Members of a coalition of more than 30 Iranian groups who oppose their country's current government met on Capitol Hill earlier this week seeking support form the U.S. government and the Obama administration.
The coalition, which calls itself The Iranian Democracy Front, arranged the conference to highlight the current regime’s dismal record on human rights and its ongoing nuclear program.
According to Fox News, the group asked the Obama administration to not only support the Iranian opposition but to also tighten sanctions on the government in the capital city of Tehran and pursue policies to end the regime.
“We want to be free, independent and a good friend for America and the West. This is what we want,” said Behrooz Sarshar, a member of the coalition.
“Help the Iranian people, let us be free,” he added. “Genuine support means helping the opposition groups.”
The U.S. has been reticent to support the opposition groups, experts say.
Reza Taghizadeh, a professor at Glasgow University and an advisor to The Iranian Democracy Front, said the U.S. is wrong to continue pursuing diplomacy as a means of normalizing relations with Tehran. He believes support for the coalition would be more productive.
“[The] American administration has put all their eggs in the government's basket, they are totally ignoring every opposition group [and supporter] of democracy, and I think they are missing a big opportunity to at least have a dialogue with those who are against the regime and could be alternative to it,” he said.
“The U.S. missed a massive opportunity in 2009 to put its support behind a secular, grassroots opposition movement in Iran,” said Fox News contributor and Middle East expert Lisa Daftari.
That was the year the Obama administration failed to support the so-called Green Revolution during a massive protest against the re-election of then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The protesters ended up being gunned down in the street.
Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council, wrote in 2010 for the Middle East Quarterly that the administration should do more to support the secular, pro-democracy movement in the country.
“The emergence of a more accountable, pluralistic regime in Tehran would allay — if not eliminate — mounting concerns over Iran's emerging nuclear capability and regional adventurism,” he wrote. “Such a regime could create the conditions necessary for the historic rapprochement between Washington and Tehran so sought after by the Obama administration.”
Almost four years later the pro-democracy groups are still hoping for support.
Daftari said it is unlikely to come, adding “in Washington, the simple goal is to strike a deal with Iran, even if that deal is with a nuclear-armed, Christian persecuting, human rights violating regime.”
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