What follows in this article details my humble views regarding ‘The Fatal Policies of the West Towards Democracy’ particularly in Persia (Iran). I have outlined my view in four different sections and I trust the reader will find them informative and enlightening.
First: The deceased leader of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, entered Iran with an Air France airliner and the pilot held his hand as he descends the steps of the aeroplane. In my opinion, on that day, by this symbolic action, France demonstrated her approval of the events which were about to transpire in Iran. The actions of the French pilot were part of a pre-orchestrated plan. This pre-planned action was caricatured for someone who initially and on his arrival made various and wide-ranging pledges to the Iranian people; from political to economical freedom. Not only did he disregard all his pledges soon after, but shortly after his return he initiated a program of elimination, aimed at two objectives. Firstly, getting-even with the officials of the previous regime and secondly terminating all those who stood in his path and in the path of his regime. The objective of getting-back at the officials of the previous regime was achieved by creating and deploying quasi-courts and using such barbaric and brutal clergy-judges such as Sadegh Khalkhali. As already mentioned it was not only the officials of the old regime that garnered his wrath. All those who were deemed to be against him or his regime were systematically irradiated in the mass murders of 1988-1989. During all those years the only response emanating from the West was silence and indifference towards the obvious circumvention of Human Rights in Iran.
Second: The silence and apathy of the West continued after Iran was belligerently attacked by Saddam and once again the Iranian people were left to themselves in the face of war, aggression and senseless-slaughter by the Ba’athist Regime. The then Iranian supreme leader wanted – and some would say needed – the war even if it lasted twenty years. The result of this stubbornness and insistence on war until the “conquering of Karbala and the annexation of Jerusalem” (a favourite adage of the regime then) was nothing but huge budget deficits, a coupon based economy, the homelessness of more than two million people and the eventual death of over fourteen thousands civilians; not to mention the destruction of many residential and none- residential buildings which subsequently provided the opportunity and the excuse for some governmental officials to plunder the wealth of the nation. Moreover, the indifference of the West towards the Iranian peoples’ desperate, desolate and disconsolate circumstances and the Islamic Republic's dictatorial nature, provided the excuse for some of Iran’s official to turn to other dictatorial countries such as Russia and China. With the wind of assistance from such dictatorially inclined regimes at their sail, the governmental heads of the Iranian Islamic Republic were able to further suppress the Iranian people and also consolidate their antagonistic approach towards the West. The sections that did – and do – nothing to weaken the Regime, but their effect on the Iranian people were and are crippling; a sanctioned-crippled populace – quite contrary to Western beliefs – do not rise up against their oppressors, year of them in Iraq demonstrated this irrefutably.
The said dictatorially inclined countries used the existing enmity and division between Iran and the West to their advantage. Consecutively, this allowed the officials of the Islamic Republic to further burden the people with numerous and varying fiscal, commercial and other debts which in returned helped the Regime to gain more weight; without a structured system the country would be in disarray given its many mentioned challenges. Unsurprisingly, yet again, the West remained silent and ignored the dictatorship burdening the people further and adding to their dire circumstances. Circumstances which the Iranian people are today desperately trying to free themselves from.
Third: Not only did the West not support the Iranian people in achieving their democratic aspirations but further crippled them with more commercial and financial restriction, and, of course, the sanctions still continued and so did the seesaw relationship of the West with Iran; one day diplomatic dialogue was the order of the day and the next threats and empty rhetoric. These ineffectual sanctions, lacking efficiency in everyway, only made the Regime an expert in finding back doors to overcome them with the assistance of Russia and China. Relying on these dictatorial countries gave some Iranian officials the audacity to refer to sanction as “being an opportunity". Apparently, such is the “…opportunity…” that these sanctions have for the Iranian Governing Elite that some amongst them even openly talk of partaking in activities which would lead to their increase.
