Hamid Yazdan Panah is an attorney focused on asylum and immigration in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also a human rights activist focused on the Middle East and Iran.
On Tuesday, February 24th, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), revealed crucial new information on Iran’s nuclear program by exposing the details of a site in Tehran known as “Lavizan-3”.
The NCRI was originally credited for revealing Iran’s secret nuclear program to the international community in 2002. This latest revelation not only provides a new perspective in regards to the nuclear negotiations, but also underscores the crucial role played by Iran’s opposition in the nuclear talks.
These recent revelations by the NCRI underscore two key points that seem to have been forgotten in these recent nuclear talks. The first is that the Iranian regime has a proven track record of dishonesty and duplicity in regards to their nuclear program. Their track record over the last decade has demonstrated this, and this latest revelation is just one more example of the lengths they will go to in order to obtain nuclear weapons.
The second point is that the Iranian opposition continues to be a player in this nuclear game, even if the West and the Iranian regime have tried to marginalize them. The Iranian opposition, much like the indigenous people of Iran, is being ignored by policy makers, despite their vested interest in this issue. The fact that the NCRI was able to obtain such intimate secrets from within the regime not only shows the extent of their influence in Iran, but also their legitimacy as Iran’s most powerful and legitimate opposition movement.
To illustrate the importance and legitimacy of the NCRI’s revelations, one need only look at the regime’s response, and their desperate attempts to discredit the organization. Immediately after the revelation numerous articles from various outlets were published which attempted to demonize the NCRI, and cast them as a marginal group. In point of fact these articles illustrate that the opposite is true. If they were in fact a marginal group, there would be no need to spend so much time convincing people that they were not important.
The United States and the international community can no longer attempt to ignore the role that the Iranian opposition movement has in respect to Iran. Wherever the issue of Iran is on the table, whether it is in the nuclear talks, in the fight against ISIS, or human rights in Iran, the NCRI must be recognized as a stakeholder and as a voice of the Iranian opposition.
The United States should put an end to a negotiation strategy which focuses on the short term political gains in talks with Iran, at the expense of long term uncertainty. This includes the risk of Iran continuing its clandestine nuclear program through various means. The United States should also recognize the Iranian opposition as the legitimate voice of the Iranian people, and recognize their role in these nuclear talks.