With the June 30 deadline for a deal with Iran on halting its nuclear weapons program fast approaching, the Obama administration is playing its usual bait-and-switch game. When talks first began, the administration said its goal was to dismantle Iran's nuclear infrastructure. Now the administration seems willing to accept any deal the Iranians are willing to agree to that might slow Iran's race, even marginally, to build a bomb. In return, U.N. economic sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy would be lifted. But those sanctions are the one point of leverage we have against one of the most brutal regimes in the world and one that poses a direct threat to neighboring countries, as well as to the U.S. and our allies.
Against this backdrop, a huge gathering of Iranian expatriates from around the world will take place June 13 in Villepinte, France. Organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the gathering will draw tens of thousands of participants who oppose the regime in Tehran, including thousands of American citizens. As I have at similar gatherings in the past, I will be there to lend my support to the efforts of those who want to give voice to the Iranian people and the organized resistance to the Iranian regime, along with some 600 political dignitaries, including former Democratic and Republican administration officials and 120 parliamentarians from more than 60 countries.
In an interview this week, Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the NCRI, told me, "We have to tell the U.S. government that if you do not want to see the clerical regime equipped with a nuclear bomb, stop appeasing it."
Rajavi warned: "Today the clerical regime, through its growing expansion in the region, has entered a lethal crisis. In Syria, the Assad dictatorship is on its last leg. In Iraq, the clerical regime lost its hand-picked government, headed by Nouri al-Maliki. This has marked the start of the demise of the clerical regime not only in Iraq but also throughout the region, because if the mullahs lose Baghdad, their rule in Tehran will be jeopardized."
Ironically, it is precisely because of Iran's involvement in Iraq that the Obama administration seems so willing to accept a nuclear deal on Iran's terms. The administration's reluctance to commit U.S. troops to fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq has de facto made Iran our proxy there.
President Barack Obama admitted this week that "we don't yet have a complete strategy" to deal with the growing threat of the Islamic State in Iraq or elsewhere in the region. With the Islamic State in control of Ramadi and much of Anbar province in Iraq and attacks this week on a city less than 40 miles southwest of Baghdad, the administration is desperate for help.
But Iran is not the answer. Indeed, it is part of a much bigger problem. For more than 35 years, Iran has been the chief state-sponsored terrorist nation in the world, responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans and other Westerners. While the U.S. has dithered in talks with Iran on containing its nuclear threat, Iran has taken a firm foothold in Iraq, continues to prop up the Assad regime in Syria and has engineered a coup in Yemen — a country that President Obama pointed to less than a year ago as a success in our counterterrorism strategy of "taking out terrorists who threaten us while supporting partners on the front lines."
But when it comes to supporting our "partners on the front lines," the one group that gets the cold shoulder from this administration is the organized Iranian opposition. Tehran faces growing internal opposition, which it has answered by engaging in more repression of its own people. Since Hasan Rouhani became president in 2013, Iran has executed more than 1,700 people, a higher total than at a similar point in former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's tenure. These executions signal that the Iranian regime is growing weaker, not stronger.
Now is the time for the U.S. to abandon its policy of appeasement and engage with the democratic resistance movement. The only hope for a peaceful, nuclear-free Iran is for there to be a free Iran.
Linda Chavez is the author of "An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal." To find out more about Linda Chavez, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.