The Regime claims the sanctions lead to opportunity for scientific growth and independent in manufacturing and production. However this is far from the truth. If one accurately analysis the past three decades, years of sectioning various produce has only made Iran a viable market for Russian and China. When a country claims to be progressing then this progression should be evident in the life of its people. Albeit, a glance at the Iranian people's social circumstances illustrates their fast growing poverty. Meanwhile the country's resources are being exhausted on frivolous bickering with the West; yet another result of the West's contra-dictionary approach. On the one-hand, the West brought poverty upon Iran and the Iranian people through various sanctions and on the other hand, in order not to be left behind Russia and China in lucrative business and commercial opportunities, it enters into various fiscal interaction with Iran. In my view, this is in keeping with the very same indifference policy the West adopted from the birth of the Iranian revolution, otherwise how could one expect allowing some countries to have financial and commercial interactions with Iran and preventing others from doing so to produce any meaningful result? Sanctions lose their meaning when deployed in such a manner. The utilisation of such half-hazard measures results only in the alienation of the populace towards the West and keeps the black-market going for some of the financially corrupt apparatuses and individuals of the State; thereby strengthening them.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has become an expert of manipulating sanction and acquiring its necessities through the black-market. Hence, all that the sanctions have achieved is to hugely inflate the prices of daily goods for the people and, alas, the Western countries seem to have come to terms with this; since this apparently seems to be beneficial to them also. How could we think of Western countries as being sincere in their intention when their produce are sent to other country only to be re- packaged and sold to Iran through proxy countries and thus leading to price increase for the Iranian people. How could one ignore these contradictions?
I've mentioned in another article published a year ago that it's pointless to apply sanctions while still having commercial and political ties with the Regime. Now, after the truth of my postulations has becoming evident I emphasise again that these contra-dictionary and aimless sanctions only increases the poverty of the Iranian people and further strengthens the Regime. How beneficial or effective could sanctions really be when it only results in further oppression of the people?
The freedom loving Iranian people have not yet forgotten the undemocratic and self-beneficiary behaviour of the Siemens Company. How could one talk about sanctions and then provide a dictatorial regime with audio surveillance equipments to further repress its people? How could one talk about sanctions and then provide the Sepah (an Iranian Governmental militia Group) with the technology to be able scramble short-waves and keep quite the fact that these equipments and the waves they produce are a health hazard to people?
As previously cited, during the recent years, the summation of Western policy towards the Iranian Regime can be described as such: sanction on the one hand and establishing commercial ties on the other. Thus preventing the West from being able to stand steadfast against the policies of the Iranian Regime because it doesn't want to loose Iran’s market to Russia and China. Consequently, what goes on in Iran in the name of "Sanctions" has enriched a few in the Regime and increased poverty amongst the many; for which I hold the Western countries firmly responsible.
The Regime of the Islamic Republic is based on despotic rule and set against democratic governance. The silence of the West has only strengthen it and further crippled and damaged the democratic aspiration of the people. Without a doubt the result of Western sanctions has been akin to planting a seed in a barren land. The real winners of this flawed Western strategy has been countries such as Russia and China who see their economical and financial interest in maintaining a dictatorship in Iran and further provoking the antagonism between it and the West.
Fourth: I have asserted on numerous occasions that the Western countries should and must reassess their approach to Iran and the Iranian people. If they wish for Iran to be a democratic country in the heart of the Middle-East they should abandon their dreams of gradually guiding the Regime towards democratic governance – a strategy that has irrefutably and blatantly failed during the past three decades – and turn their attention towards empowering the Iranian people such that they would be able to achieve democracy and democratic rule. Sanctions only weakens the Iranian peoples’ will of realizing their aspirations of gaining freedom from despotic rule and places a spanner in the work which faces them if they wish to attain democratic rule; contemporary history has clearly demonstrated on numerous occasions that half-hungry people do not revolt, as they did not revolt in Iraq. Half-measures do nothing to assist the Iranian people; it only tightens the grip of an autocratic government. The West should know this by now especially after the experience of Iraq.
Behrooz Behbudi (PhD) is the Founder of The Iranian Freedom Council.