An online press conference, hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), was held on May 4, 2017, to discuss the impacts and implications of the “sham” election in Iran to be held later this month. The two commentators were Ambassador Giulio Terzi, the former Foreign Minister of Italy and a former ambassador to the United States; and Mohammad Mohaddessin, Chairman of the NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee.
After the two men gave opening remarks demonstrating that Iran’s elections are focused on keeping the regime in power at all cost and that the Iranian people did not enjoy a true democracy, but violent oppression, the floor was opened to questions from the audience.
One of the first questions focused on the policies of the United States under the Trump administration versus the previous one. Terzi pointed out that this could be beneficial, as the way the nuclear deal was negotiated raised concerns with the international community. Its urgency appeared to be based on the idea that a bad deal was better than no deal at all. He noted that the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has pointed out how Iran is cheating and working around the agreement, not actively engaging with their best foot forward.
The JPCOA didn’t put in place a method for inspections and this has allowed Iran to block access to various sites from the IAEA inspectors. The amount of notice that must be given prior to the inspection allows Iran to clean up a site prior to inspection, for example. The Trump administration’s willingness to reassess the deal is a welcome change, based on the flaws of the JCPOA, according to Terzi.
Another question was posed based on the potential election results. With Raisi being a mass-murderer, who if elected, would show the world that Iran is just a medieval regime; or Rouhani, which if elected, who will bring increased infighting between the factions of the regime, which candidate would be the best of the worst for the opposition?
Mohaddessin responded to the question by saying that the fundamental policies don’t change, regardless of who is elected, so the reality is that they aren’t really all that different. He said that regime is weakening and that is due to many factors outside of the control of the supreme leader.
Several individuals asked if they anticipate any policy changes after the election in Iran. Terzi said that the Trump administration’s review of the JCPOA could impact Iran’s attempts to improve its economic situation. The big chuck of the economy is not benefiting, because banks and other financial institutions are wary of doing business with Iran. Only oil and gas improve, and those funds are not impacting the Iranian people in a positive way.
The economy and its woes could be seen as radicalizing the people and pushing the regime further towards its end, according to Terzi. He noted three factors impacting this outcome, the U.S. shift in policy, the economy and Raisi’s election, which could make the economic issues even worse.
“This regime has had seven presidents and multiple so-called elections and no real change in the policies of the regime,” said Mohaddessin. “The only change we can except is the weakness of the regime and the opportunities of the Iranian people and the opposition to change the regime entirely.”
Mohaddessin noted that the possibility of an uprising in Iran is there, because “we have an explosive society” due to a variety of factors. He noted that there are many reasons why the Iranian people want to change the situation. The current oppression cannot keep this society silent forever, said Mohaddessin. An uprising is viable and a major concern for Khamenei, both of the speakers noted repeatedly throughout their comments.
Another question was focused on remarks by officials from Saudi Arabia, particularly the remarks of the Saudi Arabian Deputy Crown Prince, who recently said that the only way to deal with Iran is with a firm policy and there is no benefit to negotiations with Iran. Mohaddessin noted that his remarks were absolutely accurate and right.
“Our experience shows that this regime cannot be reformed,” said Mohaddessin. “This regime is not representing the Iranian people, is not representing Muslims, and is not representing Shiites…This regime has no relation with Iran…What Khomeini and Khamenei have created is meant to keep power…The only hope for the region is change in Iran.”
Terzi, when questioned about the European stand on Iran, noted that the U.S. has been a leading force in shaping European policy toward Iran. The Bush administration used sanctions and enforcement to bring Iran to the table, but Obama altered that policy. It is difficult to see a strategy going forward without knowing how the United States is going to move forward, according to Terzi.
He also noted that Iranian organizations are part of the movement of terrorism and the threat to Western societies and nations around the globe and that has not yet become politically correct to address.
Dual nationals have often been used as a tool of pressure, said Terzi in response to a question regarding the election and its impact on these individuals. Iran uses these individuals as hostages to get European and American countries to agree to various political calculations, he noted and he doubts that will change, but he believes it is a disgusting thing that the regime does.
Mohaddessin said that this is a business to the regime and can only be combatted by a firm policy from the Western countries and must punish the regime for these illegal detentions. He also noted that this regime doesn’t understand attempts to create change from within and any attempts to create that change are “nonsense”, but only understands “the language of firmness and decisiveness and the language of force”.
Reports have also indicated that the opposition in Iran saw the death of Rafsanjani as the removal of a pillar of a regime that it hopes to see defeated and removed altogether.
Throughout the questions, the focus was on how the current events could impact the end of the regime. Both commentators noted that all the various administrations would be best served if they would be firm and consistent in their policies regarding Iran.