WASHINGTON, DC – On June 26, 2020, world renowned Johns Hopkins University hosted their “Global Flashpoints!” online class. The event was led by an impressive panel of academics and foreign policy experts including Alireza Jafarzadeh, the Deputy Director of the U.S. Representative office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI-US) . The purpose of the lectures was to expand on four pivotal countries (China, Venezuela, Afghanistan, and of course Iran) and examine their impact on U.S. foreign policy, as well as how the relationships between these countries going forward can and will impact the international community at large.
Given the series of escalation between the USA and the Iranian regime at the turn of the new year, Iran is of particular interest and relevance at the moment. Why exactly is Iran dangerous though, how does that impact the world, and of course how do we address the threat? Mr. Jafarzadeh expands on these questions beginning with his explanation of what makes the Iranian government so dangerous.
As stated in his presentation, “The regime operates as a Five-Headed Hydra with nuclear threat being one of the heads along with terrorism, regional hegemonic drive, expansion of an extremist ideology, and oppression at home.” Mr. Jafarzadeh continues to explain, “The nuclear threat of the Iranian regime cannot be analyzed in a vacuum of its broader nefarious and malign activities at home and abroad.” Why is that last part vital? It highlights the incomplete strategy inherit in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that makes the mistake of focusing on one head of the beast – the nuclear threat – while ignoring or failing to adequately address the four other heads at play. A crucial error because all five heads represent a collective and coordinated strategy in toward pursuit of the regime’s overall goal. Survival through regional dominance and suppression at home.
The Iranian regime’s wicked ideology is not contained to their borders. They present a threat to the international community due to their status as the leading state sponsor of terrorism, their increasing efforts in cyberwarfare and disinformation campaigns, and their funding of proxy conflicts across the Middle East that serve to extend their sphere of influence in the region. The main, albeit ineffective, response from the international community in effort to avoid outright war has been diplomacy. Similar to the JCPOA, this approach exposes an incomplete view of the Iranian regime. Diplomacy is appeasement when in practice the conditions for negotiation do not exist. Mr. Jafarzadeh highlights this when he exposes the ways in which the regime utilizes their embassies such as, “Providing intelligence stations to MOIS (Ministry of Intelligence and Security) to exploit diplomatic immunity and passports for its agents. The use of diplomatic pouches for the transfer of weapons, equipment, and cash. To conduct surveillance on the opposition abroad. And finally, to get their terrorist agents back to Tehran.” As a result, the Iranian government has had seven of their diplomats expelled from Europe including an ambassador involved in a terror plot. An additional diplomat was imprisoned for transferring a bomb. Strong evidence to support the conclusion that diplomacy is not a viable solution and in fact may be counterproductive.
What is the answer if diplomacy and war are off the table? Since 2019, there have been uprisings in over 200 cities across all 31 provinces of Iran. Over 1,500 protesters have been killed and more than 12,000 arrested by regime forces. The widespread nature of the protests across different sectors of society display how deep the unrest is as high inflation, unemployment, and corruption continue to plague the country. Internal pressure driven by a legitimate opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), represents a 3rd option to the problem of Iran. Led by Maryam Rajavi and her Ten Point Plan for the future of Iran, the NCRI has a vision of a free, democratic, secular, and non-nuclear Iran. It is because of those shared values that the group has bipartisan support in the US House of Representatives. The 3rd and most realistic option not discussed enough in the mainstream is internal regime change for the people of Iran by the people of Iran.