Friday, 22 January 2010
West must support Iran's youth movement for reform
The latest round of talks by major world powers to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons last week finished without agreement on any new sanctions; more consultations were agreed instead. But Tehran is pushing forward with its nuclear program.
France's ambassador to the United Nations, Christophe Bigot, rightly said 2010 is going to be ``an Iranian year,'' adding, ``We have to work a lot on Iran. We are planning definite decisions to be taken by the United Nations Security Council. Our patience is running out.'' But the solution remains as evasive as ever.
After a year of lull, last week U.S. General David Petraeus sounded the war drums against Iran. Washington, he said, has contingency plans in place to address Iran's nuclear activities if international negotiations fail to achieve consensus.
Although there can be little doubt that no option should be removed from the table in dealing with the nuclear threat posed by the Iranian regime, military action against Iran should be a long way back in the West's list of options.
This Iranian regime is unable to step back in any international dispute, whether over its nuclear ambitions or its support for terrorism in Iraq and the Middle East. The regime's survival is based on its core element of supporters believing in its strength. Severely weakened at home from perpetual nationwide anti-government protests, this Iranian regime must portray strength on the international front over its nuclear program and its support for terrorism in Iraq to distract from its internal frailty.
But there is another drumbeat that deserves our greater attention -- that of young Iranian men and women chanting ``down with the dictator.''
The foundations of the regime are creaking in the face of mass protests which show little sign of subsiding, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei knows he must act to curtail its demise. He sees having nuclear weapons as a fast route to regaining clout and for the regime to become the Middle East's superpower. And so Tehran ignores deadline after deadline set by the international community.
Solutions are clearly hard to come by for the West in dealing with Iran's nuclear threat, which may explain never ending negotiations with Tehran which have failed at each and every level. The exercise of dangling the carrot of economic and political incentives has failed and will continue to fail. This is not because the carrots have not been large or shiny enough but because Tehran weakened at home has no option but to forge ahead with its nuclear program, because it knows just as well as its detractors do that going nuclear means survival.
Rather than resort to war as an option were negotiations to fail, the United States and the international community would be much better placed to look no further than the streets of Tehran. Late last month as masses of Iranians took part in a national religious ceremony, major protests erupted with people openly calling for regime change; thus, the Iranian people's desire and methodology for democratic change was flung onto the world stage in no uncertain terms.
Democratic change by the people of Iran is an option that many of us within the British Parliament have argued for over many years. Alongside the leading Iranian opposition movement, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), we have shouted long and hard that this can and must be the solution to the Tehran threat; yet, we were long ignored.
As the West attempted further rapprochement with Tehran, the opposition movement was sidelined and its solutions silenced. Well now the words of the Council ring true, democratic change by the people of Iran for the people of Iran must be seen as the solution.
The war drums have been drowned out by the noise of protests by the Iranian opposition movement. The people of Iran have placed an option on the table that many had historically ridiculed. Support the Iranian opposition movement and the rest will undoubtedly fall into place.
Rt. Hon. Lord Peter Fraser of Carmyllie QC is a former Solicitor-General and Lord Advocate for Scotland who oversaw the Lockerbie bombing case.