Roanoke Times | Majid Sadeghpour | 4/18/2022
The great Russian chess master Garry Kasparov said of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, “It has taken a massive war to remind Europe and America that fighting for freedom is a global battle, and that giving it up inevitably weakens the forces of democracy at home.”
The tragedy unfolding across Ukraine nevertheless spawned the rebirth of values humanity had seemingly forgotten. The free world is increasingly admiring the brave resistance against aggression and the selfless courage and honor it demands. In the United States and globally, appreciation for the Iranian people’s four decades-long struggle for freedom and democracy is also coming into focus. It is rather odd that Russia’s perverse behavior in Ukraine has not deterred Western democracies from seeking its assistance to get Tehran to curb its dash towards nuclear weapons. Thousands of miles from Ukraine, however, bipartisan U.S. senators joined Ukrainian political leaders at a virtual conference to dissect Iran’s malign activities, its nuclear program, crimes it is committing against the people in Iran and its full support for the invasion of Ukraine.
Throughout human history, tyrants, occupiers, and rights violators have promoted their own false narratives. Recent events in Iran and in Ukraine have damaged this narrative. In Iran, the regime’s highest authorities have acknowledged that opposition forces in the country are a credible threat to the mullahs’ power while the people’s resistance in Ukraine threatens to overwhelm one of the most powerful armies in the world.
While the world has turned its attention to Ukraine, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, told conference attendees, “we cannot lose sight of the threat of the Iranian regime,” as it “remains one of the few countries to vocally back Russia’s completely unprovoked and devastating invasion of Ukraine.” He decried the cooperation of tyrants in Iran and Moscow and said Iranian regime, “continues to stand by Putin in the face of truly horrific actions … leveraging its role in the talks in Vienna to again redirect attention away from the very real and immediate threat of Iran’s nuclear program.” He blamed Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi for the ongoing crimes the regime in Tehran perpetrates against the Iranian people, a person, “who was actively involved in the forcible disappearance and extrajudicial killing of thousands of Iranian dissidents in 1998, and the brutal crackdowns against peaceful protesters.”
Senators, including Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, denounced Ebrahim Raisi, “who was handpicked by the Supreme Leader, is notorious for his key role in the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran, based on a religious decree issued by the Supreme Leader against the main Iranian opposition, the MEK.” He expressed optimism about the resistance movement in Iran, “led by a strong and dedicated woman [Maryam Rajavi], they continue to be a source of inspiration for the protesters in Iran who seek to end the tyranny.”
Such optimism is rooted in facts. Recently, for example, Iranian authorities erected a statue of terrorist operative Qassem Soleimani. Iranian resistance units set it on fire less than 24 hours later. And pro-democracy hacktivists took control over state media broadcasts, condemning Khamenei and praising the prospect of a democratic Iran. These, and the daily protests by teachers, industry workers, students and even political prisoners, point to instability for the regime.
In a message to the conference, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, highlighted this resistance and said, “Since 2018, there have been eight major uprisings in Iran involving 200 cities and hundreds of thousands of people. The parallels of the decades-long struggle of the people of Iran and the recent attacks on the sovereign and democratic people of Ukraine, are inescapable realities of our time,” she added. “We are witnessing the strong resistance of the people of Ukraine against the unjust invasion of their country, a resistance that I know is well appreciated by the people of Iran,” Shaheen said.
This sentiment was painfully illustrated by five Ukrainian political leaders who joined the conference live from Ukraine’s war zone. Ms. Kira Rudik, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, urged Western democracies to impose a no-fly zone over her country, was not a surprise. But her eloquent expression of defiance resembling that of the revered World War II British Prime Minister Winston Churchill certainly was. “There is only one way that you deal with a tyrant, you fight him, you fight until the end, you fight him until the last person standing,” she said.
In July 2021, Iranian resistance leader Mrs. Rajavi predicted that “in the new era, the hostility and enmity between the Iranian regime and society will intensify.” The new era to which she referred, began with the appointment of Ebrahim Raisi as President of the Islamic Republic. Raisi’s long history of crimes and current support for the carnage in Ukraine are not disparate facts. He is not only dramatically increasing the repression of dissent and exacerbating suffering in Iran, but also fanning a new era of hostilities in the entire region.
Today, the US government must show support for the people and their resistance to tyranny — in Iran and in Ukraine. Western democracies must reinforce their role as defenders of universal human rights principles by seeing that Raisi is brought to justice before international tribunals for crimes against humanity and genocide. Such an undertaking will rob the tyrants of the diplomatic veneer they will deserve. After all, what value does diplomacy have when terrorists and pariahs are afforded diplomatic cloaks?
Meaningful pressure on tyrants signals much-needed and much-deserved support for what the Russian chess master aptly called “a global battle,” at a time when both Ukrainian and Iranian people are eager to defend democracy and freedom.