Utah business leader writes that Iranian people must forge a path to a constitutional democracy

Note: Khosrow B. Semnani and Amir Soltani recently published an op-ed about Iran in The Washington Times. An excerpt and a link to the full article are below. Semnani, a long-time Utahn, is an Iranian-American industrialist, community leader and philanthropist. Amir Soltani, a human rights activist, is the author of “Zahra’s Paradise,” an award-winning graphic novel on Iran’s 2009 protests.

Change in Iran cannot come from the outside. But it is coming from the inside.

From the hostage crisis to the nuclear crisis today, Iran’s revolutionary clerics have used foreign policy — enmity with the United States and hatred toward Israel — as the key to survival at home. The price of their foreign policy — the tab for fundamentalism, tyranny, corruption and terrorism — has stunted Iran’s growth, decimated its economy and shattered Iran’s security. 

That formula has ceased to work.

After 40 years of anti-Americanism, Iran’s revolutionary clerics — boosted by their apologists from liberals like Jimmy Carter to socialists like Bernie Sanders — can no longer scapegoat the late shah of Iran, let alone fool the Iranian people with a “Blame America First” strategy. The nuclear crisis is a symptom of a theocracy in meltdown. The cause of the crisis is the theocracy’s democracy deficit wherein a kleptocracy plunders Iran’s resources behind the veil of religion.  

Today, the need for structural change in Iran is not a matter of theory, but a practical imperative — a matter of national survival and, one might add, the key to reframing American foreign policy in the region.

The rift between state, religion and society has never been greater. The schisms within Iran’s religious establishment and the factional divisions among Iran’s political oligarchs have exposed a massive crisis of legitimacy. The promise of reform from within has collapsed. Parliamentary and presidential elections are rigged to silence the people and snuff out the truth. The system deflects blame for its defects on others and does so in the face of compounding political, military and economic crises. Look no further than the lies surrounding Iran’s recent downing of a Ukrainian airliner.  

The human toll of the regime’s ideology and policies inside Iran is unfathomable — oil exports are almost zero. The economy, already decimated under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is contracting at a 9.5 percent annual rate, according to the IMF. Iran’s Statistical Center has predicted a 50 percent rise in prices in 2019 compared to the previous year. Prices for daily consumer items have risen over 80 percent. In a country where the monthly minimum wage is $110, workers at factories across Iran are cheated out of their salary and then brutalized for revolting against injustice. Forty percent of university graduates are unemployed. Addiction, depression, divorce and suicide are fraying Iran’s social fabric as never before. To divine the Islamic Republic’s future, look no further than the ayatollah’s shoot-to-kill policy — a response to nationwide protests against a three-fold spike in gasoline prices last November. 

Like Venezuela, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a failed state.

Read the full article here.