The end of constructive engagement
... and the Challenges of the Iranian
October 20, 2003
Keynote speech at conference in Washington DC organized by
Action for Democracy in Iran and the American University on October
18. Details here.
In recent years the world has become focused sharply on Iran
in three distinct
yet related areas:
1- The regime's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction,
2- The regime's
support for terrorism in general, and for Islamic fundamentalist
groups in the Middle East, and
3- Human rights violations.
As events unfold in the continuing struggle of women and youth
tyranny and government-sanctioned acts of violence, the Iranian
shown its disillusionment with the reformist camp of President
boycotting the last municipal elections. There is no reason to
that the next elections, to be held in 4 months, will be any
The hardliners are poised to ensure that only supporters of the
leader Khamenei are elected. Meanwhile, the genuine democratic
the country is gathering momentum, despite the mass imprisonment
routine torture of the brightest and bravest of the youth movement.
The political, cultural, and ethical failure of the revolution
in Iran has
drastically contributed to the already cynical masses' loss of
political leadership. This cynicism is further aggravated by
1- The regime's hold on power by means of naked aggression, and
2- The total control of the mass media facilitated by unaccounted petro-dollars.
The widespread use of terror and repression by the Islamic Republic
resulted in the death, imprisonment, and exile of many human
rights activists, political advocates and civic leaders. The deprivation
individual liberties and social freedom continues.
Even though Iranians have only enjoyed brief periods of freedom
democracy between the 1906 Constitutional Revolution and the
1979 revolution, they have never before experienced such oppression
as they have faced since the fall of Monarchy. Claiming divine
representation, the officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran
abolished all personal and individual rights. While previous
Iranian dictatorial regimes, at least in words, pretended to be
pluralistic, the Islamic regime ruling Iran today rejects both
in words and in practice.
Despite the professed disdain of various sections of the Iranian
for the regime, and despite the consensus on the need for a viable
democratic alternative to the present theocracy, these have not
triggered the formation of a democratic alternative.
In this atmosphere of unrest, on the one side, and repression,
other, what is missing is a clear and genuine resolve on the
part of the
modern world to side with and unanimously support the peaceful
democratic aspirations of this movement -- the youth and the
openly undermine the regime on a daily basis.
The United States and Europe have long gone their separate ways
Washington has rightly, in my view, advocated a combination of
containment and sanctions, while Europe favored "constructive engagement".
For Americans, maintaining the sanctions regime has proven all
impossible, because European companies defied Washington's efforts
prevent them from investing and operating in the country. It
plausible that Congress should at some point initiate sanctions
Europe for its companies' violations of the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions
known as ILSA. Because while Congress renewed ILSA for another
in July 2001, the EU adopted a statute making it illegal for
European companies to comply with ILSA.
The events of September
ensuing battle against terrorism have further complicated the
political environment in the Middle East, causing more clashes
the Atlantic, with terrorists and governments supporting terrorism
the Islamic Republic of Iran taking full advantage of the cross-Atlantic
But for Iranians who have endured 25 years of cruelty in the
religion, domestic oppression is the other side of the coin of
international terrorism. Perhaps this is why the Iranians are
to Washington for reassuring signs that their democratic aspirations
not become the sacrificial lamb at the European feast of "constructive
In the current fight against terrorism, Tehran's ruse in switching
fomenting international terrorism to escalating domestic violence
oppression must be highlighted, and cannot be allowed to go unsanctioned
by the international community in general, but even more importantly,
Europe. In conclusion:
President Bush and his spokespersons have said time and again
that they do
not recognize a handful of un-elected officials of the Islamic
the legitimate representatives of the Iranian people. The president
said, at least on one occasion, that he recognizes no Iranian
institutions unless they are the true representatives, elected
empowered by the Iranian nation. He has said it more than once
supports the fight of the Iranian people, the youth and the women
particular, for a more open and democratic system of governance.
The era of "constructive engagement" is over by all accounts.
has been shown to be un-engage-able, and there is a reason for
founding principles are based on arrogant derision of anything
including the concept of "constructive engagement".
The diplomatic and economic relations of many European governments,
Russia and China with Iran reveal their indifference to the terrorist
regime's atrocities. Their behind-the-scene economic deals to
concessions currently constitute major international obstacles
We see an American -European united front on the nuclear weapons
political pressure to force the IRI to comply with the IAEA's protocol
a minimum requirement. It will have political consequences inside
country. Secondly, the united front must demand political and judiciary
reforms and threaten the IRI with "smart sanctions". Thirdly,
front must avoid a military engagement. It can be a disaster for
country and the democratic political transition that it's going
It is time for all democratic nations to rise up and support
liberal democratic opposition. It is also time for any and all
with the current regime to cease. Together let us free the people
and of the world, of the tyranny of oppression, fear and terrorism.