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Like in Ukraine, We Must Recognize Iranians’ Right to Resistance

(AFP)

“Political leaders in the United States are increasingly recognizing the vitality and capabilities of the Iranian resistance movement and are looking for ways to empower it.”

In leading the global effort to confront Russian aggression in Ukraine, the United States is being reminded of a painful lesson it learned long ago: that freedom is still not free. Simultaneously in Iran, another story of resistance has been unfolding, highlighted most recently by ongoing protests in southern Iran and a nationwide uprising that followed an extreme, sudden increase in food costs. Given that struggles in Iran and Ukraine have much in common, the United States should view them similarly.

This latest iteration of the Iranian people confronting tyranny confirms yet again that the clerics are both isolated globally and despised at home. A protester from Shiraz in south-central Iran recently summarized the Iranian people’s view on United States-Iran relations. He said that the people of Iran need help; that the United States knows its power; and that the West is only focused on the Iran nuclear deal and not the human rights of the people of Iran. His plea makes clear that the conflict in Iran is between ordinary people and aggressors, much like what is happening in Ukraine. 

Two factors are key in Iran. First, there is a politically-weakened aggressor. Second, people harbor considerable anger. Both variables are fueled by the progress and expansion of the organized resistance in the country. This dynamic, Iranian dissidents and American political leaders are arguing, is why the United States must support the Iranian people’s resistance instead of appeasing the religious mafia that runs the nation. 

At a function earlier this year organized by Iranian Americans, members of Congress expressed their support for the Iranian people and pointed to the appreciable influence such a change would have on democratic forces worldwide. Those members included Congressmen Brian Fitzpatrick and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. And it is also important to keep in mind that such a transformation would mitigate the regime’s drive for nuclear weaponry and its support for international terrorism, both of which greatly impact the United States’ national security interests.

As Congressman Fitzpatrick stated, “Iran’s 1979 revolution…saw the end of a monarchical dictatorship and the beginning of the repressive Islamic republic…As the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Energy, and the Environment and Cyber, I remain committed to ensuring the United States stand in support of recognizing the rights of the Iranian people and their struggle to establish a democratic, secular, and non-nuclear Iranian republic.”

And Congressman Perry followed suit: “I remember [1979] well. The Iranian revolution for freedom. They wanted to throw off the chains of one-party rule, where they could actually choose their leadership and who oversaw their country and who governed it. Of course, it didn’t work out the way that they had hoped it would…But at this time, it’s important to acknowledge that the revolution was about freedom for the Iranian people, and they still want that.”

At another recent event, Senators Patrick Toomey and Bob Menendez convened along with a number of other key legislators past and present. Senator Menendez and other speakers addressed the United States’ role in Ukraine and called for the international community, in turn, to support the Iranian resistance. And, just last week, Senator Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stated: “It is time to tell the Europeans, who we have shown good faith with, that we were willing to enter into what was hopefully a stronger and longer deal, that the Iranians are not there…hope is not a national security strategy.”

Meanwhile, more than 500 prominent Iranian-Americans cautioned against the view that the tyrants in Iran can reform. They said that more than ever, global efforts must focus on protecting civilians and defending a free world. Furthermore, in a recent visit to the headquarters of the Mojahedin-khalgh, the primary Iranian opposition, in Albania, former United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The meeting is viewed as a significant political step when Iran’s nuclear talks have stagnated and the Tehran regime is facing major demonstrations at home.

Political leaders in the United States are increasingly recognizing the vitality and capabilities of the Iranian resistance movement and are looking for ways to empower it. As Secretary Pompeo noted, the suffering in Ukraine and Iran is not unlike what Americans once endured. These experiences can and must serve as a framework and a moral backbone that helps support the Iranian people in its effort to secure fundamental human rights.

Kazem Gholami is the president of the Iranian American Community of Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia resident, and a member of the Organization of Iranian American Communities.

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