Speech by Mrs Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance at the Council of Europe, 26, January 2015
Three weeks after the tragedy that unfolded in Paris on January 7, the world remains in a state of shock and horror.
The massacre of journalists at their office desks, shooting defenseless civilians, executing the injured, taking hostages, terrorizing ordinary citizens, and justifying the commission of crimes against humanity under the banner of Islam have all wounded the conscience of the world. The spirit of Islam rejects these actions with utmost repugnance.This kind of terrorism and barbarism was first initiated, several years ago, by Khomeini’s fatwa to kill the writer, Salman Rushdi, and publishers and translators of his book.
At the same time, such barbarism has been well-known in the form of a regime that has ruled over my people in Iran for the past 36 years, exploiting religion to enchain a nation yearning to be free.
Islamic fundamentalism, which showed a glimpse of its true nature during the Paris massacre on January 7, can be studied in many respects, including the historical circumstances that triggered its emergence, the societal dynamics that facilitated its development and growth, the international policies that enabled the expansion of such a destructive force, its nature and characteristics, its fundamental incongruity with Islam, and many other aspects.
However, since the recent tragedy has led many to rightly conclude that the current approach in confronting fundamentalism has had the opposite effect, allow me to use this opportunity to talk about the correct and winning strategy for confronting Islamic fundamentalism.
Let me preface what I will talk about with saying that this discussion goes beyond a simple academic exercise and is steeped in a blood-ridden and lengthy experience of resistance against the religious fascism ruling Iran.
In a book published in 1993, entitled Islamic Fundamentalism: The New Global Threat, the Iranian Resistance clearly explained how, after being defeated in its eight-year war with Iraq, the mullahs’ regime ruling Iran leaped across the region, from the Caucasus to the Middle East to the Horn of Africa, while retooling its organizational capacity to carry out suppression within Iran’s borders and to export terrorism beyond those frontiers.
In 1995, I spoke at the Oslo City Hall in Norway and warned of the rising threat of Islamic fundamentalism led by the mullahs ruling Tehran, and called for the formation of an international coalition against it.
Sadly at the time, governments, think tanks and intellectuals ignored these warnings, which had stemmed from the Iranian people’s struggle with religious tyranny.
It is still not too late for the international community to learn from the harsh events of our times and to pursue a correct course.
With this goal in mind, I want to talk about four topics.
First, Islamic fundamentalism, both in its essence and in its daily political conduct, represents a growing war against humanity, which will determine the fate of this reactionary force.
Second, the rise and growth of fundamentalist groups is not spontaneous, but is a function of an axis and a central nervous system that guides them, which is the ruling regime in Iran.
Third, Islamic fundamentalism is a single poisonous ideology that does not lend itself to Shiite or Sunni divides. The criterion of barbarity and the threat of fundamentalists is not an alleged adherence to Shiite or Sunni Islam; rather, the decisive factor is the extent of dependence on the source of fundamentalism in Tehran.
And, fourth, evicting the Iranian regime from Iraq and Syria is the most important component of a winning strategy.
An Existential Struggle
One must first consider the reality of an ominous war. Under the rule of religious fascism in Iran, our society is gripped by daily and brutal violations of human rights, including 1,200 executions under Rouhani. In Iraq, the barbarity of the ISIS group on the one hand, and the ethnic cleansing and genocide committed by pro-Iranian regime militias on the other hand, are on the rise. In Syria, the massacres and devastation perpetrated by Bashar Assad’s dictatorship produce daily catastrophes. Add to all this incidents like the murder of journalists in Paris, the massacre of students at a school in Pakistan, and the torching of an entire city in Nigeria. All of these represent the different visages of a single war: the war waged by Islamic fundamentalism against all of humanity.
It would be a mistake to presume that the slaughter of over 200,000 Syrians would descend only that country into ruin and devastation. No, we see before our very own eyes, that the fires of that war spread everywhere: From Iran to Iraq, from Iraq to Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, and to Yemen and other countries, even reaching the heart of Europe.
This assault is essentially launched by a force that cannot picture survival or carve out a future for itself in this era. That is why it is engaged in a struggle for destiny.
Its central tactic is to fearlessly commit crimes against humanity; from the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners (in 1988) or the splashing of acid on women’s faces in Iran, to beheading western nationals in Syria, or forcibly displacing Christians in Iraq and murdering journalists in France.
It does not recognize any form of détente, restraint, de-escalation or moderation, because its very existence is in question, and it will continue to wage and expand war for as long as it can continue to survive.
