Government officials fighting and fleeing presages government’s downfall
As the fires of conflict continue to burn throughout the Middle East – from Afghanistan to Syria, Lebanon to the Gaza Strip, and Yemen to Saudi Arabia – Iranian fingerprints on each theater of conflict leave little doubt to the instability inflicted by one rogue nation and its terror proxies. Nevertheless, a significant number of Iranian expatriates, many of whom await a return to the homeland from homes in America, believe a regime change is not beyond the realm of reality.
The Media Line’s Felice Friedson spoke with one Iranian expat community leader, Dr. Iman Foroutan, a product information technologist and chairman of The New Iran.
The Media Line: Tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic continues to rise as Iranian adventurism seems boundless. Between its lethal proxies stoking numerous armed confrontations throughout the Middle East and of late, its growing involvement with Venezuela, many argue the American image is taking a beating. How dangerous is an Iran buoyed by new confidence?
Dr. Iman Foroutan: Well, the tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic is nothing new. Iran started this whole thing 40 years ago when they took American hostages and since then, the relationship at best has been choppy until President Obama decided that it’s good to appease the mullahs – give them billions of dollars of cash and sign the P5+1 agreement. So, the fact that the Islamic Republic has been supplying terrorists with weapons and supporting them financially is nothing new. The Islamic Republic gets part of its power by funding Hizbullah, Hamas, al-Hashd al-Shabi and a lot of other terrorist groups. And with regards to its relationship with Venezuela, that’s also nothing new. Iran only has a few dictatorial and tyrannical regimes as friends, whether it’s Cuba, Venezuela, Syria or Russia. So, therefore, not only this is nothing new but I would not read too much into it with regards to how dangerous it will be now getting new confidence. Every report that we have shows that the Islamic Republic and its rulers every day are having less and less confidence. That’s why they’re attacking each other internally. That’s why more and more news of all their bribes and stealing of the Iranian wealth comes out by one source inside Iran against another. And also the fact that a lot of the government people are actually fleeing Iran. They’re taking whatever money that they have and they’re fleeing Iran. They’re going to Canada or actually finding refuge in other countries.
TML: Iran made a showpiece out of its sale of five tanker-loads of oil to Venezuela. The world tracked the ships’ progress expecting interdiction at any time, but none came. In fact, when the first ship docked in Caracas, the perception was an Iranian victory over Washington. Has the US lost its power of deterrence?
Dr. Foroutan: We all knew that [the ships were] going through Venezuela and we all know that the United States, if it had decided to do so, could have stopped these ships, block them, and take all the types of other actions. However, the commander of the forces who are in charge of that area of the world and the sea lanes said that the United States had to make a decision whether to go after $40 million worth of oil – that’s all that these five ships of oil were worth, $40 million–and it only supplies two or three weeks of the needs of Venezuela. So therefore, the question is, ‘Is this a time and place that the United States wants to get involved militarily with the Islamic Republic?’ President Trump has mentioned many times and has shown through his actions [that] he does not want war with Iran unless his hand is forced. And we all know that Iran may try that because they’re so weak, they’re at a such a weak point that probably the only thing left for it to do is to start some kind of a war hoping that similar to the Iran-Iraq War fought so many decades ago, that may help for them to stay in power a bit longer. But no, the US has not lost its power of deterrence. Just look at what the US has been able to do in the last two or three years, basically crippling Iran’s economy.
TML: Have President Trump’s sanctions on Iran been effective? And if the regime is weakened, is it to the extent of collapse?
Dr. Foroutan: President Trump’s and United States’ targeted sanctions against the Islamic Republic have been extremely successful. Just look at the GDP. Look at the fact that they really have no more cash left to give to al-Hashd al-Shabi and all these other terrorist groups. US sanctions have worked. What has been very troubling has been the attitude of the European countries. They are the ones that have caused this to actually take longer than needed. The Europeans are the ones that we believe have put their own benefits and their own financial transactions with Iran ahead of the safety of the world and the safety of the Middle East. And, at the end, really the safety of Europe.
TML: Over 10 years ago you told me the regime could be beaten. How can you back up your projections that the regime will fall in less than six months? What is different now?
