The following is the text of the speech made by Mohammad Parvin, MEHR’s representative, at the University of Washington, Seattle on May 17, 2003.

US-Iran Relations From Containment to Empowerment

We cannot discuss the relation between the US and Iran and come to a meaningful conclusion without analyzing the circumstances under which this topic is discussed.

Under normal conditions, I believe that Iran, as a nation, should have friendly social, economical, and cultural relations with all other nations. The true representatives of Iranians should also have just and fair relations with the world community. Iranian people have expressed their will to establish relations with the U.S., and I believe the overwhelming majority will respond positively if they are asked the same question again.

 However, the situation in Iran is far from normal, and the question is not the relation between the Iranian people and the US. The question is the relation between the US government and the Islamic Regime of Iran, a regime that has tried to stabilize its system of terror and repression for the last 24 years.  In a desperate attempt to survive, this failing regime is now seeking help from western countries, including what at one time it called “The Great Satan.”

This regime has failed because in spite of its brutality, and repressive methods of imprisonment, torture, and killing, people have not complied with their reactionary and medieval system of thinking and governing. Iranian people are using every opportunity to show their hatred for the regime. They showed in recent elections that they no longer have any faith in the so-called reformists within the Islamic Regime. They want a secular, democratic regime.

 What is the nature of Iranian’s struggle?

 The struggle of the Iranians for freedom and democracy, manifested in their demonstrations, strikes, and non-participation in the so-called elections is a non-violent struggle to challenge the authority of the regime and to denounce its legitimacy in representing them. This is the essence of the freedom movement in Iran. It is a civil disobedience movement to prove that the Islamic Regime doe not have any legitimacy. We will see the end of the Islamic Regime when such movement becomes organized, independent from outside interferences, and mobilizes thousands and millions of people to disobey the regime. This is a huge task; but it has to be done and can be done.  

The power of a regime can only be measured in terms of the degree of the obedience of the people. Without obedience, power does not mean anything. If you don’t submit, don’t yield, and don’t obey or follow regime’s rules and regulations, then you have denied its power. This is how our people will topple the Islamic Regime of Iran.

 As a side note, since there are a lot of discussions about referendum in Iran, I should indicate in passing that it would be very naïve to assume that this regime will yield to a referendum and submit its power to the will of the people. A call for a referendum is an excellent tool to challenge the legitimacy of this regime. It is a challenge to all those who still want to portray this regime as the representative of Iranians. Non-violence struggle is the method chosen by our people. This certainly would not be honored by the Islamic regime. The regime will attempt to change such effort to make it violent and bloody on its own terms. That is the time when the determination of non-violence advocates and hopefully millions of its followers will be tested. It will take much more than a referendum to get rid of IRI.

 Unfortunately, the Islamic Regime is not the only obstacle against the struggle of the Iranian people for freedom and democracy. Outside Islamic Regime, Iranians must face interest-driven governments, lobby groups with shady funding, and an American journalistic and academic community that lack honest reporting and scholarship. These individuals and groups legitimize Iranians’ oppressors.

The “interest” factor has made the European countries eager to establish relation with the IRI. Disregarding the human rights violation in Iran, they have escalated their fierce competition as to which one will take a bigger portion of the lucrative one-sided deals with IRI, a regime desperate to survive.

The US, lobbied strongly by the financial institutions and especially oil companies, is pursuing a dual policy towards the Islamic Regime. One day, it becomes the axis of Evil, and the other day it is portrayed as a democracy, as was done recently by Mr. Armitage at the State Department. I have a question for Mr. Armitage and all others with similar views:

If only priests approved by Vatican were allowed to run for the U.S. presidency, could anyone in their right mind call the United States a democracy?

The US position with respect to IRI is quite unstable and can make a drastic shift overnight. One day, we hear the emphasis on the terrorist nature of this regime and next day we hear about the secret negotiations between the US/IRI representatives. 

For IRI to qualify itself for help, and for the West to justify relations with one of the most brutal regimes of all times, both needed and still need a wide spread cover up. While human rights abuses escalated in Iran, conference after conferences were held in Iran and abroad on issues like human rights, civil society, dialog among civilizations, women rights, and child abuse. Western media and government authorities publicized these events, and participated in them and argued that they should support the so-called  “reformists” vs. “radicals” knowing well that all real reformists are in jails.

 Did you know that as we speak, a conference is in session in Iran sponsored by the Sheikh Mofid School in the City of Qom under the title of “Theoretical Foundations of Human Rights? Sheik Mofid is a state run religious school that trains military seminaries. Can you imagine that this conference is held with the cooperation of the United Nations and the International Center for Dialogue among Civilizations?  

Some argue that even if it is for window dressing, it is still good to have these relations.  They argue that the people will be exposed to the principles of the human rights and will be more demanding. I believe, they are underestimating our people. Our people know their rights and know that they are violated by the Islamic Regime and don’ t need these disgusting shows that are mockery of the human rights.

