December 16, 2011 | The Jerusalem Post

Dismantling Iran’s Clerical Regime

Legislative devotion, including potent oil and bank sanctions, to stop Iran from creating a nuclear weapon device is largely exhibit A in US policy toward the jingoism of Tehran’s rulers.

Robust support for Iran’s pro-democracy dissidents – exhibit B – has played a mainly footnote role in the Obama administration’s calculation.

Roya Hakakian, though, a founding member of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, has been seeking to breathe more life into exhibit B.

“What Iran does in and out of the country goes hand-in-hand. It is inseparable,” said the critically acclaimed author of several books on Iran.

While speaking on the panel “Evolution of the Iranian Threat” at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) Forum last week, she called for a comprehensive policy toward Iran that is not just nuclear-based.

Reared in a Persian Jewish family in Tehran, Hakakian left the Islamic Republic with her family in 1985 and arrived in the US. She penned a highly praised memoir Journey From the Land of No about her teenage years in post- Shah Iran.

“What are the things we can be doing and not doing?” Hakakian asked rhetorically at the conference. A glaring example of what ought to be barred, she said, is the presence of Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi in June at a bazaar in Kabul, Afghanistan. Vahidi is sought by Interpol for the 1994 bombing of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires.

“We, as Americans, paid a fortune” in Afghanistan and Vahidi is allowed to “freely shop” in the country, said Hakakian, adding that he should be made “persona non grata.”

Hakakian, who released in 2011 a book on the regime’s assassination of Iranian-Kurdish dissidents in a Berlin restaurant in 1992, urged resources for Iran’s labor movement.

“Iran’s robust labor movement has been quashed” and the international community could provide more support. She said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has lost legitimacy and popularity.

While a small group of scholars and Iran specialists have long pushed for greater solidarity and support for Iranian democrats, the Obama administration, to the chagrin of many advocates of a free Iran, did not align itself with the 2009 democratic movement against the fraudulent election.

In her new groundbreaking book, Assassins of the Turquoise Palace, Hakakian documents the nefarious workings of Iran’s regime in employing killers to murder Iranian dissidents in Germany. Her book has been showered with praise, including a September New York Times review.

“In addition to being a lively account of an extraordinary trial, Roya Hakakian’s book can be read as an unsettling reminder of the dangers of excessive zeal,” the review said.

The contemporary relevance for Hakakian’s reconstruction of the Berlin assassinations can be situated in Iran’s recent plot to murder the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the US in a Georgetown restaurant in Washington. In an interview with journalist and FDD fellow Lee Smith from The Weekly Standard magazine, she noted that “Experts look at this plot as if there are no reference points.”

Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani ordered the regime-sanctioned murder of the four Iranian Kurds. To the intense frustration of critics of Tehran’s terror operations abroad, the Berlin massacre – like a similar 1989 killing of an Iranian dissident in Vienna by the Islamic Republic – is airbrushed out of history.

Hakakian is loudly sounding the alarm bells.

The pressing question is, are governments in the EU and the Obama administration paying attention?

Benjamin Weinthal is affiliated with FDD as a research fellow and attended the FDD Forum last week in Washington.

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