In one of the first panel discussion prior to the “Free Iran” gathering on July 1, the focus was policies. The panel, entitled Where is Iran Heading? Tehran’s Domestic and Regional Policies”, focused on how the impact of the regime current policies contribute to it’s current standing in the international community.
The panel included Kenneth Blackwell, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva; Linda Chavez, founder and Chairwoman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and former White House Public Relations Liaison; Ramesh Sepehrrad, scholar practitioner at the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution (SCAR); and Robert Torricelli, former member of the U.S. Congress, serving as both a Representative and Senator.
For those who regularly follow Iran, many of the policies discussed on this panel are nothing new. However, the optimism of the panelists seem to be focused on attaining the reality of regime change. Some panelists pointed out that the best approach was to be supportive at an international level to those groups who are focused on peaceful regime change.
Others argued that there were multiple potential factors that could impact the future of the regime, with the biggest one being the current economic situation and the increase of human rights abuses. According to various panelists, the poverty numbers within Iran are staggering. At least 50% of all Iranians are living below the poverty line, but once you break it down by specific groups, the numbers go even higher. For labors alone, the number is over 90% under the line of poverty. No matter what section of the Iranian workforce you examine, the reality is that the domestic and regional policies of the Iranian regime are bankrupting the future of their people.
The larger issues seem to be related to suppressing the Iranian people to maintain their financial and political power at the expense of the Iranian people. This means exporting their problems and focusing the Iranian people on issues outside of the country as a distraction army technique.
Are they taking the resources and spending them outside of the country as a pride issue, instead of investing back in their economy and their own people?
One panelist, Mr. Blackwell, suggested that the U.S. could take one of two approaches, being either a gardener or a mechanic. The mechanic runs around trying to fix everything and this could mean wasting variable resources on efforts that are not strategically important. Instead, as a gardener, it is important to tend those who are fighting for freedom and human rights, even if the groups might not be connected.
“Iran is a direct threat to the international community…we have to connect the dots and shine a light wherever the darkened reigns,” said Blackwell. “Human rights struggles are not a spectator sport. It is a long distance run, not a sprint.” He also noted the importance of NGOs to get involved, which includes shining light on the good and progress that has been made.
Another panelist, Mr. Sepehrrad, noted that Iran’s regime has hijacked a religious ideology to keep their power and political control. So how can the international community put pressure on the regime?
“The fact is that growing up, I would have thought the change would have happened a long time ago. But you learn a lot of lessons in life. What is disappointing is the ability of people to accept their lot in life and their suffering. People demanding economic and personal freedom is inevitable, but can be slowed by people living with brutal oppression,” said Torrelli.
When it finally reaches that point, it is important to have a scheme in place to pick up the pieces after the people stand up and say that it has been one too many.