- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 7, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

As Iranian protests continue, just over a week after the mass protests that took place throughout Iran on the Shi’ite festival of Ashura, the Iranian regime, severely wounded, has set about trying to quell the violence with a brutal crackdown.

This Iranian regime has long relied on fear for its survival but today fear is no longer the potent weapon it was. Footage of recent events show that these protests are a far cry from the demonstrations which took place following Iran’s June presidential election. The chants and slogans of the demonstrators portray a nation that now demands an end to the supreme rule of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and demands in its place a democratic nation where the Iranian people’s freedom and human rights are respected.

Today, the demonstrators can expect a severe backlash from an Iranian regime that for the first time since the 1979 revolution, sees its end in sight. A wounded victim will always lash out and this government, which has built its foundations on brutality, suppression and human rights abuse, will lash out more than most. Following last week’s violence, senior figures within the Iranian regime have demanded the execution of those arrested and whispers among the opposition are that executions are likely in the coming days and weeks.

Talk from Tehran is that the capital’s streets are now lined with army personnel as the regime attempts to grasp back the control it has lost in recent days. Tehran seems to be under a state of army rule, and the message is that demonstrators will be shot on sight if they gather in the Iranian capital. But the regime’s threats seem empty. The Iranian people show they are willing to lay down their lives to bring about democratic change. They can now sense a weakness in the Iranian leadership that no one could have expected and are showing no signs of letting up on their demands. In fact the demonstrations have intensified; there are more protests and more protesters as Iran looks more and more like a nation ready for change.

Although last week’s protests and the events of recent months have to most come as a surprise, the leader of the largest Iranian opposition group in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), has long said that Iranian society was ripe for democratic change.

It is a long time since Mrs. Maryam Rajavi tabled what was described as the “third option” for solving the threat posed by the current Iranian regime: democratic change by the people of Iran. Although long discarded as an option by Western leaders who in their naivete felt that a people’s revolution was inconceivable, a page has turned in the history of this Iranian regime and an end to the present leadership in Iran is becoming a reality.

The West must learn from the lessons of the past and this time must not find itself - as it did when the people rebelled against the shah in the late 1970s - on the wrong side. For far too long the West has offered an olive branch to Iran, vainly hoping that dialogue would lead it to change its ways. The West’s policies were never likely to work and have not worked, and the only realistic policy now is a targeting of the government with sanctions and the cutting off of all political and economic ties so as to weaken an oppressive regime behaving with barbarity to its own people. The people’s calls have been clear and unequivocal. They desire an end to the supreme rule of Ayatollah Khamenei and in its place demand democracy and freedom.

Let us learn from the lessons of history and side with the Iranian people’s democratic opposition movement in their struggle for that freedom and democracy and those rights, which each and every man and woman in this world deserves.

Lord Waddington is a former home secretary of the United Kingdom.

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