In a recent interview for the Arab News program, ‘Frankly Speaking,’ the UK representative for the NCRI – an Iranian opposition group – claimed the only way to curb a growing Iranian threat was to block the regime from its financial streams.
Violence in Iran is growing rapidly by the day. Since 22 year old, Mahsa Amini, died after an encounter with Iran’s ‘morality police’, deadly protests have erupted throughout the country in what some consider the beginning of a new revolution.
The Iranian people have become disenchanted with the draconian regime – calling for freedom, democracy, and economic overhauls which have been denied to them for decades. It is not difficult to understand their concerns. For example, although Iran could potentially be one of the world’s richest countries, due to its vast oil and gas reserves, approximately 60% of its people live below the poverty line.
In a recent interview with Arab News, Dowlat Nowrouzi said, “[Iran are] exporters of terrorism (and) they’re acquiring nuclear weapons, all of it by stealing the money and the national revenue of the Iranian people’s oil and gas, which are being spent by the mullahs on destruction rather than construction.” Nowrouzi notes the 2018 incident when police foiled an Iranian diplomat’s plan to target a NCRI rally in Paris as evidence of the Iranian regime’s continued influence outside their borders.
However, these exporters of terrorism have only picked up speed in recent months. And against the backdrop of historic civil unrest, Iran continues to supply Russia with ‘kamikazee drones’ which have not only destroyed Ukrainian cities and killed civilians, but could also be in clear breach of the 2015 nuclear deal. And although this has unleashed a potential slew of new sanctions against Iran, the world must do more to curb Iran. Efforts to curb Iran's proclivity for violence and tyranny will be strengthened through economic strategy.
It must be noted that Commonwealth countries provide a tried and tested model for divesting in Iran. Before the 2018 Paris plot, Iran’s top trading partner was India. Since then, China has overtaken the Commonwealth country to become Iran’s top trading partner, responsible for over 50% of Iran’s exports. However, cutting back on trade reliance with Iran must be a global effort.
The Russia war has fundamentally changed the energy markets forever. These changes have shocked the Commonwealth and beyond – instigating an unparalleled energy crisis. This has shifted the markets in an unprecedented fashion, with Western countries hunting for reliable energy resources; a reality that Iran was already reported to be capitalizing on.
Oil is the lifeline of the regime’s power, and any pivot away from Russian reliance toward Iranian trade deals would only fuel the risk of global destruction.
Tensions between the Iranian regime and the West have been escalating. For example, Iran has been quick to blame the West for its internal strife, dubbing America the ‘Great Satan’ and the catalyst of the country’s unrest.
The time for bold leadership across members of the Commonwealth of Nations needs to be assumed with a sense of urgency, as they stand up to Iran in the same way they have confronted Russian tyranny. We must learn from Boris Johnson’s insightful visit to Kiev where he was filmed walking the streets, and listen to the Kenyan ambassador who dubbed Russia’s war in Ukraine as another form of colonialism at the United Nations General Assembly.
If Commonwealth States would summon such strength in the face of a growing Iranian threat, now is the time to act.
About the author:
Lennox Kalifungwa is a political and cultural affairs writer based in his native Zambia, where he is involved in a number of Christian-faith based initiatives.