S. Shahrezazi is an Iranian-American entrepreneur, democracy and free market advocate and independent researcher and analyst based in New York.