FDI is a private, non-profit organization for the promotion of democracyand the respect of internationally-recognized standards of human rightsin Iran.
Although FDI is a recent creation - we were incorporated just two yearsago - it has been a long time in the making.
I have been engaged with the Iranian exile community, and with Iraniansliving inside Iran, for nearly 15 years, and I have always been astonishedby the breadth and depth of their culture, and the breadth and depth ofthe political divides separating them.
Iran's revolution in 1979 was hijacked; I think the historical recordis clear. When Iranians revolted against the Shah, they were seeking freedomand self-determination, not a rigid, aggressive, clerical regime that wouldwreck Iran's economy and make the name "Iran" synonymous withhostage-taking and international terror.
But the so-called "Islamic" Republic - and I say "so-called"out of respect for the religious credentials of our two speakers today,who believe that title is an insult to Islam - has proven extremely resilient.One by one over the years, they eliminated the various opposition groups.And because Iranians - of all ethnic and religious origins, I might add- are extremely proud, the opposition groups never banded together to fightthe regime. Instead, each fought its own battles; and each was eliminated.
Now I believe the time of unity has come. FDI's mission, when we firstgot started as an organization two years ago, was very clear: in additionto monitoring the human rights situation inside Iran, it was to help thevarious democratic opposition groups to find common ground, so togetherthey could launch a concerted effort to present a viable democratic alternativeto the current regime.
Two recent events have been watersheds for the democratic opposition:
- The Mykonos trial in Germany, which concluded this April, finallystripped away all pretext of the image of "moderation" Iran'sleaders have tried to project in the West. This has galvanized the opposition,which until now has been dispirited by Europe's "critical dialogue"with the regime.
- The overwhelming rejection of the regime's hand-picked candidate forpresident during the recent elections. Despite extroardinary efforts todepict Parliament speaker Nateq-Nouri as an international statesman andcompetent leader - and despite overwhelming support from the Iranian state-controlledmedia - the Iranian people rejected him by a 3-to-1 margin. More than avote for Khatemi, it was a vote against the regime. The significance ofthis has yet to be fully measured here in Washington.
I hear it said in some circles that the recent elections may have openeda "window of opportunity" for dialogue with the current regime.But we heard the same siren song when Rafsanjani was first elected presidentin 1989. Instead, there was more terror, greater internal repression, anda significant increase in Iran's quest to build weapons of mass destruction.
Those who would have us lift the current sanctions against Iran - inexchange for the priviledge of building oil pipelines from the Caspianthrough Iran - are ironically the same policy-makers who also led the UnitedStates down the disastrous road of collaboration with Saddam Hussein inthe 1980s. If the stakes were not so momenteous, their recommendationswould be dismissed as merely silly. But with the Islamic Republic's determinedquest to build nuclear weapons, such recommendations are dangerous.
Today, the Islamic Republic is an aggressive regime. In his first pressconference after winning the presidency, Mohammad Khatami, again placedthe blame for the current state of Iranian-U.S. relations squarely on theU.S. He also called Israel an "illegitimate, racist" regime,and vowed to uphold all the tenets of the Islamic Revolution, includingthe rule of the Supreme Leader.
What the anti-sanctions lobbyists have never been able to explain iswhy this regime would be enticed to abandoned policies it has long maintaineddespite U.S. pressure, just because Washington would offer to ease thatpressure. Indeed, easing the pressure, building the pipelines, and allowingU.S. oil companies to modernize Iran's oil and gas industry will only builda stronger regime in Tehran. Five years down the line, that regime willbe armed with nuclear weapons; or at the very least, with long-range missilestipped with biological warheads.
That is why we believe that true multi-party democracy is the only viablefuture for Iran, and for world peace, and why FDI has dedicated its effortsto helping Iranians to build their own future together.
The Foundation for Democracy in Iran is a private, non-profit corporationregistered in the State of Maryland. Contact: Kenneth R. Timmerman, ExecutiveDirector. Tel: (301) 946-2918. Fax: (301) 942-5341. FDI materials, includingthe FDI Newswire, are available free-of-charge via the Internet at http://www.iran.orgFDI is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for Democracy andby contributions by private individuals.