 In spite of the fact that IRI has been placed on the top of the State Department list of Terrorist Regimes, many groups, led by the American Iranian Council (AIC), with the support of some American financial institutions and lawmakers are vigorously lobbying for the Islamic Regime. I am wondering how some American lawmakers including Senators Biden and Hegel, and congressman Bob Ney can openly appease the most active sponsor of terrorism while the USA Anti Terrorism Act prohibits any association with terrorists.

 Let’s examine the intention of those who lobby for establishing relations with the IRI and argue that it will be for the  benefit of Iranian people. And who could be a better candidate than Gary Sick for this study. Gary Sick is one of the AIC’s Board members, the leading lobby group for IRI, as well as the Director of Gulf 2000, an International Research project on policy developments in the Persian gulf. He was National Security Council Staff, with Carter Administration. He has been vigorously lobbying for the relations with the Islamic Regime for years.

 In an article about Iran under the title of: The Stalemate in US-Iran Relations” [1], and in an attempt to correct the US policy towards Iran, he writes in part:

 Present US policy calls for Iran to change its behavior in six different areas (active opposition to the peace process, fishing in troubled water in other countries, terrorism, purchases of conventional arms, acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, and human rights). If the Iranians were miraculously to comply, our policy statements mention no benefits that they could anticipate because of their newfound enlightenment.

 Assuming a dialogue were to begin, the US would have to (1) define more clearly which of these behaviors are more important, (2) offer a more precise definition of what we would expect from Iran, and (3) give some indication of what we might be prepared to offer in return.”

Gary Sick has outlined the US conditions for relations with IRI and suggests that we should define which of these behaviors are more important. Let’s find out which conditions are un-important! He continues:

 “ …. In reality, we might have to settle for something less.”

 He then states that  “ A realistic negotiating objective might incorporate the following elements”

 In what follows in his article, we see that one of the conditions just vanishes! Can you guess it? It is the condition of human rights in Iran. This is the un-important area that he was trying to take out of the conditions set for re-negotiation with the regime.

 He then elaborates on this and writes:

 “The revolution is over, and the fiery slogans have a hollow ring. Khomeini said the revolution was not about the price of melons, but it turns out that it is! The demonstrations in Iran are not about clerical rule or a return to the monarchy or even about democracy and human rights. They are about quality of life, drinking water, inflation, housing, and jobs. The demonstrations are serious—not because they threaten to overturn the government but because they force the government to confront its failure to keep promises and to deal with fundamental economic issues.”

 This is the only benefit that Iranian will get out of US/IR relation. Their human rights will be compromised and sacrificed as a pretext for the negotiation.

Gray Sick, AIC, and their other proxy organizations, along the activist and lobbyist of the Islamic Regime, are advocating for the unconditional resumption of relations with the U.S.  An orchestrated effort has been underway for years to pressure Congress and the Administration to lift the sanctions unconditionally and re-establish relations with IR.

 I should emphasize that our desire is by no means any sort of sanction against Iranian people who are the victims of this regime. We just believe that this murderous regime must be sanctioned and that the US must not deal with the Regime's owned financial institutions and individuals that have been robbing the Iranian people for the last 24 years and have created hunger, unemployment, and misery for the people of Iran.

 This regime does not represent Iranians and does not protect their interests. Iranian people and their independent financial institutions would have been capable of entering into genuine and constructive cultural and commercial and educational relations with the U.S. if the regime and its financial institutions had not monopolized trade and other relations.

 According to the statistics published by Oxford Analytica and reported in the Iranian press (Payam-e Emrooz), more than %50 of Iran's economy is run and owned by an organization called "the Deprived Foundation " (Bonyaad-e Mostaz-afaan) that is fully exempted from audit and taxation. This organization has 7 branches in the areas of Trade, agriculture, Industry and mines, Transportation, Import and export. Each of these branches acts like a ministry.

 A 1986 statistics indicates that the assets of this foundation includes 140 industrial complex, 64 mines, 2786 pieces of agricultural land, 230 import and export companies, 90 movie theaters, 3 newspapers, 200 loan offices, 2 insurance companies and several shipping and airplane companies. It has 150,000 employees. 22% of concrete 28% of textile, 45% of the non-alcoholic beverage industry, 28% of the plastic products, and 25% of the sugar production are controlled by this foundation. 

This organization and others similarly structured by the regime have a hand in every financial deal and do not answer to any elected body. Under this condition, there is no guarantee that any foreign aid will ever reach the needy people. It only subsidizes the terrorist activities of the regime.

On the other hand, any direct deal with the so-called "private sector" in
Iran is practically impossible. We have ample proof and can provide testimonies of involved parties residing in Iran that any deal no matter how small must go through a very sophisticated process through which handsome bribes and commissions must be paid to the government or their facade organizations before and after any such deal is made. There is no doubt that any American financial institution willing to deal with Iran, must directly or indirectly get involved in this corrupt process. This is in gross violation of many U.S. laws including Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) that prohibits acts of bribery in trade.

What is to be done?

Those Iranians and Iranian/Americans who care for the human rights in Iran and seek a free democratic regime in Iran should help the democracy movement in Iran. This movement is aimed to undermine the legitimacy of the Islamic Regime through civil disobedience and non-violent struggle. To support this movement we should do the same thing outside Iran. We have to stop the legitimization process of the Islamic Regime. We should not allow this regime to be recognized as the representative of our nation. We should not let the western countries help this regime for their own interest.

