Commentary

Resistance Leader: Iranian Regime Has ‘Insatiable Appetite for Western Concessions’

Ken Blackwell
By Ken Blackwell | December 16, 2014 | 2:35 PM EST

Iran'’s heavy-water plutonium reactor near the city of Arak, 150 miles southwest of Tehran. (AP Photo/ISNA, File)

Editor's Note: Iran nuclear talks have resumed, and the U.S. and Iran are at the table again. In this piece, part one of a two-part Q&A between former U.S. Ambassador to the UN for Human Rights Ken Blackwell and Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, President Rajavi answers important questions regarding the Iranian regime and strategies that the U.S. should consider. Stay tuned, part two will be posted tomorrow.

Winston Churchill famously said “Jaw-Jaw is better than War-War.” He was right, of course. But with Iran, the mullahs have made War-War while engaging us in Jaw-Jaw. They have played us along with these nuclear talks.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. This extended transcript is worth the time to study. The stakes could not be higher.

This is the voice of Iran’s freedom front. It’s been said that Iran’s mullahs with a nuclear weapon is “1,000 times more deadly” even than ISIS. Please take the time to read President Rajavi’s response to my questions:

1. In your view, why did the Iranian regime and the West fail to reach an accord on the nuclear issue despite the concessions offered by the West and especially the United States?

The most important reason is that the regime's absolute ruler, Ali Khamenei, has not yet decided to abandon the path of developing nuclear weapons. The development of a nuclear weapon is one of the three facets of the clerical regime’s survival strategy. The two others are repressing both the citizenry and the opposition (particularly the Mujahedin-e Khalq or the MEK), as well as regional aggression. The absence of any one of these three elements would spell the collapse of the regime's entire strategy, opening the floodgates for popular uprisings.

Despite their insatiable appetite for western concessions, the mullahs do not want to lose power. Therefore, they would only forego the bomb if they sense that their survival is in danger, and if they feel that the risk of insisting on the nuclear project outweighs the risk of abandoning it. This balance can only be realized when the clericnal regime is placed under maximum international pressure and sanctions. It cannot be realized when fruitless negotiations continue and the regime is actually rewarded and granted concessions for flouting UN Security Council resolutions or disregarding IAEA demands. These concessions have been counterproductive and they have rescued the mullahs from reaching their point of desperation.

2. What do you think of the extension of the negotiations?

The extension of the talks grants greater opportunities to the mullahs to obtain a nuclear bomb, and there can be no guarantees or optimistic outcomes. The extension revealed the failure of the U.S. policy, which was based on the assumption that it can convince this medieval regime to act rationally through appeasement, negotiations, not toughening the sanctions and even reducing their impact. Sanctions forced the regime to come to the negotiating table in Geneva in the first place.  The easing of sanctions and western concessions to the regime have enabled Khamenei to expand the scope of his red lines and avoid the signing of a final deal.

It must be noted that this regime, on the basis of the red lines dictated by Khamenei and due to the profound crises it is facing, especially the explosive nature of social discontent, will dodge the signing of a comprehensive agreement as long as it possibly can, unless international pressure forces it to retreat.

3. How do you view the Obama administration's conduct toward Iran, including moves like sending letters to Khamenei?

This conduct is not limited to writing letters. It has other dimensions, particularly maintaining silence with respect to human rights violations in Iran and inaction toward the attacks by the mullahs' puppet government in Iraq (Maliki) against Camps Ashraf and Liberty and the displacement of Ashraf residents, who had repeatedly been given written assurances for their safety and security by the United States.

As indicated in his speeches, Khamenei saw this as a sign of the U.S. weakness and was emboldened in his suppression of the Iranian people, development of nuclear weapons and pursuit of regional hegemony.

But as far as it concerns my compatriots, the people of Iran, they are extremely aggravated at such policies. They are the ones paying the price of this misguided policy with their blood and suffering. One can easily imagine how angry millions of Iranian families, who have had their children executed, tortured or suppressed by the mullahs, would be when they witness such conduct.

The slogan chanted by millions of Iranians during the 2009 uprisings is still relevant today: "Obama, you are either with the mullahs or with us."