Rejecting the Notion of Spontaneity
The phenomenon of fundamentalism, with all its associated deception and savagery, neither rose accidentally nor expanded spontaneously. It was only through the existence of a terror-sponsoring regime; the velayat-e faqih (absolute clerical rule) in Iran, that Islamic fundamentalism was able to transform itself into a global threat. Without the current regime in Iran, reactionary forces would not have mustered such potential and prospects to emerge as destructive political forces.
This is the most important reality concerning Islamic fundamentalism.
Within the Iranian regime’s Constitution, the export of fundamentalism has been codified in Articles 3, 11, and 154 under the guise of “relentless support for the world’s oppressed” or creating “unity in the Islamic world.”
In his will, the founder of the religious dictatorship, Khomeini, called for the overthrow of all existing governments in the Muslim world, followed by the eviction of their rulers, and the establishment of “one Islamic state with free and independent republics.” The regime’s current Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has declared himself the source of emulation for all Shiites even outside of Iran, which points to the regime’s desire to devour other countries.
The terrorist Qods Force, which was formed a quarter of a century ago by the regime, is the instrument for exporting fundamentalism. Each of the nine corps that comprises the Qods Force has targeted a particular country or region.
Still, the best indicators are the objective events:
• Militias in Iraq that are replicas of ISIS – or in the words of Iraqi Kurdish officials are worse than ISIS – and are busy carrying out crimes against humanity, are commanded from Tehran;
• The Lebanese Hezbollah is dependent on the Qods Force, and its financial and policy strings are all pulled by Khamenei himself;
• The Houthi group in Yemen and its warmongering aimed at taking over the country are guided by the Iranian regime;
• The murders and suppressive war against the Syrian people meant to preserve Bashar Assad’s rule are fundamentally commanded by the IRGC. International sources say that the Iranian regime spends anywhere between one to two billion dollars every month to preserve the Syrian regime;
• In September 2014, a member of the mullahs’ Parliament (Majlis) said, “Currently, three Arab capitals are in the hands of Iran, and Sana’a will be the fourth. … We seek the integration of Islamic countries.”
• A six-year investigation, the results of which were published by the New York Times in January 2013, shows that the origins of every firearm cartridge used in Africa can be traced back to Iran;
• And just this past week, a weapons research institute in Britain said in a report that it has evidence indicating that Iran has sent weapons to Muslim militias operating in the Central African Republic.
The conclusion of all this is that the mullahs’ regime ruling Iran is the axis of Islamic fundamentalist in terms of ideology, policies, money, weapons and logistical support.
It is obvious that groups such as ISIS do not mirror Hezbollah in Lebanon or Badr, Asa’ib or Kata’ib in Iraq when it comes to their ties to the Iranian regime. So, how can one consider this group and its barbaric conduct as the consequence of the mullah regime’s support for fundamentalism?
The answer is that beyond any form of concrete political or financial link between these sorts of groups and the Iranian regime, the determining factor is the presence of a fundamentalist regime in power in Iran (the velayat-e faqih regime), which presents a role model and inspires the formation of all fundamentalist groups and cells. In the absence of such a regime, there would be no intellectual, ideological, or political space, or a central base and dependable epicenter for the emergence and growth of such groups. Besides:
• At many points during the past two decades, the Iranian regime has not spared any financial or weapons support to ISIS or al-Qaeda, and most importantly, it has paved the way for their advance;
• For years, many key elements of these groups in Syria and Iraq had taken refuge in Iran; In addition,
• If it were not for the brutal suppression and subsequent marginalization of Sunnis in Iraq by the mullahs’ puppet government in Iraq, ISIS would have been deprived of the circumstances for its rise;
• If it were not for the horrific murder of Syrian people by forces under the command of the IRGC, ISIS could never have found a foothold in Syria;
• And, if it were not for the genocide and ethnic cleansing conducted by the Iranian regime’s militias over the past few months in Iraq, Iraqi Sunni forces could have been organized to defeat the ISIS challenge.
We know that it was the mullahs’ ally in Syria, Bashar Assad, who indirectly paved the way for the rise and expansion of ISIS in Syria. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius recently told the French Senate that the Iranian regime supplies Bashar Assad with the “weaponry” of murder as well as money and ground forces to commit massacres.
Moreover, on the basis of an unwritten alliance between ISIS and the Assad regime, over the past year, several thousand members of the Syrian democratic opposition have been murdered at the hands of this group.
In reality, the mullahs ruling Iran benefit directly or indirectly from any terrorist or criminal conduct masquerading as Islam.
From massacres in Algeria in the 1990s to the horrific explosions in Iraq over the past decade, they see themselves advancing everywhere. And anywhere extremism masquerading as Islam is forced into retreat the Iranian regime stands to lose.