 When the interests of the US financial institutions are linked to Islamic regime, they will be even more concerned about the survival and stability of this regime. They need a stable regime in Iran for their investments to be safe. Do you invest in a bank that is in danger of bankruptcy? And if you did, hoping that the bank will somehow survive, would you allow anything happen to it?  Wouldn’t you do everything in your capacity to protect your investment?

 Just look at what European Union is doing. They have not yet been fully committed and yet, they are fully supporting this terrorist regime. When asked a few weeks ago about the possibility of attacking Iran, the foreign Minister of the UK, Jack Straw, said: “Iran is a democracy and we don’t need to attack it.”

 What a shameful reason for making a right decision. We have a message for Mr. Straw and all those who for their own interests and without any shame are trying to portray this regime as a democracy:

Iranian people don’t need the interference of any foreign government and, we are absolutely against any military action by an outside power. Just show some  dignity and don’t support this terrorist regime, don’t recognize it as the representative of Iranians and let their struggle for freedom and democracy prevail.

But, are they going to listen to us? Is our humanistic appeal enough to make them change their policy? We must be very simple minded and naïve if we think so. The determining factor is the interest factor. We must be able to enforce our will. Our will is that the world community including the US should not recognize the IRI, and should stop all relations with it as long as human rights violations in Iran continue.

 However, we know that the human rights violations committed by the Islamic regime are allowed by its constitution. In fact, all the atrocities committed by this regime are lawful acts according to the constitution. Therefore, the compliance of the regime with the principles of human rights may happen only after the constitution is fully changed and is no longer over sighted by the Islamic rules. Such conversion of the constitution can only happen when the era of the Islamic Regime has ended. 

We need to outline and enforce the details of this boycotting policy in such a way that only the regime is targeted and not our people. In order to accomplish such thing we need to be in a strong position and become a power. 

I believe this is doable and can be achieved through two available avenues:  

1-     The power of the Iranian-American votes

2-     Bringing to justice those who have committed crimes against Iranian people  

We can make it impossible for the US and other countries to host criminals and deal with them as the representatives of the Iranian people, by taking legal actions through the international instruments.  An example is the Convention Against Torture to which the U.S. is a signatory.  This is what we at MEHR have been trying for years and in spite of lack of resources will hopefully file our first law suite against the Islamic Regime within the next few months.  

We can form a strong single issue-voting block that will take part in the political process of the US and will vote only based on the position of the candidates with respect to the Islamic Regime of Iran. We believe this is a very effective way that we can influence the foreign policy of the US and resolve the conflicting policies in favor of the Iranian people rather than the Islamic Regime. 

In my opinion, the coordinated activities of the Iranian oppositions outside Iran to achieve these two goals that will eventually result in undermining the legitimacy of the Islamic Regime is along the struggle of the Iranians inside Iran, and will result in a strong coalition in its most natural way.

In absence of a powerful opposition, the Islamic Regime’s lobby is seeking to fill the policy vacuum with calls to normalize relations.

Right now, the battle is moving to the U.S. Congress.  The U.S. House of Representatives is now considering House Resolution 59, a bill sponsored by Congressman Bob Ney. Behind all its nice words and alleged good intentions for the people of Iran, the hidden agenda of resolution 59 is crystal clear!  In a resolution that claims to be in defense of Iranian people, one does not find a single reference, [directly or indirectly], to the Islamic regime having abused the Iranian people during its quarter of a century existence.

Last Year, Ney proposed resolution 505 which urged the United States to support a Muslim society in Iran with “greater freedom and tolerance.” It didn’t acknowledge that the Iranian people deserve anything more than Islamic Regime.

Ney may have the well-financed American Iranian Council on his side, as well as oil companies like Exxon and Shell, and willing to sacrifice the human rights of Iranians for their interests, but the vast majority of Iranians want democracy without compromise on freedom and on human rights.

Fortunately, there are other lawmakers and policymakers who are siding with the Iranian people. House Resolution 140 introduced by Congressmen Tom Lantos and identical Senate Resolution 81, introduced by Senator Sam Brownback are supporting democracy and human rights in Iran. They recognize that legitimizing the Islamic Regime stifles, rather than supporting democracy and human rights. They recognize that holding the Islamic Regime accountable for all its actions and those of its proxy groups enhances America’s security. Lantos and Brownback recognize that the U.S. should direct its positive gestures to the Iranian people, and not to the politicians who exploit their offices for personal gain.

However, as I have repeatedly indicated, freedom for Iranians is not the responsibility of the U.S. or any other government.  So far, we have failed to have our voice heard in Washington. We must form a strong, non-partisan voting block to support those who take a firm position for human rights and oust those who seek to appease dictators for short-term financial gain.  With more than 1000,000 Iranians in the United States, free Iranians have a lot to say.  


1- Fighting Proliferation, Chapter 13, Edited by Henry Sokolski, Air University Press 

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