France must open eyes on the realities in Iran

By François Colcombet,

While United States and North Korea have committed themselves in a process of " denuclearization of the Korean peninsula », to be watched in the next stages, what's new about the process concerning the other "axis of evil » member, that is, Iran of ayatollahs?

In the case of Iran, Europe, which observes with skepticism the process begun in Korea, pushes to avoid the American sanctions that target the trade with the Iranian regime. At the same time, Tehran steps up its threats against the West, while the streets in Iran reveal another part of the story.

Since the United States' withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran, the western companies have a deadline of 180 days to stop their activities with this country, with the risk of severe sanctions from the American Treasury. Several French firms have already begun to leave Iran, particularly those that have activities both on the American and Iranian market, but also those who use the dollar to trade with Iran. Confronted to this major change, Europe tries to bring its political support to ensure that its companies can stay in Iran. In a letter to the American Treasury, ministers of Finance and Foreign Affairs of France, Germany and the United Kingdom highlighted their good faith and asked the American government for exemptions.


The Europeans promised the continuation of the negotiations for a broader agreement with Tehran which would include its contentious ballistic program and its destabilizing activities in the region.

« The agreement of 2015 must be completed by an agreement on the nuclear program power after 2025, an agreement on the ballistic activities and the regional presence », confirmed Emmanuel Macron. Also, the countries of the G7 clearly committed themselves, one more time, to preventing Iran from getting equipped with a nuclear arsenal.

A LANGUAGE OF FIRMNESS

A look at the history of the relations with the Mullahs' regime clearly shows that they only understand a language of firmness, and that they only agreed to negotiate the suspension of their military nuclear program under pressure from paralyzing economic sanctions, imposed by the Obama administration. Now, if France wants to negotiate a broader agreement with Tehran, it has to take a strong position and use, without hesitation, the lever of sanctions. More importantly, France has to place the issue of the human rights of the Iranian people in the center of her action and to be attentive to aspirations for change of this people.

The Iranian regime is passing through a deep crisis that reaches its very foundations. In January, a popular revolt engulfed around 140 cities and seriously threatened the Islamist power. The population took to the streets massively to protest against the, skyrocketing prices and calling for an end to the dictatorship, cause of the economic and politic crisis in the country.

With an official unemployment rate of 12, 5 % (40 % unofficially), an inflation superior to 12 % and a national currency in free fall (loss of 50 % of its value in six months), the social anger is nowhere near to a halt in Iran.

« Leave Syria, take care of us », « Our enemy is here, they lie when they say that it is America », chanted the protesters: unpaid employees, farmers victims of the political system's negligence, thousands of money savers despoiled by financial institutions in bankruptcies and activists from the civil society who rebel against the injustices and the increasing discriminations in a country that possesses the highest number of execution per capita. This situation portends other revolts, more powerful than those of January. Meanwhile, protests and strikes continue in Iran in an unprecedented scale. On May 16, in Kazeroun, a city in the south of Iran, at least 4 people were killed in demonstrations against this rough regime which doesn't hesitate to shoot its own population and to use torture against its opponents.

An important event was the recent strike of the Iranian truck drivers which extended to more than 300 cities and highlighted the strikers' ability to be organized in front of a freedom-killing regime which blocks the Internet to hinder the development of the protests.

THE REGIME IS LOSING GROUND

What is significant in the political and social landscape is the global feeling that the regime is losing ground.

The real solution to the Iranian crisis could finally come from the streets. The explosive situation of the society makes possible a regime change from within, ending at the same time the suffering of the population and the international community's concerns. The existence of a structured opposition that survived repression and demonstrated its ability to resist and its staggering resilience during four decades, the great wisdom of Iranians who challenge their persecutors with intelligence, bravery and sometimes malice, the rejection of extremism and the diversion of religion for power-seeking purposes by this nation that bitterly tasted theocracy, constitute chances for an optimistic future. It's this message of optimism that the Iranian diaspora will try tosend to whoever will hear around the world in its large gathering on June the 30th in Paris, where dozens of thousand Iranians will converge from all over the world to proclaim that the successor and the alternative to the Mullahs' regime is at hand and ready and to call up to a democratic change in their country. This message must be heard by our political decision makers, here in France.

François Colcombet is President of the Foundation of Studies for the Middle East ( FEMO). He was a magistrate at the Court of Cassation and a member of the French Parliament. He is a co-founder of the French Committee for A Democratic Iran.