As Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. John F. Kerry on Thursday chairs the second in a series of hearings intended to bolster the Obama administration’s policy of opening negotiations with Iran, a key Iranian dissident tells Newsmax that talks with the Tehran regime are a mistake.
“We believe the United States should talk to the Iranian people, not to the regime,” said Khosrow Seif, 73, the leader of the Iran Nation’s Party (INP).
Recalling his own role in the popular movement against the Shah in the 1970s, Seif told Newsmax that the United States should learn from its past mistakes and not support a dictator against the people, as it did with the Shah.
“The last time the United States had relations with Iran was to help the regime, to support the Shah against the people and keep him in power. The type of relationship I would like to see is just the opposite to that, for the United States to support the people of Iran against the regime.”
But that is not what Kerry or the Obama administration seem to have in mind.
Kerry’s opening statement at the first of the Iran hearings, held on Tuesday, used tortured logic to support the new administration’s policy of talking to the Tehran regime.
Noting that Iran has lied repeatedly to the International Atomic Energy Agency about its nuclear programs, Kerry acknowledged that the “gaps in what we know about Iran’s nuclear program are big and they are dangerous.”
Documents discovered on an Iranian laptop obtained by the CIA in 2004 “appear to show blueprints for a nuclear warhead and designs for missiles to carry it.” And Iran has consistently refused to answer questions about its nuclear intentions, he added.
“Just last week, a UN official acknowledged to my staff that talks between the IAEA and Tehran have reached an impasse. The official said he didn’t know what comes next,” Kerry said.
“Well, we do know what comes next,” he concluded. “The Obama administration has said that it wants to open direct talks with Iran. This is the right first step and I applaud the president for taking it.”
In a three-hour conversation recently in Los Angeles, Khosrow Seif dismissed the talk about talks as unimportant. “The important thing is not the talk, but the results. We have to see what the results of this action for the Iranian people will be, positive or negative.”
In a marked departure with the conventional wisdom expressed by journalists and Iran advocates in Washington, Seif said he did not believe that acquiring nuclear weapons was in the best interests of Iran, nor that the Iranian people supported such a quest.
“If we had a government that was acting in the national interest, we could talk about this issue and discuss it openly,” he told Newsmax. But the regime has stifled all debate, and has tried to convince the West that the Iranian people are united behind its drive for nuclear capability.
“We believe that the whole Middle East should be free of nuclear weapons. But we have no faith that this regime will act in the Iranian national interests, since until now it has never done so. For these reasons, we don’t believe it’s a good thing for this regime to have access to nuclear weapons.”
The INP is one of Iran’s oldest and best-established political parties, and one of the few that continues to operate almost openly inside Iran, despite intense repression from the regime.
“The regime calls us an illegal group devoted to the soft overthrow of the regime,” he said. “But we were alive well before the Islamic Republic was created, so we don’t feel we need a permit to exist.”
There’s something fatalistic, almost valedictory, about his defiance.
Khosrow Seif knows that if he speaks his true feelings about the Iranian regime, he could be arrested upon his return to Tehran later this month.
And yet, he insisted that our conversation be placed “on the record,” as he gave a no holds barred condemnation of the Islamic regime, its terrorist practices and its nuclear weapons program, which he said was a danger to the of Iran.
“We will continue to fight against this dictatorship no matter what,” he told Newsmax. “We don’t agree with them on anything. We are against Islamic government. We believe in secular government, that religion is a personal matter.”
In today’s Iran, such views are not merely heretical; they are considered counter-revolutionary.
Seif’s predecessor as leader of the Iran Nation’s Party (INP), Darioush Forouhar, was brutally murdered along with his wife at their Tehran home in November 1998 for expressing similar opposition to the fundamental nature of the Islamic regime.
An initial police investigation found that the Iranian intelligence ministry, MOIS, had placed surveillance cameras inside the Forouhar’s residence, which doubled as a meeting place for party activists.
The murderers knew where the devices had been placed and deactivated them before entering. But a second set of tapes, placed by a rival faction within the intelligence ministry, caught them as they carried out their gruesome orders, beheading and dismembering Forouhar and disfiguring his wife.
“We know that the order to murder the Forouhars was issued by the government,” Seif says. “But we want to know who personally gave the order.”
The opposition Marzepor Gohar Party, which is closely allied to the INP, recently published a 138 page summary of the evidence in the case that includes extensive verbatim passages from the prosecution files, including a stunning admission by one of the murderers who questioned why he was being detained.
He told his interrogators they should “go and look at my paycheck stub… That night [the night of the murders] you paid me overtime.”
[Editor's Note: Read “Iran's Supreme Leader Personally Ordered Death Squads”- Go Here Now]
“We know that several people carried out these killings, but that one person issued the fatwa,” the religious order authorizing these crimes, Seif said.
“We want to know who that person is. All of the criminals who were involved in this case are now in the government.”
The head of the parliamentary commission investigating the murders publicly stated that he was compelled to shut down his inquiry, because the evidence “led to some persons the parliament is not allowed to question.”
Under the Islamic Republic constitution, Parliament can question government ministers, and even remove the president. The only person beyond its reach is the Supreme Leader himself.
“It’s obvious who ordered these killings,” Seif told Newsmax. “But we don’t want to say this on our own authority. We want the proof to come out. The Forouhar case is no longer a family case, or a Party case. It is a national case. The Iranian people want to know who issued this order. The Iranian people want to know the truth.”
The INP has a long history of fighting authoritarian rule in Iran. “Forouhar and I were in jail together under the Shah, and under this regime,” Seif says. “We and other nationalist groups were part of the Revolutionary movement against the Shah.
Ayatollah Khomeini “was never mentioned as part of the movement against the Shah until 1978, when he moved from Iraq to France, at the Shah’s request. Even then, no one was using the word ‘revolution.’ We all talked about reform, and about constitutional rule.”
Ironically, Seif recalled, it was the Shah himself who first used the word ‘revolution,’ in a famous speech at the very end of his reign, when he pledged to embrace constitutional rule and name a prime minister from the opposition.
“I was there, at the airport, when Khomeini and Forouhar arrived from France in Tehran,” Seif recalled. “When Khomeini got off the plane, he said that he couldn’t believe they were able to get power so easily. None of the opposition groups had a plan to seize power. They were all about reform.”
Things changed quickly, once the clerics seized power in a near-bloodless coup on the night of Feb. 12-13, 1979. Forouhar was invited into the first revolutionary government as minister of Labor, and became the regime’s emissary to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with Iran’s fractious Kurds.
But when president Banisadr was deposed by Khomeini in June 1981, Forouhar and others went into hiding. He was arrested along with Khosrow Seif and other part leaders in 1982 and jailed for over a year.
Since then, the INP has played a central role in the internal opposition, more or less tolerated by the regime until Forouhar’s murder in 1998.
Several thousand INP members gather openly every year to commemorate the Forourhars’ murder, and to commemorate the death of former prime minister Mossadeq, still revered as a national hero by many Iranians.
Mossadeq was overthrown in a U.S. and British-backed coup in 1953, after he nationalized the Iranian oil industry and cozied up to the Soviet Union.
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