Many in the business community are arguing that the recent electionsin Iran have opened a "window of opportunity" for dialogue withthe current regime. I would remind you, however, that we heard the samesiren song when Rafsanjani was first elected president in 1989. Instead,there was more terror, greater internal repression, and a significant increasein Iran's quest to build weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, the IslamicRepublic launched its campaign to eliminate the leaders of major oppositiongroups under Rafsanjani, fearing that the regime had lost its revolutionarycredentials with the death of Ayatollah Khomeini.
Those who would have us lift the current sanctions against Iran - inexchange for the privilege of building oil pipelines from the Caspian throughIran - are ironically the same policy-makers who also led the United Statesdown the disastrous road of collaboration with Saddam Hussein in the 1980s.If the stakes were not so momentous, their recommendations would be dismissedas merely silly, or craven. But with the Islamic Republic's determinedquest to build nuclear weapons, such recommendations are dangerous.
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. and European oil companies to modernize Iran's oil and gas industrywill only build a stronger regime in Tehran. Five years down the line,that regime will be armed with nuclear weapons; or at the very least, withlong-range missiles tipped with biological warheads. And it will continueto assassinate opposition leaders in exile.
We believe the message of Mr. Khatemi's election is very clear: it wasan overwhelming rejection of the regime's hand-picked candidate, Nateq-Nouri.These elections mark the beginning, not the end, of the long road to democracyin Iran. Mr. Khatemi needs to be judged on his actions, as well as hiswords; and to date, his words have not been very reassuring, either toIranians living under the regime, or to the West.
Iranians seek measurable changes under Mr. Khatemi, which the new presidentis unlikely to be able to deliver. Among those changes:
- authorization of political parties, the right to organize, and unimpededaccess to the domestic media, including for those that do not accept clericalrule;
- authorization of labor unions and the right of workers to organizefreely and engage in contract negotiations;
- dismantling of the repressive apparatus in all its aspects;
- an end to the assassination of Iranian dissidents living in exileand to the harassment of the Iranian exile community;
- freedom for all Iranians to equal treatment under the law, regardlessof religion, sex, political belief, or ethnic background;
- an end to press censorship and ownership laws that restrict pressfreedom, and free access to the international media for all Iranians;
- enforcement of the rule of law, including the prosecution of thoseresponsible for campaign violence;
- an end to the training and support of foreign terrorist groups.
Assuming Mr. Khatemi actually wants to help build a true, multi-partydemocracy in Iran - a big assumption - we are not very optimistic thathe will be allowed to pursue such a path by the Supreme Leader, AyatollahKhamene'i, or other regime leaders.
We applaud the recent measures the German government has adopted inresponse to the conviction of the Iranian government in the Mykonos casein Berlin, aimed at reducing the Iranian government intelligence presencein Germany. But we believe this must a European-wide effort, and are concernedby recent reports that Iran's intelligence organs have merely shifted assetsfrom Germany to Italy and to France. We believe Europe can and should domore.
¥ Europe should cease to provide preferential bank loans and exportcredit guarantees to the regime.
¥ Europe should halt trade by large industrial concerns which continueto supply the Islamic Republic's arms factories and oil fields with criticalparts and technology.
¥ Europe has a duty to dismantle Iranian government terrorist networksoperating on European soil under diplomatic cover and in so-called "Islamic"study centers and commercial organizations. Has the fact that "only"Iranians have been the victims of Tehran's terror made Europe loath todo so until now?
Finally, the Foundation calls on Europe and the United States to jointogether in encouraging the democratic opposition in Iran to forge an alternativeto the current regime in Tehran. A strong, free, and democratic Iran isthe best defense against terrorism, and is the best guarantor of the rightsof all Iranians, regardless of race, sex, ethnic or religious background.