Iran’s fundamentalist rulers are the masters of deception and their president is no exception. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to swear by the old Iranian adage — the best way to lessen the appearance of defeat is to give the impression of attack. It is about time the West played him at his own game with some “attacking” of its own.
Mr. Ahmadinejad’s wild rhetoric, his regime’s fomenting of crises in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine and its determined pursuit of nuclear weapons are signs of weakness and not strength. His Achilles’ heel is a young restive population hungry for change and a resistance movement capable of delivering it. The angry protests by students at Amir Kabir University, who burned Mr. Ahmadinejad’s photograph and chanted “Death to the Dictator,” indicate that Iran’s new generation has reached boiling point and are no longer prepared to kneel to tyranny and oppression. Their economy is in ruins, unemployment and poverty are the norm and basic rights are nonexistent. Brutal oppression and medieval punishments can no longer contain their yearning for freedom.
Mr. Ahmadinejad and the turbaned tyrants in Tehran see a nuclear bomb as the only means of guaranteeing their survival and count on a weak and feeble West to acquire it. While the West, and in particular the European Union, has been walking on egg shells lest it upset the mullahs, Tehran has threatened, blackmailed and even ridiculed the West, while proving its title as the central banker of terrorism and steaming ahead in pursuit of its nuclear ambitions.
Thankfully, there are signs that the penny is finally beginning to drop in the West’s corridors of power. In his trip to the Middle East, Prime Minister Tony Blair described Iran as a “strategic challenge,” and said that the forces of democracy and moderation must unite to defeat the forces of reaction and extremism.
On the nuclear front, four and a half years after Iran’s main opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, led by Maryam Rajavi, blew the lid on Iran’s 18 years of deceit over its nuclear programs, the U.N. Security Council finally imposed sanctions on Iran’s regime. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s description of the U.N. resolution as a “piece of torn paper” and his threat that the West will soon regret its “superficial act” are a perfect example of giving the appearance of attack in the face of defeat. The truth is that Mr. Ahmadinejad and his master, Ayatollah Khamenei, know better than most that this (albeit watered down) sanctions resolution accelerates the mullahs’ downfall. When Mr. Ahmadinejad says he will use oil exports as a weapon in Iran’s nuclear confrontation with the West he is mouthing an idle threat. The truth is the mullahs need the oil revenue more than the West needs their oil.
In Iraq also, the signs are that after handing the southern part of Iraq to the mullahs and their Shi’ite militias on a plate, Britain is beginning to reassert its authority. The Christmas Day raid by British forces on the police serious crimes unit in Basra appears to be a strong signal to Tehran and its militias that they will no longer be given free reign in that part of Iraq.
At the same time, after three years of accusing the Iranian regime of funding and arming terrorist groups in Iraq responsible for attacks on Iraqi civilians and coalition troops, the United States has finally plucked up the courage to take action against Tehran’s agents. Two senior Iranian military personnel were arrested in the compound of the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, an Iranian-formed Iraqi group.
Had the United States and Britain acted earlier to check Iran’s extensive meddling in Iraq, the situation there might not be as bleak as it is today. Yet it is not too late. An anti-fundamentalist alliance has already been formed in Iraq with the guidance and support of the Iraq-based People’s Mujihadeen Organization of Iran (PMOI) the largest party within the resistance coalition. More than 5.2 million Iraqis have signed a declaration warning of the dangers posed by the Iranian regime and demanding the mullahs’ expulsion. These Iraqis and the PMOI represent the forces of democracy and moderation of whom the prime minister speaks.
Now is the time for the West to push home its advantage by playing Mr. Ahmadinejad at his own game and supporting his Achilles’ heel. In a ghastly act of appeasement during the carefully choreographed presidency of Iran’s former “moderate” president, the West unjustly proscribed the PMOI at the behest of Tehran. This was the greatest gift to the mullahs. The end of the failed policy of appeasement must naturally mean that we take the gift back by delisting the People’s Mujihadeen. The lead has already been given by the European Court of Justice, which in a landmark judgment in December annulled a 2002 decision by the European Union to proscribe the People’s Mujihadeen and freeze its funds. The EU only need respect the judgment of its highest court.
Lord David Waddington served as Home Secretary under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He later served as the leader of the House of Lords and governor of Bermuda.