July 9, 2007
Update from Alireza: When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad campaigned for president two years ago, he promised Iranians that he would put the country’s oil wealth “on people’s tables.” Not only has he failed to make this or any of his economic pledges come to pass, he has stood at the helm of an economy so in shambles that the government was forced to impose gas rationing. READ MORE.
Thank you for responding to my article. Please find some answers below, and keep your comments coming.
"Excellent story regarding the riots in Iran. I had no idea that so many of the Iranian people opposed their government's mantra. I thought they all had the same hard-line belief system. Very enlightening article. Thanks for writing it!" — Dave (Ft. Worth, TX)
"All I can say is POWER to the PEOPLE of Iran! I hope they never stop pushing this sick government and fundamental Islamic clerics out of power. They need a revolution and it will cost them dearly, but once free it will have been worth the costs." — Theresa
"Thank you for a little truth. Great story." — Chuck
"A story of terrific irony. But are the figures of 30 percent of fueling stations of the nation being damaged accurate? That is a fantastic setback for the citizens' convenience, but a great victory in stating their antagonism to the government's policies. Good article!" — Michael (Baltimore, MD)
"Nice article. I hope the Iranian people have the will to overthrow Ahmadinejad. It would save the U.S. a lot of pain if they could do it and not paint us the bad guy. Looks like he is so arrogant that he will undo himself. Let's pray it happens before he gets a nuke. Thanks for your article." — David
ALIREZA: Dear Dave, Theresa, Chuck, Michael, and David: Thanks for your very kind and encouraging words. Your feedback is very important to me.
"We'll, it's a very good story about the gas rationing. It also shows the people are reacting to more than just gas rationing. It was very well stated the religious leaders have been dictating political policy in Iran, as well as toward Muslims worldwide. Should the U.S. support the newer younger generation? Yes, they revolt against a terrorist regime — but they too use violence. Should the U.S. support any sort of rabble simply because they currently are the enemy of our enemy? Iran may simply self-destruct; violence begets violence. The West is not perfect, but it is not given to violence to get its way; self-defense and self-determination are not necessarily bedfellows. The reason the U.S. is a free nation is because of the fundamental beliefs in Christianity. Regardless of what you may hear, current political leaders say it is not what they say that is important and never a fact, but what the U.S. Constitution says and stands for. The U.S. stands for honesty, integrity and other personal and moral virtues, none of which is found in the country of Iran, lest of all the Middle East. I do not support violence of any kind, but I do support my faith in God and believe in the country God has blessed the world with, but will not support my countries intervention with more violence or indirect involvement to dictate to another country what it should do. My question to you is: Are you an American citizen? And what for?" — Rudy (South Berwick, ME)
ALIREZA: Dear Rudy: Thank you for your thoughtful response to my article; I appreciate your interest. In answer to your question about my citizenship, I was born in Iran but have resided under political asylum in the United States for more than two decades. As I describe in detail in my book, "The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), I began attending college here in the United States before the 1979 Iranian revolution. Since 1981, when the ruling clerics waged a campaign of terror against the Iranian people, many of my closest friends, associates, relatives as well as mentors have been executed by the Iranian regime inside Iran or assassinated abroad. I have been working to help bring democracy to my country, and to help establish peace and security in the region ever since.
I would also like to address your comments about Iranian rulers' lack of “honesty, integrity and other personal and moral virtues,” unlike the values that people cherish in the United States and around the world. The Iranian people, who seek to replace the fundamentalist regime in Iran with a secular democracy, look forward to the development of all of these ideals in the new Iran, starting with real elections in which the people are free to chose their leaders rather than continuing the corrupt and sham election process that passes for “democracy” in the Islamic Republic of Iran today.
"You are so right. The youth should protest more and put their protests on international Web sites. Why do they let the fat, rich religious leaders continue to lead them by the nose? Why don't they boycott the mosques and not show up for the lectures? If they stayed home on Fridays and held their prayers alone, the Mullahs would have no captive crowds to indoctrinate. All the wealth wasted on terror at home and abroad could feed and educate the poor of Iran." — TMW
ALIREZA: Dear Mr./Ms. TMW: Thank you very much for your comments. You make an excellent point about the effectiveness of protests in Iran, which can prove not only to the Iranian government but also to the world that the Iranian people do not support the fundamentalist regime. In truth, the Iranian people have been protesting for years and the regime is well aware that the greatest threat to its existence is the growing resentment of the Iranian people. Although these protests have been largely ignored by the western press in the past, the demonstrations and riots that erupted last week over the government's decision to ration gasoline made headlines in the United States and abroad.