Earlier this month, the Iranian regime used the killing of journalists in Paris as an excuse to blackmail France. The regime’s officials, acting as the spokesmen and messengers for this crime, threatened France that if it failed to change course in Syria and if it refused to back Assad, such killings were bound to continue.
Shiite Militias: The Main Threat and the Most Important Tools of Terror and Fundamentalism
Another important measure that is necessary in setting a correct course of action in the struggle against fundamentalism is to expose the baseless narrative espoused by those promoting the appeasement of the Iranian regime. That narrative asserts that Sunni fundamentalism is more dangerous than Shiite fundamentalism, and the former can be confronted with the aid of the latter. Therefore, Sunni fundamentalism must be weakened for the benefit of Shiite fundamentalism.
This distorted narrative is meant to absolve the conduct that accommodates and tolerates the so-called Shiite militias of the regime, while ignoring the clerical regime’s destructive domination over regional countries. This is as trying to avoid a hole and fall in a well.
This is part of the narrative underpinning the same policy with which some American and western politicians steered the world towards the current disaster.
This is while:
First, it is true that Shiites and Sunnis have differences of opinion when it comes to a limited portion of Islamic teachings. But, the forms of fundamentalism presented under the banner of these two faiths are in essence one and the same thing. Both emphasize misogyny and religious discrimination; both, contrary to Quranic verses, impose religion and beliefs through the use of force; both rely on the laws of past millennia call Sharia to enforce the most violent and inhumane forms of punishment; and both pursue a reactionary caliphate, which translates into the cruel rule of an individual tyrant. One calls it velayat-e faqih (the absolute rule of clerics) while the others refers to it as a caliphate. Of course, three decades ago, the regime’ founder Khomeini explicitly said in a public speech that, “We need a caliph who can amputate limbs, flog, and stone to death.”
Secondly, look at the situation in Iraq and what is happening there on a daily basis. The mullahs’ so-called Shiite militias, confident about having the backing of a bloodthirsty religious fascism and are a much greater threat to Iraq’s existence. With the help of these so-called Shiite militias, the mullahs have turned four Arab countries to theatres of their terrorism and destruction.
I must emphasize that Islamic fundamentalism has no connection to the truths of Shiite or Sunni faiths. Fundamentalism represents a perverted view of Islam, and since it is ruling Iran today, militias claiming to be Shiite, are a hundred times more dangerous. The spirit of Islam, the Shiite faith, and their adherents hate and despise this ominous phenomenon.
Export of Fundamentalism: A Vital Need
Why do the mullahs have a need for warmongering, terrorism and instigating crises outside Iran’ borders? For the same reason that they have a need to suppress Iranian society domestically. The main reason lies in the regime’s inherent weakness, lack of social support, a deficiency of political and spiritual legitimacy, and the fundamental incongruity of a corrupt, regressive and reactionary regime with the progressive demands of Iranian society, including freedom and democracy. This has spelled permanent instability and extreme vulnerability for the mullahs’ regime in confrontation with a deeply discontented society.
As the Leader of the Iranian Resistance, Massoud Rajavi, has said, “Over the past three decades, the velayat-e faqih regime has made the utmost attempt to bridge a deep historical chasm that exists between the twentieth and twenty-first century on the one hand, and the Middle Ages and the clerical regime on the other. It has tried this by using gallows, executions, wars, and the export of crises, reactionary ideology and terrorism. Despite all this, however, the regime has failed to attain stability.”
The objective of the mullahs from exporting war and terrorism under the banner of Islam beyond Iranian borders is to preserve their power in Tehran. In December 2014, the Secretary of the regime’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, touched on this point after the killing of one of the most senior commanders of the Qods Force in Iraq. Speaking at his funeral, Shamkhani said, “Those who are sick rumourmongers ask us why we interfere in Iraq or Syria. The answer to this question is clear. If (our commanders) do not sacrifice their blood in Iraq, then our blood will be shed in Tehran, Azerbaijan, Shiraz and Isfahan.”
Shamkhani emphasized: “To avoid having our blood shed in Tehran, we must sacrifice our blood in Iraq and defend it.”
This indeed sums up the entire story. Islamic fundamentalism has been defeated in Iran. Thus, by inflicting terrorism and warmongering outside of Iran, the mullahs desperately pursue the persistence of tyranny, misogyny, and religious discrimination, seeking to preserve their crumbling regime.
A Losing Strategy vs. a Winning Strategy
Two primary characteristics make up a losing strategy: one is western governments’ weakness in the face of the Iranian regime’s nuclear weapons program, and the other is the inclusion of the regime in the international coalition against ISIS or courting it in some way in Iraq and Syria.
What is so dangerous about appeasing the regime when it comes to its nuclear program? It is dangerous because it would provide nuclear weapons to a religious fascism that is the cause of instability in the region and is the main supporter of terrorism.
What is so dangerous about partnering with the Iranian regime in Iraq? It is dangerous because the regime’s terrorist Qods Force would be given space to operate in and attack from, devastating other countries of the region with fire and bloodshed.
A year after the U.S.-led attack against Iraq, I warned that the threat of the Iranian regime’s meddling in that country is a hundred times greater than its nuclear threat.
Now, I must once again reiterate that warning. Partnering with the mullahs in Iraq would equip them with a destructive weapon that is a hundred times more lethal than a nuclear weapon.
Some politicians deliberately embrace naïveté, accepting cooperation and partnership with the Iranian regime in Iraq as an incentive for it to abandon nuclear weapons. But if the mullahs become more aggressive in Iraq, they will not abandon nuclear weapons.
There are also some who warn that failure to partner with the mullahs in Iraq or any attempt to evict them from the country would lead to war. This is either predicated on an enormously mistaken view or it reflects deliberate duplicity. This is because incidentally the most important contributor to war would be the leverage of meddling and terrorism given to the mullahs if they were accepted as a partner in Iraq.
On the brink of the Second World War, when the Nazi regime was planning to start the conflict, did the handing over of more regions of influence and domination to that regime lead to peace or did it ignite the flames of a war?
In 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq, did its partnering with the clerical regime in Iraq lead to stability, security and progress for that country or did it turn Iraq into a launching pad for terrorism and fundamentalism directed from Tehran?
It is worth noting that were it not for the Iranian regime’s puppet government in Iraq ISIS would have never emerged in that country. And, as French President François Hollande recently noted, if western governments had “acted in a timely manner” in 2013 to stop massacres in Syria, they would have prevented extremists from gaining even more ground.
Yes, instead of acting in a timely manner, what usually follows is untimely inaction and silence.
If since the start of the Iraqi people’s uprising in six provinces in late 2012, the West had avoided acting like an ambivalent bystander, and if since the start of the uprising of people and tribes in Anbar in late 2013, in which they them liberated their province from Maliki’s grip, the West had not exercised silence in the face of Maliki’s crimes, choosing instead to support Iraqi Sunnis, including the residents of Anbar province, and if in the face of the Iranian regime’s meddling, terrorism and warmongering in Iraq and Syria, the West had not engaged in a conduct marred with accommodation and weakness, then ISIS could not have gained control over Mosul or any other place, and the most vicious fundamentalists, whether claiming to be Shiite or Sunni, would not have gained an opportunity to overwhelm the people of the region, expanding the reach of their barbarity to the streets of Paris.
Now, we turn to the main question, which asks what constitutes the winning strategy against Islamic fundamentalism?
It is clear that if this strategy is only limited to military and intelligence operations, it will not go far. Instead, we must identify the main enemy, its central command center, its ideology, and the antithesis to that ideology.
I must stress that unless the velayat-e faqih regime is not viewed as the godfather of Islamic fundamentalism and the main enemy of peace and security for humanity, there would be no winning strategy. Without paying attention to the roots and origins of fundamentalism, every action will only lead to cutting off the metaphorical tree’s branches or leaves, while leaving its roots and trunk in tact. That is why, despite all the military campaigns after September 11, 2001, rather than being eradicated, fundamentalism and terrorism have spread.
On this basis, allow me to sum up the answer in several points:
First, evicting the Iranian regime from Syria and helping the people of Syria to overthrow Assad.
The current U.S. policy, which closes its eyes to Bashar Assad’s dictatorship, and only fights against ISIS in Syria, will not only fail to solve the issue, but will strengthen fundamentalism. Without overthrowing Assad, the war against ISIS may weaken it in Syria, but it will bolster an appeal towards fundamentalism across the world. The first significant link in the chain of defeating fundamentalism in the contemporary world is the overthrow of Bashar Assad.
Second, evicting the Iranian regime, the Qods Force and its so-called Shiite militias from Iraq.
It is common knowledge that the Iranian regime and its militias have vast regions of Iraq under their control. The barbarity and murderous rage of these groups rivals or transcends that of ISIS.
Without uprooting the Iranian regime and its militias from Iraq, even if the war against ISIS were to weaken the group in Iraq, its influence will spread internationally.
Third, insisting on a democratic and tolerant Islam against fundamentalist interpretations, whether Shiite or Sunni.
