Congressional hearing rightly reverses marginalization of Iranian opposition
On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, the House Foreign Affairs Committee has scheduled for Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the Paris-based Iranian opposition leader to address a subcommittee hearing, “ISIS: Defining the Enemy” via satellite, as the first witness.
I commend my former colleagues, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), and chair of subcommittee on Terrorism, non-proliferation and Trade, Judge Ted Poe (R-Texas) for doing the right thing and affording the U.S. Congress the opportunity to examine facts and hear from those in the field, rather than relying only on experts within the beltway.
Rajavi’s testimony before Congress is long overdue. For 15 years, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the principal Iranian opposition movement, was marginalized with a terror label that was created by the propaganda and political machinations of the regime and those in Washington who wanted to curry favor with Tehran.
The designation drew ire in Congress as a bipartisan majority in the House, including myself, and a sizable number of senators considered it a goodwill gesture towards Iran and called for its immediate lifting. The MEK shook off the terror label subsequent to 20 court rulings in the UK, EU, and the U.S. It is time and to the U.S. interests that the dire political consequences of this labeling are put to rest once and for all.
Rajavi’s movement alerted the world about Iran’s clandestine nuclear project, exposed Iran’s pervasive presence in Iraq and its operation of terror networks that exported improvised explosive devices to Iraq to kill American servicemen. The opposition has also waged a cultural and political war against Islamic fundamentalism emanating from Iran. Its ubiquitous representatives have galvanized a global campaign against human rights offenses, in particular against women within Iran.
In that sense, if the issue is ISIS and defining the enemy, Rajavi is certainly qualified to speak as her movement has been fighting a regime that pursued sectarian violence in Iraq and supported Assad, which led to the rise of ISIS. If it is Islamic fundamentalism and Tehran’s role, Rajavi is more than qualified to speak. If it is Iran’s nuclear program, her movement has had its finger on the pulse of that issue throughout the past decade. On human rights abuses by those with ISIS mentality, her movement has endured the brunt of suppression and executions in Iran. As many as 120,000 activists of her movement have been executed in Iran over the past three decades in the hands of those who were the de facto mentors of ISIS.
The group’s support among the Diaspora is as impressive. The annual conventions of the movement draw some 100,000 expats from the world over, accompanied by supporters including a stellar roster of US dignitaries, a rare bipartisan support for this movement for freedom and democracy in Iran.
The Obama administration is in the middle of significant negotiations with the Iranian regime over its controversial nuclear program. Whatever the result may be, it will be a defining moment for Iran and the region. But the U.S.’s problems with Iran are not limited to nuclear threat.
Tehran’s egregious regional policy of meddling and fomenting unrest in countries from Syria to Yemen, its fostering of Islamic fundamentalists, its state sponsorship of terrorism, its virulent anti-Israeli rhetoric, its detention of four American citizens, and its flagrant abuses of the most rudimentary rights of Iranian citizens are among a litany of issues that should be addressed by any comprehensive Iran policy. Iran has been the number one preoccupation of Secretary of State John Kerry and his entourage.
To avoid the voices about Iran to be monolithic in Washington, Iranian people should be brought into the equation and Rajavi provides a serious, viable voice. That is not a matter of dispute.
Tehran’s already harsh reaction to Rajavi’s presence as a witness at the upcoming hearing is a testimony to her value and the correct decision made by the committee leadership to invite her. Iran’s rulers deem Maryam Rajavi, her democratic 10-point plan for the future of Iran that calls for separation of church and state, equal rights for women, free market economy, peace in the Middle East, and a non-nuclear republic, as well as her devoted followers who aspire a free and democratic Iran to be a serious torn in their side, if not an existential threat to their survival.
The nuclear talks are as serious as ever. But should we allow our policy on Iran and serious regional discussions be taken hostage for political considerations? This congressional hearing says that the response is a resounding no.
Tancredo served in the House from 1999 to 2009. He ran for president in 2008.
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