Editor's Note: On Wednesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to deliver a speech before the UN General Assembly amidst the recent ratcheting up of tensions between Iran and Israel. As in prior years, thousands will gather outside the UN to protest Ahmadinejad's speech, calling for the UN to strip Ahmadinejad of Iran's seat in the international body. It may come as a surprise that prominent members of the Iranian-American community, not just pro-Israel activists, will participate in these demonstrations, which will also feature former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.
Allen Tasslimi is President of the Iranian-American Community of New York and New Jersey. He is an investment banker and has been in the United States for many years, after fleeing the repression of the Iranian regime. His younger brother was executed by the Iranian regime in the early 1980s and two of his brothers were in Camp Ashraf, Iraq, home to 3,200 Iranian dissidents, who recently relocated to Camp Liberty, a former base of the US military near Baghdad international airport.
I caught up with Allen to ask him about the protests scheduled to take place on Wednesday, as well as U.S. policy on Iran under the Obama administration. The follow represents the transcript of our interview.
Jake Horowitz (JH): Please describe the nature of your protest on Wednesday? Why are you protesting and what will you call for?
Allen Tasslimi (AT): Thousands of Iranian-Americans form across the US, and Iranian diaspora from around the world, will assemble in New York, in front of the United Nations to protest the presence of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a nefarious individual who we believe, along with millions of Iranians, does not represent the Iranian people. And we are calling on the UN to eject this warmonger and his regime from the United Nations.
We believe in democracy in Iran, not the pursuit of nuclear weapons at the cost of billions of dollars from the pockets of the shackled Iranian people, where for more than three decades they have had to deal with skyrocketing inflation and extremely high rate of unemployment, particularly amongst the more than 50 million Iranian youth under the age of 30, comprising close to 70% of Iran's population.
We seek peace and security in the volatile region of the Middle East, and categorically oppose fascist threats by Ahmadinejad and his boss, Ali Khamenei, the so-called supreme leader, to wipe off the face of the earth any country in the region. We also condemn his recent statement that the State of Israel is “a fake regime” and “will be eliminated.”
Our people at the rally will be crying out for freedom and democracy under the leadership of their organized resistance, and will be drawing the attention of the civilized people everywhere to call for an end to the gross violations of human rights in our country, where women are stoned to death, limbs are amputated, political prisoners are tortured savagely, and the execution of political prisoners by firing squads and hanging is a daily occurrence.
The government of the United States under President Bill Clinton, in order to appease the so-called reformist faction of the mullahs, placed the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in the Foreign Terrorist Organizations in 1997, as if the viper has ever given birth to a dove. And we witnessed that 15 years of placating the mullahs, not only did not to bring about change and reform in Iran, but it also gave birth to an illegitimate child, called Ahmadinejad.
The listing of the PMOI/MEK facilitated the massacre of the members of the PMOI/MEK in Camp Ashraf in Iraq on two infamous occasions of July 2009 and April 2011, where more than 50 residents of the camp were barbarically killed by the Iraqi forces, and more than one thousand were wounded. All in collusion with the terrorist extraterritorial Quds Force of the mullahs of Tehran, and under the pretext that they are in the US FTO list. It also gave the mullahs an excuse to murder political prisoners inside its dungeons.
The PMOI/MEK, following years of legal action, was able to gain an important legal victory, by filing a 'Writ of Mandamus' with the Court of Appeals, DC Circuit, where the Court, in an historic ruling on June 1, 2012 ordered the State Department to either delist the PMOI/MEK, or present evidence as to its culpability. The importance of this ruling is such that in the last 200 years, no such case has come before US courts. The last being 'Marbury vs. Madison.'
And it was only last Thursday that officials of at State Department informed the media that the Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton has made a courageous decision to delist the PMOI/MEK; a decision that above all affords the former residents of Camp Ashraf, now at Camp Liberty (a former US military barrack), to be treated more humanely by the Iraqi government, and be given refugee status by the UNHCR, and subsequently be relocated to third democratic countries.
JH: There are frequently anti-Ahmadinejad protests when he comes to the UN, but they often come from Jewish or pro-Israel groups. Talk about the anti-Ahmadinejad movement within Iran and the Iranian diaspora. How large is it and how much traction do you have?
AT: We have organized anti-Ahmadinejad protests in New York for the past seven years with thousands of people attending the rally. Our protests have only been second in numbers compared to the ones conducted by Jewish organizers. Our protests have been and continue to be by far the largest as compared to other groups. And we just had one of the largest rallies in Paris, where greater than 100,000 Iranians in diaspora attended in support of the main Iranian opposition, the PMOI/MEK and the government-in-exile of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its President-elect, Maryam Rajavi.
JH: What do you make of the recent escalation of tension and rhetoric between Israel and Iran? Is there something different this time? Could things escalate?
AT: The recent escalation of tensions and rhetoric is simply a continuation of the warmongering policies of the Iranian regime in the course of more than three decades to mask the domestic economic and political problems the mullahs are confronted with, and the fissures within the different factions of the barbaric mullahs.
However, with the stringent sanctions regime imposed on July 1, 2012 by the European Union, and on August 3, 2012, by the US against the export of Iranian crude oil and its financial institutions, particularly cutting it from the world electronic financial system, we may be at the tipping point of internal collapse, as the contradictions and infighting amongst the different factions of the Iranian regime becomes more pronounced by the day.
And as a result, we feel that the Third Option at this juncture is perhaps much closer to manifesting itself than ever before. That is, no military force, no reform possible from within the current regime, moral support for the legitimate rights of the Iranian people seeking democratic change led by their organized resistance, can be considered the only option.
JH: From your perspective, evaluate President Obama's policy toward Iran and what impact would Mitt Romney have on U.S. - Iranian relations?
AT: We further believe that the current administration has gained nothing by prolonging its policy of dialogue and appeasement for the past few years, and as such, once that is recognized, the US must steer away from placating the mullahs and abandon its policy of continuing wasteful meeting after meeting with Iranian regime.
Additionally, we believe that Governor Mitt Romney has recognized this reality and his espoused positions are much more realistic than those pursued by the administration of President Obama.