The organized resistance, which is primarily based in Iran but has a presence in Iraq as well (based in Ashraf City, 60 miles north of Baghdad), is known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) . The MEK is the largest organization in a secular coalition, the 500-member parliament-in-exile, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). The NCRI is firmly rooted in a declared platform that “advocates free elections, gender equality, abolition of all discrimination against national and religious minorities and a secular system with separation of church and state.” A large number of members of the United States congress and hundreds of members of the European Parliament recognize the NCRI and the MEK as a "legitimate resistance" to the Iranian regime. Andrew Mackinlay, a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the British Parliament, described the resistance as being committed to the "parliamentary democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights." The success of the Iranian resistance will give the Iranian people the freedom and dignity they so richly deserve.
According to news agencies, in a gathering of 50,000 supporters (click here to see a Reuters video clip of the event) of the Iranian resistance in Paris on June 30, the president elect of the NCRI, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, described the importance of the world finally recognizing the discontent of the Iranian people as seen in the gasoline riots:
"These events mark the beginning of the final phase of the regime's fall, proving the failure of the appeasers who wished to maintain or empower the mullahs. The wave of protests within Iran has confirmed that mullahs are sitting on a powder keg."
Protesting the regime is a deadly business in Iran. More than a hundred thousand opposition members have been executed in the past 20 years and dissidents and protesters are imprisoned and tortured every day. In spite of this danger, the people are becoming increasingly willing to cry out about the oppressive policies of President Ahmadinejad and the fundamentalist clerics who control every Iranian's way of life. Hopefully, the international media will continue to cover the ever-increasing protests in Iran, as well as the escalating crackdowns that the Iranian government is inflicting upon the people as a result. More women are being arrested for not conforming to the fundamentalist dress code, more dissidents are being imprisoned and tortured, more youth are being hanged in public squares for their “crimes” against the mullahs' version of Islam, and more newspapers and websites are being shut down. The regime has waged an unprecedented repression against the Iranians, yet the people refuse to be silenced. With 60 percent of the population under the age of 30 and demanding to be heard, the “fat, rich religious leaders” you mentioned are painfully aware that their days are numbered.
"Sir, your point is well taken regarding Iran's shortcomings over the last decades to build more refineries. We see that very same picture here in America; we do not ration (yet) but increase the price of our gas. I am not sure which is worse; people driving smaller Hondas are helping pay for those who continue to drive the eight-cylinder SUV, or propose a rationing for all. Of course we have the auto industry to think of but in the long run, what would benefit the country more?" — Ed (Central Point, OR)
ALIREZA: Dear Ed: Thank you very much for your comments about the state of Iran's oil refineries in comparison to those in the United States. Iran's lack of refineries is just one part of the story about Iran's grossly mismanaged economy, which became apparent to the world last week when the government began gas rationing. For nearly three decades, the Iranian government has neglected to bring its oil wealth to its people, and because Iran is OPEC's number-two crude oil producer and the world's fourth-biggest exporter, this is indeed a devastating pattern of neglect. Higher gas prices may be problematic for many Americans, but Iran's rationing demands that the Iranian people — who sit on some of the greatest oil wealth in the world — are limited to 26 gallons (U.S.) of gasoline per month. Clearly, the regime's priorities are elsewhere.
Iran's rulers are spending billions of dollars on supporting terrorist groups around the world, exporting their extremist brand of Islam to the Islamic world, pursuing an ambitious nuclear weapons program and missiles to deliver them, as well as strengthening the Islamic Revolutionary Guards as their main repressive tool to contain the population. This has also become evident in the latest reports about Iran's deeply rooted presence in Iraq, which the U.S. military has confirmed accounts for many coalition deaths. The prime directive of the Iranian regime is to spread its brand of Islamic rule throughout the Middle East, with Iraq as the first step in the process. Senator Joseph Lieberman discussed this goal in the Wall Street Journal on July 6, stating that “Iran is acting aggressively and consistently to undermine moderate regimes in the Middle East, establish itself as the dominant regional power and reshape the region in its own ideological image.” This is the most important facet of the gasoline-rationing story in Iran, as it exposes the lengths that the Iranian regime has gone to pursue its expansionist ideology at the complete expense of its people. Three decades of executions, abuse and oppression have attempted to silence Iran's voices of dissent, to no avail-as evidenced in the riots throughout Iran. In addition, three decades of rampant corruption in the regime have devastated the economy and forced desperate measures like gas rationing.
