On Thursday, June 23, Former US Vice President Mike Pence travelled to Albania to visit Ashraf 3, the residence in exile for some 3,000 members of Iran’s leading opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK).
Ashraf 3 was founded in 2018 following the evacuation of MEK members from Iraq, where they had lived as a self-sufficient community since the 1980s before being besieged by Iranian-backed militias following the 2003 US invasion and subsequent withdrawal from Iraq.
Ashraff 3 has become the focus of Iranian opposition to the clerical regime in recent years.
Mike Pence’s visit to Ashraf 3 follows just a month after a similar visit by former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. At the time, I wrote that European leaders should heed the words of Mr Pompeo, who publicly supports the Iranian resistance. I said that the explosive state of Iranian society indicates that this regime is living on borrowed time. Sooner or later the people of Iran and their resistance movement will bring change to Iran. It is up to European leaders to decide which side they are on.”
A democratic transition in Iran is not just an Iranian problem, even if it comes from inside Iran and nowhere else. But once materialized, the stabilizing regional effects would extend far beyond Iran. Iran’s mullahs are part of every problem in the troubled Middle East today.
Mike Pence’s visit to Ashraf 3 proves the correctness of the political approach. By emphasizing a firm policy towards the regime in power in Iran, the West would be on better ground even before an eventual regime change in Iran.
This is our only countermeasure in the face of Iran’s regional adventurism aimed at forcing us to accept such behavior as a viable tool in the diplomatic arena. Such devices would not only remain usable in the region.
In June 2018, four Iranian agents, including a senior diplomat, were thwarted in their attempt to detonate an explosive device at the NCRI’s annual rally outside Paris. Tens of thousands of Iranian expatriates attended the rally. The subsequent trial of these activists revealed that the highest authorities in the Islamic Republic had ordered this attack, which could have injured or killed American and European dignitaries present to demonstrate their support for the MEK and its “resistance” units. who worked for the overthrow The theocratic dictatorship.
The four were sentenced to up to 20 years in prison in Belgium and are now serving time.
The main target of this conspiracy, however, was Maryam Rajavi, the NCRI’s President-elect, who will ultimately have to serve as President of an interim government in future Iran.
Pence said: “Maryam Rajavis Ten point plan because the future of Iran will ensure freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom for every Iranian to choose their elected leaders.”
He called the plan “a foundation to build the future of a free Iran.”
Internal unrest has intensified across the Islamic Republic, continuing a pattern that has persisted ever since end of 2017when a nationwide uprising spanned more than 100 cities and towns, bringing slogans like “death to the dictator” more into the mainstream.
Iran has experienced at least nine such uprisings in less than five years. These were fueled by economic discontent, but invariably provided an outlet for geographically and demographically diverse expressions of outrage at the ruling system. The unrest has been constant since the fall of the regime food subsidies Early May, proving that the Iranian people must expect their situation to continue to deteriorate and that the Iranian government has no interest in changing its priorities to alleviate this suffering.
This political intransigence provides fuel for the movement to ensure regime change – energy that has been harnessed alike by exiled Iranian opposition activists and by the resistance units promoting the MEK’s 10-point plan inside the Islamic Republic.
Iran’s political alternative is showing its image more than ever.
A misconception promoted by the mullahs and their political lobbies that the Western world must either embrace the existing regime or risk chaos in Iran has not stood up to scrutiny. But it has perhaps never been more obviously wrong than it is today. Also, the existing regime has never been as vulnerable as it is now. Experts like Pence and Pompeo are urging us all to take advantage of this situation.
In less than a month The annual NCRI rally is taking place, with a conference in Albania connected by tens of thousands of virtual dots elsewhere in the world to resonate with Iran’s democratic alternative. A privileged opportunity to exchange views on the current situation in Iran that I never miss.
But Europe should join the effort. Last year, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, acting chair of the EU’s rotating presidency, attended the gathering by delivering a strong message demanding that the Iranian mullahs be held accountable for their systematic human rights violations.
Pence and Pompeo’s visits this year should encourage such decisive action in Europe.
julio third (@GiulioTerzi) is a former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, former Italian Ambassador to the United States, former Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations and a member of the Advisory Council of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI).