OpinionIran in the World PressChange course on America's Iran policy

Change course on America’s Iran policy

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ImageDetroit News: The fraudulent election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is just the latest in a series of tyrannical actions by Iran's mullah regime.

The Detroit News

Commentary

Paul Welday

ImageThe fraudulent election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is just the latest in a series of tyrannical actions by Iran's mullah regime. For three decades, the people of this great nation have been under the yoke of extremist clerics controlling a brutal police force tasked primarily with eliminating political opposition and enforcing religious edicts. We are witnessing the consequences of this repression on the streets of Tehran today.

Any remaining political legitimacy of the mullah regime in Tehran is effectively gone. The nation is under the control of the so-called supreme leader who rules this extremist theocracy while trying to build nuclear weapons, threatening to destroy Israel and aggressively expanding its terrorist network.

President Barack Obama has been pursuing a policy of engagement with Iran. But it would be unwise and immoral to continue such an approach. It would be a travesty for any American envoy, let alone the president or secretary of state, to engage in dialogue with Ahmadinejad or any other figure in this illegitimate regime.

A new course of action is necessary for the United States in dealing with Tehran.

There are limits on what U.S. policymakers can do. While America should coordinate and strengthen economic sanctions on Iran, prior sanctions have had marginal results.

Military options must be a last resort because America's defense capabilities are already stretched to the limit and the administration is proposing dramatic cuts in future military spending.

A different approach would be for the United States and its Western allies to help sustain the strong, vibrant, moderate Iranian opposition groups that can lead a transformative effort from within Iran itself. We can level the playing field in Tehran without directly taking sides or "meddling" as Obama is so concerned about.

Only by forcing the mullah regime to confront a real catalyst for change can the world hope to see any alteration of the disastrous course Iran is pursuing.

One such opposition group that could play an important role in isolating the Iranian regime and bringing together sectarian groups is the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) and its umbrella organization, the NationalCouncil of Resistance of Iran.

But the MEK and the NCRI are listed by the U.S. State Department as foreign terrorist organizations. While these groups are not ideal, when matched against the behavior set by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, there is no way to legitimately label the MEK or NCRI as terrorist organizations.

Many believe the MEK was designated as a terrorist organization during the Clinton administration to appease the Iranian mullahs as a precursor to a previous attempt at U.S. engagement with Iran. In 2003, the New York Times reported that the 1997 proscription of the MEK was done as "a goodwill gesture" toward Iran's then newly elected, reform-minded President Mohammad Khatami.

The policy continued through the Bush administration in the hopes of containing the Iranians prior to the U.S. intervention in Iraq. In short, the MEK and NCRI have been used as bargaining chips in a diplomatic chess game supporting a policy that has gotten us nowhere.

While not a panacea for all the problems in Iran, lifting sanctions against the MEK and NCRI would provide hope for the West in preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons.

Continuing to follow an ineffective policy toward Iran undermines American vital interests. Altering U.S. policy to give opposition groups a chance to take root in Iran seems like the best shot for encouraging real meaningful change by the world's most treacherous regime.

Paul Welday is president of Renaissance Strategies, a communicationa and public relations consulting firm, and a board member of the Iran Policy Committee.

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