Washington appeals court offers opportunity to support democracy in Iran

By David Amess, Member of Parliament

The Hill – As a federal appeals court last week ordered the State Department to review its terrorist designation of Iran’s largest opposition group, analysts were quickly examining the political effects of a legal judgment.

The ruling by the three-judge panel left little doubt that the decision to label the People’s Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MEK) as terrorist by the previous US administration was unjustified. Pointing to the lack of due process provided to the group during the decision-making process the panel ordered the State Department to review the designation, while strongly suggesting that the lack of evidence should lead to the designation being revoked.

With the judgment clear in its determination that the group was unjustly labelled as terrorist, President Obama now must use this legal judgment as a positive to show the people of Iran that the current administration supports their democratic ambitions. Rhetoric from the current US administration is good and well, but with the Iranian people now showing their unfaltering desire for democratic change, the support of the democratic world for the brave people of Iran is required more than ever.

The history behind the terrorist label against the PMOI is unfortunately one of political appeasement, in which this group was targeted by the West to please an Iranian regime with the hope of wooing it to step back from its nuclear ambitions. 13 years on from the group being designated as terrorist by the then Clinton administration, there can now be little doubt that the Iranian regime rather than step back from its nuclear ambitions is heading full steam ahead in its desire to manufacture nuclear weapons. Therefore, such political justifications no longer exist for the current US administration.

President Obama and his team need not look far across the Atlantic to see the failures of the former British government and the EU to embrace judicial decisions to remove the PMOI from their respective terrorist lists. Dragged kicking and screaming through the courts the British and EU politicians clung onto the last threads of a policy of appeasement which has failed disastrously.

The time has come for Western leaders to gather in support of the Iranian opposition movement and work with them in creating a free Iran where people prosper through democracy and equality. These are the democratic aims of the PMOI, aims and ambitions which the US administration must embrace rather than hinder.

As British Prime Minister David Cameron is in the US this week, President Obama must take the opportunity to create a new dawn in western policy towards the Iranian regime. The failures of the past administrations have come and gone. With the rhetoric from Cameron and Obama strong towards the Iranian regime and both administrations appearing to deal head on with Iran’s nuclear program, the time has come to couple sanctions with support for the Iranian opposition movement.

In recent weeks we have seen Iran’s opposition movement prosper once again as Tehran’s Bazaar went on strike to condemn the actions of their dictatorial leaders. This was coupled late last month with the Iranian opposition’s largest gathering in exile, and 100,000 exiled Iranians gathered in the outskirts of Paris to show their support for the democratic ambitions of the PMOI and to demand an international policy which couples sanctions with support for the Iranian people.

The US administration must now see last week’s judgment as an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past. A group of bipartisan lawmakers are sponsoring a bill to press the administration to lift the ban on the PMOI

The time has come to support the democratic ambitions of the Iranian people and the first step in doing so is by respecting last week’s judgment and removing the PMOI from the list of banned organisations. This is not only the legal duty of the current administration, but will send a message of support to the people of Iran in their battle to dethrone their brutal leaders.

Rhetoric is good and well, but having missed previous opportunities to support the Iranian people, we cannot risk missing this one.

Mr. David Amess MP is a Member of Parliament from Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party in the United Kingdom and a member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom.


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