Harper was right to speak out on Iran
The (media) criticism levelled at former prime minister Stephen Harper for speaking to a “Free Iran” rally near Paris last Saturday is unfair. At that rally, Harper thanked the tens of thousands of participants for their “long battle for a free and democratic Iran,” without endorsing any political party.
Harper wasn’t alone at the rally. Canada’s delegation at the event included the former prime minister, Liberal MP Judy Sgro, former Conservative foreign minister John Baird, former Liberal MP Raymonde Folco, former Conservative MP Paul Forseth, Liberal supporter David Matas, Conservative MP Candice Bergen, and me, a former Liberal cabinet minister. It was entirely appropriate to attend.
The European Union removed the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (or PMOI) from its list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2009, noting that it had been placed on the list purely to appease the mullahs in Iran. In 2010, the European Parliament passed a declaration calling on the United States to remove it from the American list. The resolution became official when more than half the members of the 736-seat chamber signed it, but support was nearly unanimous. The resolution also called on Iraq to cease its blockade of Camp Ashraf, a settlement of more than 3,000 Iranian dissidents near the border between the two countries.
The PMOI had been on the U.S. list since 1997, when the Bill Clinton administration added it, seeking to secure closer cooperation with Tehran. The U.S. finally removed the PMOI in September, 2012. The State Department said its decision had been taken in view of the PMOI’s public renunciation of its former military role and its co-operation in the closure of its paramilitary base in Iraq.
Following the lead of the U.S. and the European Union, the Harper government in December 2012 dropped the PMOI from Canada’s list. As co-chair of the NGO Canadian Friends of a Democratic Iran, I wrote to then prime minister Harper in 2009: “We are writing to urge you and your government to take a principled stand against the regime in Tehran for its brutal suppression of the Iranian people in their renewed uprising for human dignity, freedom and democracy … Iranians spoke loudly and clearly again when they poured into the streets in Tehran and all major cities across the country in recent days to show the world that they are ready to risk their lives to bring about democratic change in Iran.”
Struan Stevenson, who represented Scotland in the European Parliament for 15 years and is now co-ordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change, noted after last week’s Paris event: “The nationwide protests (currently underway) covered all 31 Iranian provinces and 142 cities. The 80 million Iranian citizens, over half of whom are under-30, have made it clear that they are fed up with fundamentalist rule. They are fed up with living in poverty as the venally corrupt mullahs siphon off the country’s wealth to fill their pockets and to finance conflict and terror throughout the Middle East.”
The Iranian regime has earned the title of the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism. Since the Paris event, an intercepted plot to bomb the hall near the Charles De Gaulle airport where last weekend’s rally was held has been exposed. Three suspects were arrested in France and Germany last weekend. A diplomat at the Iranian embassy in Vienna was also arrested in Germany over the terror threat that was discovered by Belgian authorities.
The Iranian regime has earned the title of the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism. Staff at the Iranian embassy in Vienna said their ambassador was not immediately available for comment, but a PMOI official alleged the individual arrested in Germany had been station chief of Iran’s ministry of intelligence and security (MOIS) in Vienna since 2014.
The Paris event attracted tens of thousands from across the world to hear National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) president-elect Maryam Rajavi. The NCRI is an umbrella bloc of opposition groups in exile that seeks an end to Shi’ite Muslim clerical rule in Iran. Rajavi seeks to restore peace, freedom, democracy and human rights, stopping torture and the death penalty and ending foreign meddling. Maryam Rajavi’s 10-point plan also calls for a new constitution based on gender equality, separation of religion and state, and a non-nuclear Iran.
David Kilgour is the former Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa (1997-2002) and Asia-Pacific (2002-2003) in the cabinet of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. He represented south-east Edmonton in the House of Commons from 1979 to 2006. He is co-chair of the NGO Canadian Friends of a Democratic Iran.