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David Amess MP: Time for a new EU policy on Iran

David_amess David Amess is Conservative MP for Southend West and a member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom

Europe needs a new policy on Iran - one which actively engages the Iranian people who are longing for genuine change, 30 years after Ayatollah Khomeini brought a reign of terror under the banner of fundamentalist Islam.

Today, Iranians are perhaps the most pro-Western population in the Middle East. But for the past eight years, the European Union has done a great injustice towards the people of Iran and the possibility of engaging Iranian society.

The EU blacklisted the main Iranian Resistance group, the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), in 2002. The group, which was the first to reveal the regime's nuclear weapons sites in 2002, has by far proven to be the force most feared by the mullahs. Still, EU officials have conceded that they banned the group at the behest of Tehran and in order to win economic contracts from the ruling mullahcracy.

For years, the labelling of the PMOI as a terrorist group had a crippling effect on the movement for change within Iran. The young population was left to feel that they were alone in their struggle for freedom. Iranian Revolutionary Guards stepped up killings of political prisoners under the guise of 'executing terrorists'. However, in recent times, nowhere has the blacklisting of the PMOI been more profoundly felt than in Camp Ashraf, in Iraq's Diyala province, where some 4,000 members of the group have been targeted by pro-Iranian elements within Iraq's fledgling multi-tier administration.

Tehran has mobilised all its resources to force the Iraqi Government to close down Ashraf and expel PMOI members, preferably to Iran, using the terrorist tag as a justification.

Fortunately, in January, the EU finally lifted the 'perverse' ban on the PMOI after being ordered to do so by the European Court of Justice. Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi said that with the de-listing of the PMOI, the core of Europe's policy of appeasement towards Tehran was crushed and the strategic investment by the regime to destroy the Iranian Resistance was lost. "The winds of change will blow with greater momentum for democratic change in Iran", she said, quite rightly.

Alas, Europe now has a momentous opportunity to mend fences with the Iranian people and show them that it is truly on the side of democrats rather than their oppressors.

Most critically, the 27-nation bloc must compensate for its past wrongs against the Iranian Resistance which have over the years emboldened the Tehran regime in its pursuit of nuclear weapons with which to hold us all ransom.

The EU should now urge the Iraqi government to end Iranian-dictated pressure against the group.

Remarks by Iraq's National Security Adviser, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, that PMOI members will be extradited to Iran next month must be condemned. PMOI members have lived in Iraq lawfully for more than two decades and have been recognised by the US Government as "protected persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention. As such, and according to the principle of non-refoulement, attempts to extradite or forcefully displace PMOI from Ashraf would be a violation of international law and International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

On the other hand, some 5.2 million Iraqis and at least 3 million Iraqi Shiites have signed statements declaring their support for the PMOI's presence in Iraq as the strategic counter-balance to the Iranian regime's meddling in their country. The group also enjoys vast support among Parliamentarians across Europe, the US and much of the Arab world.

More importantly, however, the group has the impassionate backing of Iranian students in university campuses in Tehran, Tabriz and Shiraz. Thirty years on from the founding of the Islamic Republic, the Iranian people are reaching out to Europe for solidarity. Our EU leaders should extend a hand.


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