There are many policies and statements that President Trump has made during his time in office which I do not agree with and do not support. However, after more than a year in office, I have fully applauded and appreciated the vast majority of his policies and positions concerning Iran and the Middle East. The President has lead with a strong voice of moral authority and conviction against totalitarian forces such as ISIS, Syria’s Assad and the terrorist sponsoring radical Islamic regime in Iran. These moves have earned my full support for many of his Middle East policies.
Likewise President Trump last month released a unique letter honoring the secular Persian New Year of “No Ruz” which I felt was phenomenal. He praised the freedom loving people of Iran while acknowledging their oppression under the hands of their regime’s dictators. The President’s letter generated a tremendous amount of support from many Iranian Americans who oppose the current demonic regime in Iran and at the same time some criticism from Iranian Americans who oppose him.
This past week, Tahlil Rouz (Daily Analysis), an online Persian language think tank based in the US, sent a letter to President Trump thanking him for his powerful No Ruz message to the people of Iran. The letter was signed by 120 Iranian and non-Iranian American journalists, scholars, political activists and others who oppose the current Iranian regime and seek regime change in Iran. (In full disclosure, I too am a signatory of this letter).
I had a chance to chat with Tahlil Rouz’s director, Reza Parchizadeh, an Iranian-born political theorist and analyst about the think tank’s motivations in releasing this letter to President Trump. The following is a portion of that conversation…
Why did your think tank decide to draft this letter to President Trump praising him for his No Ruz message to the people of Iran?
To be grateful for goodwill is only human. In addition, to warmly thank someone who has been good to you and wished you well is an ancient Iranian tradition. But apart from pleasantries, we believe that real Iranian dissidents, those who want to overthrow the Islamist regime and establish a democracy in its place, must be heard. Long have the media and public podiums in the West been occupied by the regime-sympathizers in disguise. It is now time for the real dissidents to speak out and to be heard.
Your think tank gave high praise to President Trump for calling out the Iranian regime for suppressing individual freedoms of the people of Iran and failing to help the people economically. Why do you believe it was important for the people of Iran to receive this particular message from the U.S. President?
The majority of the people of Iran are against the Islamist regime. They will topple it if they get a chance. But the problem is, the regime is armed to the tooth, and the ordinary citizens – the civilians – are hardly a match for it. Note that this is the regime that has set almost all the Middle East ablaze. In such a situation, President Trump’s message gives heart to the people of Iran. It tells them that the President of the greatest democracy in the world is supporting them in their efforts for democracy and peace. That can have miraculous effects.
There are many Iranians and non-Iranians who did not think it was appropriate for President Trump to interject politics into his message of No Ruz which is a secular and cultural holiday for Iranians. How do you respond to their criticism of his message?
What I’d say to them is that they’d better study. President Trump’s message sounded more moral than political to me, as he talked about how the regime of the mullahs has degraded Iranians during its almost forty years in power. Now, Nowruz is basically a moral – and by extension, political – occasion. It marks the time of the year that the forces of light or good vanquish the forces of darkness or evil. As such, I’d say President Trump’s message was indeed very apt.
No Ruz is a traditional secular holiday marking the beginning of spring with a message of peace, friendship, harmony and co-existence that dates back to the ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire and has a special place in the hearts of Iranians worldwide. Why do you believe the timing of his message during the No Ruz holiday carries weigh with the Iranian people?
This is because it reminds them of their glorious ancient past. It also puts before their eyes the misery of their present. The juxtaposition could not be more telling.
In your opinion why was President Trump’s No Ruz message to the people of Iran far superior to those given by his predecessors?
Because his predecessors would merely send a ceremonial message. President Trump used the occasion of Nowruz to deliver a strongly moral as well as political message that would strike a chord with many Iranians.
President Trump in late December and early January tweeted messages supporting the people of Iran protesting in the streets of cities throughout Iran. Can you share with us, based on your interactions with Iranians on the ground in Iran, as how they received his tweets on Twitter?
They were extremely happy that at last a US president had squarely landed on their side. They were positively jubilant. They keep asking me whether I think President Trump will continue to support them for regime change, and I keep telling them I believe that is highly likely the case.
As you are aware many Iranian Americans do not support President Trump, they have spoken out against his policies when he comes to immigration issues from Iran and even a few publicly denounced him during the 2017 Oscar program. Yet your think tank and those who signed this letter support his strong positions on the Iranian regime. Why is the Iranian community in America split? Is one faction misinformed about Trump?
There is misinformation for sure. But there are also other factors that contribute to the split. Most people, including Iranian immigrants, don’t want to have anything to do with conscious politics. When it comes to the Islamist regime in Iran, many Iranian immigrants, due to their ties to their homeland and the fact that they are not looking for trouble, prefer to hush it up instead of looking for a real solution. Now, President Trump has greatly alarmed these quietists with his moral stance on and strong rhetoric against the regime. It is natural that they should react. Some see their businesses with the regime at risk. Not to mention others who come from the regime itself or have deep ties with the political establishment in Iran.
In your think tank’s letter to President Trump, you support regime change in Iran. Why do you believe this is the best route for the nation and people of Iran, rather than just an internal change in the current regime?
Because internal change will never happen. I say this both as an expert and someone who has been an activist for change on the ground in Iran. Back then, close to two decades ago, I was briefly imprisoned and badly beaten up and later expelled from university due to my peaceful activist efforts. A decade later I was disallowed from studying for a doctoral degree although I was the top student in the country. Many of my publications were also banned by the regime. That is why I left Iran. Many more are leaving, because they know change will not take place as long as the Islamist regime is in power. The Islamists must go if we want change. There is no other way.
What can you share with us as to how the Iranian regime has treated the protestors after the recent mass protests in Iran?
The regime cracked down on the protestors, as usual. But the terrible thing it kept resorting to this time was to arrest the protestors, make them disappear for a while, and then throw their dead bodies in rivers or places outside towns and cities. They also killed some of the arrested protestors in custody and told the public that they had committed suicide.
Why has the Iranian regime been successful since 2013 of portraying the current Iranian president Rouhani as a moderate and the regime as one that can be trusted in the media and international arenas?
It is not since 2013. They have been doing that since they took power in Iran. I believe the greatest reason for that is that they have sympathizers and agents of influence in high places in the West that keep advertising for them. Recently, a respectable publication in Washington ran an editorial to the effect that the people of Iran prefer the regime to a painful regime change. Well, that is a flagrant lie, because the people of Iran are already in great pain. That is why they keep asking President Trump for help. That was the main reason we took it upon ourselves to be the voice of our fellow compatriots. That is the least we can do for them. And the letter, expectedly, became hugely popular among the people in Iran. They keep messaging us and leave us positive feedback on social media.
What do you believe most average Americans are missing as for their knowledge of the current Iranian regime which you believe is essential and not getting out there from the media and in public forums?
What I believe most average Americans are missing regarding Iran is the fact that the Islamist regime is a fascist regime and that the people of Iran genuinely want it gone. But ordinary Americans won’t get that from the mainstream media. If they want the truth about Iran they must listen to the dissidents, and of course to President Trump.