By: Fern Sidman
Just hours before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna released their much awaited report confirming Iran’s “development of a nuclear explosive device,” this very topic was vigorously addressed at a forum at the 92nd Street Y on Manhattan’s upper east side. Excerpts from the powerful 2011 documentary, “Iranium” (which documents the genesis of Iran’s nuclear threat, beginning with the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the ideology espoused by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini until today) was screened before the 200 audience members. Simulcast to a variety of venues around the country, the distinguished panel members had the opportunity of answering questions from audience members who were not present at the location.
Moderated by the film’s director, Alex Traiman, (who was also involved in the production of other films documenting the rise of radical Islam and those who carry terrorist attacks in the name of Allah such as “Obsession” and “The Third Jihad”) the panel consisted of Nazie Eftekhari, a prominent Iranian-American activist and the founder and CEO of The Araz Group, a family of companies that includes HealthEZ and America’s PPO. Having grown up in Iran, Ms. Eftekhari’s prodigious efforts have been focused on spotlighting the excessive human rights abuses against Iranian citizens that take place every day in her native country along with initiating a campaign of global support for the protection of the civil rights of Iranian dissidents.
Joining Ms. Eftekhari on the panel was former Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle who served in this post during the Reagan administration. Mr. Perle is a member of several think-tanks including the Hudson Institute, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Center for Security Policy. He is also a resident fellow of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.
Opening with images from “Iranium” in which media personalities report on the immense amount of pressure Iranian embassies throughout the US and Canada placed on those theaters screening the film and their demands that presentations be canceled, the panelists offered a historical overview of the progenitors of the Islamic revolution and political metamorphoses that have gripped Iran over the last century. “When Khomeini came to power in 1979, he was never elevated to Ayatollah, despite common misconceptions,” said Ms. Eftekhari. She added that the previous Ayatollah and the Shah of Iran severed ties in 1962 and it was then that Iranian women were accorded the right to vote. “The Shah’s father was a secular ruler who did not force women to cover their hair and if the various mullahs disagreed with his ruling they would be horsewhipped.”
Condemning then president Jimmy Carter for welcoming Khomeini and helping in the Shah’s ouster, Ms. Eftekhari said she saw a glaring resemblance between the demonstrations leading to the Arab spring and the Iranian revolution of 1979. “As a liberal Democrat; as a supporter of Hillary Clinton and a fan of Barack Obama, I was terribly upset and extremely disappointed to know that the leaders of my country did not stand up and speak out when the people of Iran exercised their rights of free speech and dissent in June of 2009, following the national elections. Hillary Clinton has said that the leadership of those dissidents demonstrating in the streets of Teheran did not want help from the USA and I simply don’t believe that.”
“This is the time for regime change,” said Mr. Perle as he addressed options that can feasibly be implemented when confronting the Iranian nuclear issue. Taking a flinty posture, he said that, “endless, feckless negotiations have proven a failure with Iran.” Recalling policy meetings he had with the late President Ronald Reagan, Mr. Perle said, “After exploring various strategies vis-a-vis the Soviet Union, Reagan decided to bring down the Soviet Union and he was successful, and today, the US policy as it pertains to Iran should be the same.”
Envisioning a military invasion of Iran by the US, Mr. Perle suggested “surgical strikes” on facilities and installations that would avoid casualities and the death of large numbers of people. “Military containment is not a viable strategy. It essentially translates into an acceptance of Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Destroying critical elements of their program would be the most efficient modality,” he said.
Citing the abysmal failure of the sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN, Mr. Perle did acknowledge that the people of Iran are feeling the brunt and that “the government in Iran is miserably unpopular.” As a country that produces millions of barrels of oil a day for foreign consumption, Mr. Perle suggested that an international ban on refined petroleum would create a situation in which Iran would grind to a halt.
As to the role of Israel in the increasing tense standoff with Iran, Ms. Eftekhari extended plaudits to the Jewish people and Israel and exhorted the Jewish state not to fire the first salvo in what could materialize as a major Middle East conflagration. “When I was studying in college in Iran, I warmly remember Israeli students studying there and the close friendships we developed. In Iran, Muslims and Jews at one time lived in peace and harmony. I remember the groups of Russian Jewish children that were smuggled out of the former Soviet Union and to Teheran on their way to Israel. We are like cousins in so many ways,” said Eftekhari. Referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as “a Holocaust denying midget,” she added that the past 33 years have been an anomoly in the longstanding and fruitful reliationship between the people of Iran and the Jews.
Exhorting Israel to refrain from initiating a military assault on Iran, Ms. Eftekhari suggested that they support a strike of Iranian oil workers for six weeks as a means of confrontation. “We must understand the impact of propaganda being spewed forth by the Iranian regime. There are 77 million Iranians and they would hate Israel if an attack was launched. The regime in Iran couldn’t care less if they lost 100,000 of their own citizens as long as it produced hatred for Israel among the population.” She also expressed her approval of Israeli government kidnappings of Iranian nuclear scientists and said that their “extrication” was “a good thing” until they can go back to Iran to actually work on nuclear medicine.
“If Israel attacks Iran, it will be because we allowed the regime to violate the human rights of its people. Iran has declared that 1.5 millon people there who express discontent with the government are criminals. Instead of bellyaching about whether Israel is going to attack Iran or not, let’s do something about it. Iranians are killing Americans as we speak in the Middle East through their terror proxies and we’ve done nothing to restrain them.” she added.