Iran: With Whom to Engage?
Reza Pahlavi (first
The Huffington Post)
Last week, I had the opportunity to address over
forty members of the United States Congress with the goal to encourage their
recognition of the importance of engaging the Iranian people and their ongoing
struggle for human rights and democracy.
I began my remarks by asking, "If the U.S. is to continue to assert engagement
as the path forward in the case of Iran, whom precisely should the engagement be
The answer: the "Green Movement" of the Iranian people.
If the U.S. supports the Iranian people in their struggle for democracy -- for
human rights and liberties -- it will empower their movement, catalyzing their
success. And in so doing, the West will find its solution to nuclear
proliferation: democracy itself. It is only in a democratic Iran where the
international community will find a trustworthy, transparent and accountable
I am and have always been opposed to any military action against my homeland.
But it is also clear that any diplomatic efforts deprived of appropriate
pressure points would be toothless, thus incapable of producing the desired
results. In hopes of providing U.S. lawmakers with tangible guidance on Iran, I
offered a three-pronged combination of measures that offers the best prospects
for long-term stability: (1) a more vociferous support for the Green Movement's
legitimate calls for human rights and democracy; (2) targeted sanctions against
the individual financial power of the regime's leadership; and (3) serious
commitment, support and work to increase communications into Iran, out of Iran,
and within Iran.
Similar to my discussions with members of the French National Assembly, the
British House of Commons and the European Parliament, I detailed this strategy
by urging the Members of the U.S. Congress to embrace their greatest ally
against nuclear proliferation: the Iranian people. The Iranian people have
loudly and unequivocally vocalized their demands for a democratic system of
government, which by definition will be transparent, responsible and
accountable. Solidarity from world leaders sustains the momentum they need in
their campaign for the establishment of freedom and democracy at home, and peace
and stability in the region. I cannot imagine any achievable sanctions that
could create pressures commensurate with what the people of Iran have already
I, along with most Iranians, was quite disheartened to learn that earlier this
month, the U.S. State Department had denied all funding to a human rights
center, as well as an online Farsi-English journal of democracy, both of which
focused on Iran.
It is simply counterintuitive for America -- at this critical moment in Iran's
history -- to deflate, through such actions, the hopes and aspirations of the
Iranian people. It is exactly what the clerical regime wants: a confidence
builder in its usage of an iron fist against a citizenry that has so
courageously withstood the blows of wielding clubs, chains and untold rape and
As Iranian democracy activists remind us, "There is a reason protesters hold
signs written in English on the streets in Iran. They are not just practicing
their language skills!"
As I confer with international opinion and policy makers, I regularly make the
emphasis, as I did with members of the U.S. Congress, on the importance of
targeted personalized sanctions against the regime's leadership and individual
private financial fiefdoms, rather than the Iranian people. The imposition of
smart sanctions that specifically target the assets of key decision makers, and
the means of the Revolutionary Guards to oppress the people, can prove
effective. The critical goal, however, must be to weaken the financial power of
the oppressive forces inside Iran. Clearly, if the West is to enforce new
sanctions, those sanctions must be intrinsically tied to the Green Movement's
outcry for freedom.
As with so many fronts in this modern-era, at the end, it is all about
communications. I encourage investment in technologies that increase
communication with the Iranian people. America in particular needs to increase
the available mediums of dialogue with the Iranian people by strengthening the
ability of the Iranian people to access news and information and to overcome the
electronic censorship and monitoring efforts of the Iranian regime.
This renewed dialogue would allow the world to demonstrate its solidarity with
the democracy-seeking Iranian people. It would also improve the accuracy of the
information received from Iran. But perhaps most importantly, improving these
technologies would allow the Green Movement within Iran to communicate, organize
and mobilize much more efficiently.
Finally, I regularly remind my audiences that history has taught us that the
democratic process must come to fruition as a result of an internal discourse.
In the meantime, the international community must stand in solidarity with the
people of Iran through a palpable commitment to their struggle.
By supporting the Iranian Green Movement and the people's legitimate quest for
human rights and democracy; sanctioning the financial strength of Iran's
leadership; and improving communications technologies, we shall provide a
solution that not only works for the free world, but also for my compatriots,
and even perhaps the region at large.
... Payvand News - 11/05/09 ... --