"The regime can now either turn their attention toward establishing order internally (either more severe repression or actually trying to meet the people's needs) or desperately accelerate their gambit to become a nuclear terrorist power. Which do you think?" — Dwight
ALIREZA: Dear Dwight: Thank you for your questions about the regime's current options in dealing with the protests that erupted in the wake of gas rationing last week. In reality, the Iranian regime is already utilizing both of the options you noted, and has been escalating these activities dramatically. The “severe repression” of the Iranian people now includes the arrest and torture of more and more dissident voices, the public execution of more men, women and children for morality crimes, and the closing of more and more newspapers and media outlets. At one end of the spectrum, thugs from government security forces are beating and arresting women at the Tehran airport for not strictly adhering to the regime's dress code. At the other end, protesters who speak out at peaceful demonstrations throughout the country are tortured and executed in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison. In between, the regime continues to try to paralyze the most important organized resistance movement, the MEK, by forcing governments to list it as a terrorist organization. However, hundreds of European parliamentarians as well as many members of U.S. congress recognize the Iranian Resistance as the most viable option for bringing a secular democracy to Iran and ending the Iranian threat to the world. In a bi-partisan article titled "Mek Sense" in the Washington Times in June, U.S. Congressmen Tom Tancredo and Bob Filner described the goodwill gesture that was given to Tehran. "In a bizarre twist of U.S. policy, the MEK has been labeled by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization, originally placed on the blacklist in 1997 as a concession to 'moderates' in Tehran who were then believed to be ascendant - one of the regime's key strategic victories over America and the West during the past three decades of fruitless negotiations."
Your second point, regarding the regime's option to “desperately accelerate” its race for a nuclear weapon, is also a well-documented reality. I outline this race in detail in my book, "The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), and The International Atomic Energy Agency's regular reports are filled with proof about Iran's longstanding strategy of cover-ups, lies and deception over its nuclear program. With a nuclear weapon, Tehran will have the ultimate leverage for pursuing its expansionist goals in the Middle East. Thanks to the MEK, which uncovered Iran's secret nuclear program in 2002, the world is now aware of this nuclear race.
"Although a sad situation, when it comes to oppressive regimes, such as the one in power in Iran at this time, history has proven that, without fail, these regimes fall from within. Why continue asking for the United States of America to engage in this internal strife when we all know the end result will be the same as in Iraq? After getting rid of Saddam Hussein, the citizens turned against each other, while claiming religious reasons, and at the same time, all turned against the USA in order to divert attention from their real problems. Let each country handle their own problems; let our young people return to their homeland." — Joe (Deer Park, TX)
ALIREZA: Dear Joe: Thank you for your comments about the possibility of the Iranian regime “falling from within.” This is actually the greatest threat to the fundamentalist regime in Tehran, which is acutely aware of the power of the increasingly discontented population. The headlines that covered the gasoline-rationing riots throughout Iran last week failed to mention that Iran witnessed more than 4,800 anti-government demonstrations in the past year. Students, unpaid workers, women, ethnic and religious minorities — every segment of the population has dramatic grievances with the regime and has been expressing them throughout the country.
Many American politicians and experts who are frustrated with the failure of negotiations with Iran and are opposed to the military option to counter the Iranian threat believe that the “falling from within” is the most likely scenario given the presence of the great potential for change in Iran. However, they believe that the State Department has unduly intervened in favor of the Ayatollahs by designating Iran's largest and best organized opposition as terrorist in 1997. The move was followed by EU in 2002 as it added the group to its terrorist list to improve its relations and economic ties with Tehran. The terrorist designation significantly reduces the ability of the opposition to operate, as it has to spend most of its resources to counter the consequences of designation rather than focusing on its fight against the repressive rulers of Tehran. One example that has outraged many European parliamentarians is that although a high EU court ruled last December that the MEK should be delisted by the European Union, the EU has not complied with the law because it does not want to rock the boat with Tehran. As a result, the organization's assets remain frozen and its mobility limited, causing stepped up suppression by the Ayatollahs in what the clerics call their war on terror.
Iran is also using the terrorist designation to put pressure on the Iraqi government, which has very close ties to Iran, to expel the group's 3500 members who are all based in one large camp (Ashraf City) in Iraq. The group has been recognized by the Coalition Forces in Iraq as "protected persons" under the 4th Geneva Convention. The status would make it a war crime if the Iraqi government or any other party would seek to threaten or dislocate the MEK members from the Iraqi territory against their will. Prominent Iraqi politicians — Shiite, Sunni and Kurds — released a statement signed by 5.2 million Iraqis who said the continued presence of the MEK in the Iraqi territory is a guarantee for Iraq's independence and acts as the counter-balance against Iran's increasingly violent influence in Iraq.
Supporters in the United States, including U.S. Representative Bob Filner (D-CA), believe that unshackling the main Iranian opposition group is the most viable option for helping to bring a secular democracy to Iran. According to reports, Congressman Filner told a crowd of 50,000 in Paris that "The first thing the US must do now is to take the MEK off the terrorist list. We must recognize who our friends are. We must recognize who the resistance is. We must recognize who is taking the lead, on behalf of the whole world, for freedom in Iran." This will not only benefit the Iranian people but bring security to the entire region, as Tancredo and Filner described in their article: “An Iran committed to a belligerent, revolutionary agenda will continue to threaten its neighbors and global security. Long-term stability in the Middle East depends upon a stable, secular, democratic Iran that does not export terror, violent upheaval and a radical ideology. Our efforts should be directed at fostering democratic change within Iran by empowering the very opposition organizations that share our goals and values.”
"Now that we have heard that Mahmoud has taken the same tack as Venezuela and shut down the TV stations that he doesn't like. The problem is that he will just keep getting more and more restrictive until he kills the opposition. The only way, I believe, that the Iranian people will have a chance at reform of their government is through a military strike at the nuclear plants in Iran. Mahmoud has already placed the blame of the plight of the Iranian people on the west, so we have nothing to lose. We do have the opportunity to gain, though, through the riots that would break out when the government goes broke. There has to be a spark to get the revolt moving and then support after it starts. I am afraid that this is probably where we will fall down. They will remember our performance when the Shi'a revolted against Saddam after the Gulf War and not trust us." — W. Howard (Bardstown, KY)
ALIREZA: Dear Howard: Thank you for your feedback on my article. The military-strike option has received a lot of press, as the U.S. administration has stated that “all options are on the table” in regard to Iran. In contrast to your point, we would actually have a great deal to lose with such an intervention. As I outline in detail in my book, "The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), there are many devastating drawbacks to a military strike. I do not endorse the military option for Iran because I believe that the Iranian threat should have an Iranian solution, conceived of and implemented by Iranian patriots with the support of the international community. There is no need for boots on the ground, or even money in the till. A military attack on Iran would change Tehran's image from that of an antagonist — a provoker and violator of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — to that of a victim of western aggression. Tehran would consider trying to amass a coalition of armed extremists to transform the war into a terrorist Armageddon, although there is no evidence to suggest that Iran would be able to generate a significant campaign of terror. The third option, which is relying on the Iranian people and their leading opposition groups to bring democratic change to Iran, has not even been explored by the West.
"I personally would like to see the Israelis faint an air strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities. With the USAF coming through with a simultaneous strategic stealth air attack on same, using our B-1 and F-119 stealth equipment. They might also hit the arms supply lines into Iraq using B-52's. What do you think?" — Robert
ALIREZA: Robert, Thanks for writing me. Please see my response to Howard above.
"Would you agree or disagree that we are seeing the end of the current policial system in Iran? Perhaps a point in the history of the Iranian and Persian peoples that finally allows her a time of peace?" — Quinn
ALIREZA: Dear Mr./Ms. Quinn: I believe that yes, the days are numbered for the fundamentalist regime in Iran. And I am not alone. As the world witnessed last week, the Iranian people are fed up with the oppressive, corrupt government that forced one of the world's richest oil nations to resort to gas rationing. According to the International Herald Tribune, on June 30, about 50,000 Iranian exiles gathered in Paris to show their support for democracy in Iran as they cheerfully listened to Maryam Rajavi, who denounced the "dishonorable collaboration" of the European Union with the rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Rajavi contended that a wave of unrest over an Iranian fuel rationing plan, announced in late June, "is the true picture of a discontented society on the verge of exploding," Herald Tribune reported.
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Alireza Jafarzadeh is a FOX News Channel Foreign Affairs Analyst and the author of "The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).
Jafarzadeh has revealed Iran's terrorist network in Iraq and its terror training camps since 2003. He first disclosed the existence of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility and the Arak heavy water facility in August 2002.
Prior to becoming a contributor for FOX, and until August 2003, Jafarzadeh acted for a dozen years as the chief congressional liaison and media spokesman for the U.S. representative office of Iran's parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
Alireza Jafarzadeh, the deputy director of the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, is credited with exposing Iranian nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in 2002, triggering International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. He is the author of "The Iran Threat" (Palgrave MacMillan: 2008). His email is Jafarzadeh@ncrius.org, and is on twitter @A_Jafarzadeh.