4. Has this approach been helpful for solving the nuclear crisis?

The failure of the intense negotiations from November 2013 to November 2014 indicated that displaying weakness, offering all sorts of incentives to the mullahs and indefensibly overlooking the regime's international obligations have ironically undermined the process of resolving this crisis.

It was an unreasonable mistake for the United States and its allies to officially allow the Iranian regime to violate UN Security Council resolutions on its nuclear program. It was a mistake to permit the regime to enrich uranium in contrast to the same resolutions, and it was a mistake to tolerate the regime's ballistic missiles program and its export of arms to other counties.

5. What shortcomings does American policy have?

U.S. policy towards Iran and the entire Middle East suffers from lack of firmness toward the religious fascism ruling Iran, which is the central banker of terrorism and the godfather of ISIS. As a result, it hobbles from one mistake to the next. This happens for a number of basic reasons:

- The failure to realize the fundamental weakness and decaying of the Iranian regime;

- Lack of the minimum requisite understanding about the intensity of animosity harbored by the Iranian people towards the ruling regime, and the inability to see the massive social discontent;

- And, failure to recognize the role and potentials of the democratic alternative to this regime, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which thanks to its pivotal member organization, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), is the effective antithesis to fundamentalism and extremism masquerading as Islam.

6. Is Tehran still seeking a nuclear weapon?

The regime is certainly pursuing a nuclear weapon. In the course of the year-long negotiations in Geneva and Vienna, the P5+1 and the mullahs openly talked about a nuclear breakout capacity. Moreover, the mullahs have still not provided a complete list of their nuclear installations; they have not responded to IAEA questions about "explosive trigger tests" and "computer simulations related to nuclear explosions;" they are still not prepared to allow inspections of the Parchin site; and in the words of the UN nuclear watchdog, there are still no guarantees about the absence of "unannounced nuclear materials and activities." If the regime truly is not pursuing nuclear weapons, then what explains such resistance and obstructive behavior when it comes to the IAEA?

7. In your opinion, what elements should a nuclear agreement with the Iranian regime include and what elements should the West insist upon?

For the ruling regime in Iran to forego nuclear weapons, the following are necessary:

- The full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, especially the complete halt of enrichment;

- Acceptance of the Additional Protocol;

- And, granting of free access for inspectors to the regime's suspicious installations and sites.

Anything less than this would leave open the regime's path toward obtaining a nuclear bomb.

8. What is your idea of a correct policy toward Tehran?

The correct policy is for the global community to stand with the Iranian people and the Iranian Resistance instead of appeasing the religious fascism. One of the prerequisites to this policy is making diplomatic and trade relations with the mullahs contingent upon an end to executions and torture, and putting an end to the regime's intransigence in the region.

So long as the mullahs have not been compelled to end execution and torture, they would neither forgo nuclear weapons nor their ambitions of domination and terrorism in the Middle East.

The other prerequisite for a correct policy is the recognition of the Iranian people's Resistance to bring about change in Iran.

9. Would you agree with more sanctions on the regime?

The mullahs will only forgo their nuclear program, human rights violations and export of fundamentalism to the region if they are at the height of despair and desperation. Therefore, the pressure of sanctions on the regime must be increased. This is exactly the opposite of the mullahs' plan, who have put their focus on lifting of the sanctions.

But sanctions must include all financial, trade, oil, military and diplomatic aspects. Several UN Security Council resolutions, particularly UNSC Resolution 1929, have called for an arms embargo on the regime and the prohibition of all regime activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads. And they permit all countries to inspect cargoes originating from or destined to Iran. But as a result of the policy of western governments, and especially the U.S., even these resolutions are not being implemented.

As a former U.S. Ambassador to the UN for Human Rights, I can verify that the failure to address the horrific record of the Tehran regime will guarantee failure when dealing with a dictatorial regime like the mullahs have run in Iran since 1979. President Rajavi should be thanked for helping us as Americans return to our best traditions and our greatest success.

Ken Blackwell, former Secretary of State in Ohio, is the Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at the Family Research Council. He serves on the board of directors of the Club for Growth and the National Taxpayers Union.

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