Richard Ratcliffe, husband of imprisoned Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, protests outside the Iranian Embassy in London in 2019. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been sentenced to a further year in prison and a one-year travel ban after being found guilty of propaganda against the regime in Iran. File Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE
June 7 (UPI) -- It has been a disastrous year for the theocratic dictatorship in Iran. The economy has collapsed, unemployment is pervasive, inflation is out of control, the Iranian currency is in free fall and over 75% of the 80 million population are struggling to survive on daily incomes below the international poverty line.
Professional, well-educated people who once earned a decent living in Iran can be found scrabbling through trash cans for scraps of food. Some 20,000 people are sleeping rough in Tehran alone, of which 5,000 are women and children. Some people have even offered their corneas or kidneys for sale in a desperate bid to avoid starvation for their families. Due to the clerical regime's rank incompetence, over 300,000 people have died of the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the fabulously rich mullahs, who have stolen the people's wealth for four decades, plow endless funds into proxy wars in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and most recently Gaza, supplying Hamas with rockets, training and financing to prolong the war with Israel and promote the Islamic Republic as the key protagonist against the occupiers of Palestine.
The foreign wars are a calculated strategy to distract their enraged and starving population from another nationwide uprising that could sweep the mullahs from power. Mass uprisings in 2018, 2019 and 2020 almost succeeded in toppling the regime, but were brutally crushed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the regime's Gestapo, while the West stood idly by, offering no support for the oppressed Iranian people, who were arrested, tortured, imprisoned and murdered in the thousands.
The ongoing clandestine project to develop a nuclear weapon and the ballistic missiles capable of launching it are a key part of Tehran's survival plan and have continued apace before, during and after the introduction of the deeply flawed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal. Even now, deluded Western appeasers are seeking to renew the deal rather than confront the mullahs for their role in exporting war and terror worldwide.
Facing crippling sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and recurring international humiliations from the exposure of their diplomats as terrorist bombers and assassins, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is scraping the barrel for further ways to avoid a meltdown at the looming presidential elections to be held on June 18. Khamenei and his hand-picked Guardian Council have disqualified every candidate who could have posed even a slight threat to the favored successor to Hassan Rouhani.
The chosen one is the current head of the judiciary, the notorious Ebrahim Raisi, a renowned thug and ruthless executioner, who was placed on the U.S. Treasury blacklist on Nov. 10, 2019, for serial human rights violations. He is known to regularly attend torture sessions and the execution of prisoners. Raisi is sure to become president in the fake elections, despite a nationwide campaign to boycott the vote by the main democratic opposition movement, the Mojahedin e-Khalq.
Terrified that the sham election of Raisi will provoke a revolution, Khamenei, true to form, has turned his attention to his traditional disruptive tactics to divert attention from his domestic crises. He has ordered the further cruel detention of dual-nationality hostages like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe on trumped up charges. Tehran's cyber army has been deployed to manipulate and mislead the world's politicians and public opinion, interfering in elections and peddling disinformation in fake posts and tweets on Facebook and Twitter to promote any cause that might harm the West.
In March, Facebook removed 446 fake accounts that it traced back to the Iranian regime. Iranian piracy, hijacking and bomb attacks on tankers in the Strait of Hormuz have escalated tensions in the Persian Gulf. Now Khamenei has decided to ramp up international pressure by sending two warships to Venezuela with mystery cargo as a direct threat to Washington in an attempt to burnish his hard-line credentials.
As always, when cornered, Khamenei has resorted to demonizing the MEK and the key opposition umbrella movement the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Ludicrous and amateurish publications have begun to appear in the European Union, trotting out all of the old myths, lies and propaganda spouted for decades by the "Islamic Republic" and roundly debunked again and again by Western experts, governments, courts of justice and political leaders. The absurd publications contain broken English, appalling grammar, endless spelling mistakes and appear to have been designed in comic-book form by teenagers.
Rather than wasting time distributing such risible material, the mullahs would do well to address the many questions confronting their 42 years of brutal maladministration and corruption. The United Nations is actively pushing for answers to the horrifying massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners, mostly supporters of the MEK, in the summer of 1988. Raisi has even boasted of his role as one of the key executioners during that horrendous crime against humanity.
Western governments also wish to know who, in the regime's leadership, ordered the Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi to bomb the huge NCRI rally in Paris in June 2018. Western powers also want to know who was accountable for the murder of more than 1,500 unarmed protesters during the 2019-20 uprising. There are volumes of crimes and terrorist outrages that can be traced directly back to Tehran and require explanations so that the perpetrators can be held to account.
Iran's war games may turn out to be a spectacular own-goal, shining a spotlight on the theocratic regime's role as the international godfathers of terror, a role for which Khamenei, Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Raisi and many others will soon face justice in the international courts for crimes against humanity.
Struan Stevenson is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.