Khamenei Change?

A new US policy sees Tehran's tyrant -- and not the tyranny -- as the enemy

By M. Parvin | January 3, 2005


The Committee on the Present Danger  (CPD), led by Senator Jon Kyl (R), Senator Joseph Leiberman (D), George Shultz, and James Woolsey has issued a policy paper titled, “ Iran – A New Approach”, and have targeted Ali Khamenei as the sole cause of all the oppression and the only obstacle to peace and democracy in Iran. The policy paper states that:

“Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei of Iran presents a fundamental threat to peace, for all signs point to his determination to develop nuclear weapons. Iran’s people, on the other hand, are our allies. They want to free themselves from Khamenei’s oppression and they want Iran to join the community of prosperous, peaceful democracies.”

What is notable in this policy paper is that while there are twenty-nine references to Khamenei and Khamenei’s regime, there is not one single reference to “Islamic Republic” or “Islamic Regime.”  The “Islamic” term has been used twice in reference to Palestine and Guard Corps. This observation by itself should tell us enough about the nature of this policy paper. 


The policy paper considers leading religious and reformist figures who have spoken against Khamenei’s rule and his unwillingness to establish normal relations with the United States as U.S. allies in dealing with Khamenei.  It also symbolizes the elections of 1997 and 2001 as expression of the Iranian people for democracy and change.


The paper emphasizes the need of a fresh approach as a new American policy that includes:


-         Reopening the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.


-         Designating the highest-ranking officials as the key person in the U.S. new policy toward Iran.


-         Making Khamenei understand that if he does not comply with legitimate international requirements to keep his nuclear weapons development program suspended, the U.S. and others reserve the right to take out or cripple his nuclear capabilities.


-         Conducting dialogue with Khamenei about his return to the mosque through Shi'a clerics with high religious standing. They should approach Khamenei--initially in private, to urge that he abdicate his power, and to make clear that they will go public with this demand if he resists.


-         Supporting Iranian Democrats and dissidents to make the breakthrough to democracy and remove Khamenei from power.


-         Making clear that although the U.S. authorities meet with representatives of the Khamenei regime, they consider these to be illegitimate!


-         Making cultural, academic, and professional exchanges and programs an integral part of the U.S. efforts to assist Iranians in the democratization of their country.


-         Developing the United States relations with the military and various services in Iran to isolate Khamenei who relies on hired paramilitary thugs.


-          Deploying U.S.  forces in the region, the CIA, FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency and others on works ranging from cross-border threats, terrorism and drugs.


-         Imposing smart sanctions that target the Supreme Leader and his close circle of support, so that the people do not see the sanctions as harmful to them.


-         Creating a good leverage for the U.S. by threatening that Khamenei be tired in an international tribunal to try Khamenei.


-         Funding Farsi-language Radio Farda and VOA television, and other Persian Radio and TV stations through a $10 million annual budget.


-         Conducting dialogue with the Iranian officials to discuss issues such as human rights, terrorism, nuclear weapons, and regional stability.


The committee concludes by recommending a peaceful but forceful strategy to engage with the Iranian people to remove the threat Khamenei presents.


The proposed policy by the committee is not anything close to what the freedom-loving Iranians are struggling for. Nothing short of a secular democracy is acceptable in Iran. So, Khamenei change is not going to stick! The committee seems to be aiming only in opening the U.S. Embassy and normalizing relations in spite of its rhetorical harsh stand against Khamenei. Reducing the suppressing machine of the Islamic Regime to the Khamenei regime is either due to the ignorance of the committee or their lack of respect for the wish and desire of Iranians for a secular democracy. 


Does this policy have a chance to be adopted as the formal policy of the U.S. with respect to the Islamic Regime? Unfortunately, there are evidences to indicate that the U.S. government is warming up to embrace a similar policy.


As reported by Financial Times (12/27/04), President George W. Bush gave the EU's policy of engagement his strongest support yet and even seemed to criticize his own administration's more confrontational approach.


"We don't have much leverage with the Iranians right now," President Bush said at a press conference last week, arguing that the U.S. instead had to rely on the contacts that had been made by the Europeans.


"We're relying upon others, because we've sanctioned ourselves out of influence with Iran, to send a message that... we expect them to listen to those voices," he said. "We're a part of the universal acclaim [for the EU approach]. … This is how we're dealing with the issue," President Bush said. "And so diplomacy must be the first choice."


The policy paper is doing just that. It first creates an illusional regime called “Khameine Regime” and then proposes to open the embassy and complete normalization with the Islamic Regime.


To prove it otherwise, they should adopt the following policy to allow the Iranian struggle for a secular democracy (and not water down Islamic Regime without Khamenei) to prevail. This policy should include the followings:


·        Acknowledging the fact that the freedom-loving Iranians want a secular democratic regime and are against the entirety of the Islamic Regime, its constitution, and any form or shape of the interference of religion in state.


·        Imposing a smart sanction against the Islamic Regime of Iran and not only “Khamenei Regime.” This sanction should be a real one and not of the type that would exclude 200 American companies including Halliburton and General Electric.


·        Reducing the diplomatic relations with the Islamic Regime to the lowest possible level.


The task of changing the regime of terror in Iran and establishing a secular democratic government undertaken by freedom-loving Iranian people is difficult, but Iranians are capable of defeating their enemy, the Islamic Regime, if it is not supported by the interest-driven industrial power. If the U.S. wants to show support for the Iranians, it should respect the above three wishes.  It is easy and comes at no cost to the American people.

M. Parvin is an adjunct professor at the California State University and director of the Mission for Establishment of Human Rights in Iran (MEHR) -

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