Obama’s Iran option

The Hill– By Brian Binley, U.K. member of Parliament
Just as the UN Security Council was imposing its most stringent sanctions against Iran over the regime’s nuclear defiance, rumours were growing that China had only supported the resolution following months of international pressure.

However, the divide between China and the U.S. is now clearly widening. Top U.S. officials announced Thursday they would be heading to China at the end of August to press Beijing to “step up” and fully implement sanctions against Iran.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Friday it “disapproves” of tough new sanctions imposed earlier in the week by the European Union on Iran.

Earlier this month, Beijing highlighted its annoyance that Barack Obama had followed up the UN sanctions with the signing of a U.S. bill which imposed unilateral sanctions reaching far beyond those of the Security Council.

Although Western powers including the U.S. and the EU states must do all within their power to ensure China buys into supporting the incremental pressure being placed on Iran, China’s current relationship with Tehran must not and cannot hinder international efforts to prevent Iran’s move towards nuclear weapons.

Many will point to the dangers of sidelining China as an ally in dealing with the Iranian threat and the potential that future UN resolutions against Iran will be met with a Chinese veto or be watered down by China to such an extent as to make them worthless. However, although China and Iran have enormous bilateral trade links which totalled over $36 billion last year and Tehran provides 11 percent of China’s energy needs, the simple fact remains that a nuclear armed Iran is a threat which China, just as much as the U.S., would be unable to live with.

The actions of President Obama and his Western allies are in fact wholly justified and perfectly in line with the desires of the people of Iran and will hopefully weaken the current Iranian government to such an extent as to allow the people of Iran to bring about the democratic change they demand. Ever since last year’s fraudulent elections the people of Iran have flooded Iran’s streets with widespread protests demanding an end to the rule of Iran’s dictatorial leaders.

It is, however, worth noting that in addition to the people’s calls for an end to the dictatorial rule of Ayatollah Khamenei, chants of the demonstrators included a message to the U.S. President demanding to know if he was with them or against them. It now appears that the President has listened to their calls and imposed unilateral sanctions which will hit Iran’s leaders hard. Whilst the UN sanctions were targeted at Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and nuclear-related investments, the U.S. sanctions impose far wider ranging measures against the export of gasoline and other refined fuel materials to Iran and further prohibited U.S. banks from dealing with foreign banks that provide services to the Revolutionary Guards.

The international community’s targeting of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in the latest round of sanctions is not only justified in terms of the role the IRGC plays in Iran’s nuclear program, but sends a further message to the people of Iran that the U.S. supports their democratic demands.

Lest we forget, it was the IRGC that lead the bloody crackdown on recent protests and the tightened measures against the Iranian people’s transgressors will be met with joy by ordinary Iranians.

On 26th June 100,000 exiled Iranians gathered in the outskirts of Paris in a massive show of support for the Iranian people’s opposition movement whilst at the same time demanding the implementation of stronger sanctions. Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President elect of the opposition in exile, roused the crowds who had earlier heard from John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, and Jose Maria Aznar, Spain’s former Prime Minister.

Mr. Bolton urged the Obama administration to lift the terrorist designation on the People’s Mojahedin (MeK), the principle opposition group. The group, which was first blacklisted by the Clinton administration to curry favour with the mullahs, was removed last year from the EU’s banned list after the courts found no evidence that it was involved in terrorism. Earlier this month the D.C. court of appeal ordered the U.S. State Department to re-examine its decision to maintain the MeK on its list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations. A bi-partisan effort led by Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), in Congress seeking support for a bill calling for the end to the group’s terrorist designation is in progress and needs backing.

The cries from the meeting in Paris coupled with those on the streets of Iran appear to have finally been heard by Western leaders. Whilst harassing Tehran’s leaders with sanctions over their nuclear defiance we must also support the Iranian people’s democratic opposition movement. The objective is a free and democratic Iran, and that must be worth supporting.

Brian Binley is a Member of Parliament from the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party and a member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom

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