Dr. Foroutan: The Iranian people inside and the opposition to the Islamic Republic have been working very hard for the last four decades or so. And we have never lost our hope and neither have the people of Iran, that this regime will go and will go soon. However, an event of this magnitude, in other words, a change of regime of a tyrannical and terrorist regime and jihadist regime like the Islamic Republic is not a simple task. Why? Because this regime has the money and basically most of the rulers or some of the rulers believe in the Other World and God and the fact that they will become martyrs if they die. And most importantly, they have no fear and do not hesitate in killing their own people. They jail their own people. They torture their own people. They rape the ladies before executing them and everything that we’ve heard all these 40 years. But the consensus is that the days of this regime are very, very numbered and limited. Unless something very extraordinary happens, the Islamic Republic has no way, no path forward and they cannot walk back things. They’re at the point that they’re losing money and they’re not in a static situation that they can hold on to for another year or two. Every day things get worse for the Islamic Republic of Iran.
TML: How bad is the Iranian infestation of COVID-19? Is it a threat to the regime?
Dr. Foroutan: The situation with coronavirus and the infections and the deaths as a direct result of coronavirus is extremely, extremely bad inside Iran. We knew about it. The opposition knew about it. When you add up all the numbers and what the doctors and the nurses are saying, the total number of people who have caught the disease and total number of deaths in Iran are as a minimum, at least eight times higher than what the government talks about. And some people give that number to be at least 15, maybe 20 times more. So, if the government of Iran has as of a couple of weeks ago said maybe only 9,000 or 10,000 people have died, we know it’s got to be over 150,000 or more.
TML: According to Iran’s leaders, Israel is a “cancerous tumor” that will be destroyed- an assessment that goes virtually unchallenged. Are the ayatollah’s rantings presaging war?
Dr. Foroutan: As far as the rantings of ayatollahs against Israel, against the United States, the Big Satan and so on and the fact that the Islamic Republic wishes to annihilate Israel: this is nothing new. They’ve been saying it for 20, 30, or 40 years. What is important, however, is that Iran has never dared to confront either Israel or the United States directly. Iran fights through their proxies al-Hashd al-Shabi, Hizbullah, and Hamas by giving them millions, if not billions of dollars in the last few decades and weaponry, asking them and wanting them to throw bombs and attack Israel. So, I would say that Islamic Republic [of Iran], unless it’s the last straw and this [is the] last thing they want to do because they have nowhere to go but to start a war, they will not confront Israel and they will not confront the United States. If they do so, they already know what the end will be.
TML: Iranian proxy Hizbullah chief Nasrallah has graciously exempted the people of the United States from annihilation. He said this week that US-based naval vessels are fair game, not the American people. Should we be grateful?
Dr. Foroutan: No, we do not believe that the people of the United States should be grateful to Sheikh Nasrallah, who has so graciously exempted the people of the United States from any attacks [although American] allies and its military installations in the region [remain targets]. We all know that Hizbullah is a terrorist organization. Hizbullah gets all this funding and all this weaponry from Iran. And more importantly, there are all kinds of recent documentations [proving] that one of Iran’s and Hizbullah’s main sources of income is selling drugs and drug trafficking. The drugs that go all over the world and to your people, to Europe and the United States and so on. There’s nothing to be grateful [for].
TML: Syria is not a small country but it’s a crowded one for armies. Who’s “king of the hill” in Syria: Assad, Rouhani, or Putin?
Dr. Foroutan: Well, Syria has been an ally of Russia for a long, long time. And of course, Iran and its leaders Khamenei and Rouhani, have been allies of every terrorist country in the world. So, they have this terrorist club, if you will, or dictatorial countries. You’ve got China and Russia from that side where we have these dictatorial regimes, where the president of China supposedly got elected to be president for life. Mr. Putin keeps changing the laws to be president for 12 years, 18 years. God, at this point I’ve forgotten. It looks like he’ll be a president forever until he’s too old or he passes away and, so therefore, if I had to guess, I would say based on everything that is going on, Russia probably has the upper hand.
TML: Many thanks for joining me at The Media Line.
Dr. Foroutan: Thank you very much for the opportunity. I appreciate your inviting me to have this conversation with you.