The First Statement of National Iranian Congress-Interim Committee
Comprehensive Oil Sanctions on Iran: The Beginning of the End for the Islamic Republic and a Guarantee of a Freely-Elected New Democracy for the Freedom Fighters in Iran.
After many years of relentless efforts by a large group of Iranian freedom fighters inside Iran and abroad, the founding members of the National Iranian Congress (NIC) officially began their work on March 21, 2014, to provide a foundation for various opposition groups to unify and convene their inaugural session. The NIC will strive to echo the voice of millions of Iranian freedom fighters. To this end, we shall draw on successful liberation movement experiences across the world so that our people can oust the current repressive theocratic dictatorship in the most efficient, least costly and peaceful manner. In particular, we shall use the lessons learned from the liberation movement in South Africa and the key role of the African National Congress in bringing about the end of apartheid rule, which bears many essential resemblances to the Islamic Republic regime in Iran.
We are convinced that, under the present circumstances, comprehensive international sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors offer the only means for cutting the lifeline of a ruthless regime that not only has committed reprehensible crimes against Iran and the Iranian people, but also has repeatedly threatened world peace wherever it could in the past three decades. We call for stringent international sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors much like the sanctions that brought the apartheid regime in South Africa to its knees after forty years of defiance against the world community, that led to the freedom of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, and, ultimately to a regime change in South Africa. The behavior of the Islamic Republic is a direct result of its access to billions of petrodollars and that behavior is rapidly moving Iran to the verge of a destructive war in the Middle East. The founding members of The National Iranian Congress view crippling sanctions that block the access of this regime to Iran’s national assets as the only measures to prevent such a war. After the replacement of this incompetent and brutal regime with one that the Iranian people deserve, Iran’s plentiful natural resources can be used to develop and modernize our country, and provide the basis for forging constructive, friendly and peaceful relations with the community of nations.
The unilateral U.S. oil embargo that was imposed in June 2012 and the European oil embargo that followed a week later, were undoubtedly the toughest measures adopted by the international community to stop this illegitimate regime in Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. While Iran’s oil revenues have dropped by almost half as a result, the Islamic Republic continues to have access to billions of dollars of our national assets. On July 31, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly (400 to 20) to pass a sanctions bill that would basically block Iran from selling any oil abroad. The U.S. Senate has yet to vote on this sanctions package. The letter sent to President Obama on March 18, 2014 by 83 Senators promising to pursue dramatic sanctions on Iran together with the overwhelming support of nearly 400 House Members was a valuable step to demonstrate the unequivocal support of both Democrats and Republicans for a comprehensive oil embargo on the Islamic Republic. In its first official statement, the founding members’ council of the National Iranian Congress announces its support for these efforts and urges Western governments to reject under any circumstances an extension of the current negotiations beyond the July 20 deadline. Why? Because we know from many years of experience in dealing with the Tehran regime that the leaders of the Islamic Republic are only stalling for time to complete their dangerous nuclear program by engaging in purposefully futile negotiations.
The Islamic Republic regime and its sympathizers and apologists in the United State and in Europe have tried to convey the false message that oil sanctions are harming ordinary Iranians and not the government. The thirty-year history of the Islamic Republic has shown that the unprecedented rise in the price of oil has never benefited ordinary Iranians, but has filled the pockets of their rulers with petrodollars so that they can intensify their oppression on the Iranian people. In November 1998, oil prices bottomed at $9 per barrel. Ten years later, in July 2008, oil prices peaked at $127 per barrel. Oil prices went up fourteen-fold; Iran’s oil revenues rose fourteen-fold. But this huge increase in revenue was not used to alleviate public hardship. In fact, the financial woes of ordinary Iranian people only deepened during this period.
This point was reiterated by the current regime’s vice-president who has admitted that even at $140, the price of oil has not made any difference in people’s lives. Based on the regime’s own data, less than 20% of Iran’s national revenue is generated by domestic production and over 80% of the government’s annual budget is directly tied to oil and gas revenues. Prior to the imposition of oil sanctions, the Islamic Republic enjoyed hefty oil revenues and, according to OPEC, $115 billion was added to the coffers of the regime in 2011 alone. The Tehran regime has used these massive revenues to further its principal policies in the past three decades in five specific ways, as follows:
1. Paying salaries and benefits to members of the Revolutionary Guards and Basij in return for their absolute loyalty to the Supreme Leader and for crushing any kind of civilian protest.
2. Continuing and accelerating its dangerous nuclear program despite its huge financial burden on the country and political cost internationally.
3. Buying friends in the international arena through low cost loans, grants, foreign aid and military aid.
4. Relentlessly supporting terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
5. Amassing fantastic wealth for the leaders of the regime through bribery, embezzlement and corruption on a massive scale.
One glaring example of how oil revenues are officially spent was inadvertently revealed in an open session of the Islamic Republic’s so-called parliament. On November 29, 2011, sixty members proposed an urgent bill which was passed by a 110 to 9 vote. This bill allowed for 1/2% of all oil and gas revenues to be directly deposited into the Basij (regime’s militia) bank accounts without ever entering the national treasury. Given that the Basij has already been allocated about $500 million of the national budget and has access to other financial resources, a proposal for an increase in the annual budget of the Basij whose sole responsibility is crushing popular unrest and protecting the Supreme Leader is noteworthy. The architect of this bill declared in the parliamentary session that if we say we must defend the leadership and we believe that the Basij plays the role of the Zolfaghar (Imam Ali’s sword with which he beheaded the infidels), we need to polish this sword. What he meant was that petrodollars must be used to polish the leadership’s sword, which is the Basij, so that it can come down upon those who oppose him. Oil revenues also financed the exorbitant salaries paid daily to the Basij and funded costly anti-riot equipment from China and Russia during the 2009 Green Movement protests and the salaries of the members of the Revolutionary Guards, which are often three times the salary of ordinary government employees.
What is certain is that comprehensive sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector and Central Bank has the effect of cutting the Islamic Republic’s main artery. The leaders of the Islamic Republic, bewildered and stunned, as if pressing hard on the severed artery to lessen the hemorrhage, are continuing desperately to prolong the nuclear negotiations. Thus, the fate of this regime is unclear. Financial and psychological pressure is mounting on ordinary citizens and has increased the potential for social upheaval. This time, in the absence of windfall oil revenues, it will be impossible for the regime to control and crush the voice of the peaceful protesters. In this historic moment of opportunity, the founding members of the National Iranian Congress declare their clear and unequivocal support for comprehensive oil sanctions against the Iranian regime and their readiness to work tirelessly with the international community to bring the reign of the mullahs to an end. The Iranian regime has imposed its revolutionary-Islamic ideology on the people of Iran and the world for three long decades. It is time replace it with a democratic, free and secular government that the Iranian people deserve. 05 May 2014