The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) has been the flag bearer of a democratic and tolerant Islam in Iran, and has had a pivotal role in defeating fundamentalism socially and culturally inside Iran. As a result, the Iranian regime does not rule through reliance on the beliefs of the population, but instead rules with an iron fist. This is while outside of Iran, in countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, in the absence of an alternative interpretation of Islam, the same regime conducts its evil policies by deceiving Muslims and exploiting their beliefs.
Fourth, the ultimate solution lies in the overthrow of the Iranian regime as the epicenter of fundamentalism and terrorism. With the regime’s downfall, al-Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah or Houthis will no longer present a serious threat to peace and democracy, will be deprived of power and influence, and will ultimately turn into isolated and inconsequential groups. Yes, in the face of this destructive force, the source of which is in Tehran, the international community must respect the struggle of the Iranian people and the democratic alternative to this regime, which is the Iranian Resistance. In other words, instead of appeasing the mullahs, the will of the Iranian people for regime change must be recognized.
The main reason that the mullahs concentrate on annihilating or displacing the freedom-loving Ashraf and Liberty residents is that they feel threatened by the only alternative to the religious fascism. Sadly, however, through these years, western governments have not focused their resources against the main threat to global peace and security, the source of which is the religious fascism ruling Iran, and have instead sacrificed human rights, freedom, and the Iranian Resistance. This was a catastrophic deviation from the struggle against terrorism and fundamentalism.
We do not forget that in France, the Iranian Resistance was enchained for 14 years by a judicial case comprised of hundreds of thousands of pages.
This is while precisely at the same time, terrorists and fundamentalists were exploiting the distraction of relevant agencies to grow and expand.
Another very important example was the conduct of the U.S., the EU and the UN with respect to the residents of Camps Ashraf and Liberty.
In order to satisfy the mullahs, they remained silent about the forcible displacement of Ashrafis, the prison conditions in Liberty, the inhumane siege placed on them, and the six massacres carried out against them.
Two years ago, I said from this very podium that, “When western governments remain silent about the massacre of opposition members, they are sacrificing the fate of the region.”
And, what were the results of this silence, except emboldening the mullahs in Iraq and strengthening their resolve to manufacture a nuclear weapon?
Therefore, I call on all member states of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, to implement an effective initiative to end the inhumane siege on Liberty, especially the medical blockade, and to also place the camp under the supervision of the United Nations.
I also call the attention of the international community to the fact that contrary to the mullahs’ propaganda, change in Iran is at hand; not by foreign powers or through a military intervention, but by the Iranian people and the Iranian Resistance. This is the heart of the Iranian equation that the West has failed to comprehend.
Today, the clerical regime is facing a profound domestic crisis. The Iranian people reject the velayat-e faqih regime. They want freedom and democracy. They want free access to the Internet. They seek gender equality. They seek prosperity. They want regime change.
The Iranian regime is also faced with a profound economic crisis. Corruption has consumed the regime in its entirety. Twelve millions Iranians sleep hungry every night. Iran has one of the world’s highest inflation rates, and the rate of unemployment is at least 40 percent. Despite all these crises, Hassan Rouhani increased the IRGC’s budget for the next Persian calendar year by as much as 50 percent.
Those who claim an adherence to “temperance and moderation” within the regime, such as Rouhani or Khatami before him, regardless of their differences with the dominant faction, share the same views with other factions of the regime when it comes to the regime’s red lines of survival, its Constitution based on the unbridled rule of the caliph or the Supreme Leader, and the role of Khomeini and his fatwas on exporting terrorism and the massacre of political prisoners in 1988. They all participate in the commission of crimes. Contrary to the perception and claims of western appeasers, they are not forces of change and transformation, but serve to preserve the velayat-e faqih system. Drawing parallels between these forces within the regime and domestic opponents of other dictatorships is an absolute mistake.
In order to produce change in Iran, we do not need foreign intervention. But, we call on governments to re-evaluate their policy towards Iran, and to avoid closing their eyes on human rights abuses in Iran:
- Do not help the regime or buy it legitimacy under the pretext of diplomatic or trade relations.
- Stand with the Iranian people as they pursue human rights, democracy and rule of law. And, respect the will of the Iranian people and the Iranian Resistance for regime change.
The political coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), especially owing to the presence of the PMOI, which espouses a tolerant and democratic Islam, is the antithesis of Islamic fundamentalism. This coalition is the political alternative to the tyrannical regime ruling Iran and represents a cultural alternative against Islamic fundamentalism.
We are committed to respecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other related international conventions. We promote tolerance among religions and faiths. We believe in the separation of religion and state, gender equality and a non-nuclear Iran.