BRUSSELS (EJP) --- “Europe should not send mixed messages to the Iranian regime and cancel the trip”, insisted European Parliament Vice President Alejo Vidal-Quadras at a hastily convened conference of the Friends of a free Iran parliamentary group in Brussels Tuesday, following the announcement that a delegation of MEPs would visit Iran later this month.
Given that EU Foreign Ministers imposed further sanctions on the Iranian regime only one day before the announcement of the trip, he argued, “any formal delegation from the European parliament, or indeed any national parliament in Europe, to Iran would be extremely counter-productive”.
Quoting the UN special rapporteur on Iran’s official documentation on the systematic abuse and torture of human rights activists by the Islamist regime, which last week revealed 223 people had been executed by the Iranian authorities in the first six months of this year alone, he added that despite “whatever good intentions my colleagues may have...an official delegation’s visit would allow Iran to continue justifying not only human rights violation, but also repression, fundamentalism and terrorism”.
“Our dialogue must be limited to those dictators who show some signs of being reformed,” he continued, recalling previous misguided attempts by international politicians to negotiate with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s predecessor Mohammed Khatami, who was seen as more moderate.
“Failure to adopt a tough line resulted in appeasement and the main opposition group PMY were wrongly listed as a terror group for many years,” he asserted.
Even when the “secret nuclear aims of Iran” were exposed, “we in the west, instead of imposing sanctions, began to negotiate and gave more concessions to the Ayatollahs,” he alleged, insisting “These are not things that we in Europe can be proud of. Past mistakes should teach us to be cautious in our dealings with the regime.”
Arguing the planned delegation trip to Tehran on October 27 must be cancelled, Vidal-Quadras said:“Delegation of duties are supposed to contribute to promoting in fair countries the values on which the EU is founded, namely the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. "We believe the only way towards peace and stability in the region is to send a united and firm message, similar to that of our ministers (Monday), we’re supporting the Iranian democratic opposition.”
Chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran group Struan Stevenson followed the Vice-President’s address, in calling for the “scandalous idea” of the delegation to be scrapped.
Stressing that the instigator of the visit, Hasan Jalili, Chairman of the Parliamentary Delegation of Iran for Relations with Europe, boasts of having served in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on his website, as well as posting a speech in praise of Hezbollah’s victory in Lebanon’s 33-day war with “the Zionist regime”, he added it was “completely inappropriate” for the delegation to meet with such a representative, who also chairs Iran’s friendship group with Syria, a day after further sanctions had been approved.
As sanctions have begun to yield their desired result in reducing oil exports from Iran by 45% and provoking the collapse the Iranian currency the Rial, in turn producing popular protests on the street, the time is not right to emulate “our policy of appeasement in the past, (which has) given them time to produce the fuel for nuclear weapons”, he argued.
Dismissing last year’s previous “friendship delegation” to Iran, which saw a public execution being performed on the streets on arrival of the European party, as a propaganda tool for the Iranian regime to project the image of European approval of its human rights violations and nuclear weapons programme, he further accused the Iranian regime of “seeking regional dominance”.
“For a murderous oppressive regime of this nature, to have them acquiring nuclear weapons would be an absolute tragedy, and that’s why we have to deal with this regime in the toughest manner possible, with sanctions, with encouraging the people to rise up and throw out the corrupt, evil mullahs. This is a regime where people guilty or murder, rape, torture and corruption, are promoted, and these are the kind of people that our delegation will go to meet. It is a tragedy and it is something that will be exploited ruthlessly by the mullahs for propaganda purposes,” he added.
“Sending a delegation of MEPs is misguided and foolish in the extreme,” he concluded, adding that such an idea would have provoked an outcry if the European Parliament had existed in 1939 and a similar delegation was proposed to visit the Nazi regime in Berlin. Arguing a visit to Iran would undo all the progress produced by sanctions, he said “they’re already beginning to roll out the propaganda message of welcoming this big delegation from Europe, and the message will be that we can continue with our nuclear program, the European Parliament has sent a delegation here so all is well”.
Estonian MEP, humanitarian Tunne Kelam, meanwhile described it as paradoxical that the EU had shortlisted two Iranian humanitarians for the next Sakharov Prize whilst this delegation threatened “to contradict the position of the European Parliament in defending the human rights and rule of law (principles it stands for)”.
The visit to Iran held no prospect of legitimacy, he added, “because our delegation will be able to meet only loyalists and former revolutionary guards, and will not have any access to any opposition activists or any political prisoners. The regime has officially rejected any such request”.
At a time when US research showed Iran was closer to achieving nuclear capability than previously thought, “and they desperately need additional time to complete their preparations, our sending a parliamentary delegation, doing business as usual will jut undermine all our efforts with sanctions,” he added.
On the subject of sanctions and its unintended negative impact on innocent Iranian people, Vidal-Quadras argued that this was caused “by a corrupt and interventionist political class that is oppressing the people and they deviate the resources of the economy towards terrorism, towards supporting Assad in Syria and developing a nuclear program, instead of using it for the benefit of the people”.
“ This is the real origin of the suffering of the people,” he asserted. “ Sanctions are good for the Iranian people, as long as they accelerate the end of this regime, which is the real problem of the Iranian citizens.”
“Freedom and democracy never comes cheaply and it always has a price,” argued Stevenson. “In the case of Iran, bringing freedom to the people of Iran will possibly come at a high price. I hope not, but with a murderous regime, probably the most dangerous regime in the world today, and if they acquire nuclear weapons they certainly will be the most destabilising regime in the Middle East and a threat to global peace”.