On April 6, China hosted a historic reconciliation meeting in Beijing between the foreign ministers of our primary adversary, Iran, and our supposed keystone ally, Saudi Arabia. This bodes ill for us all.
Iran has taken on the role of the Middle East’s destructive spirit, oppressing its own people while trying to spread bloodshed and tyranny to other nations. Saudi Arabia’s decision to restore relations with Iran and ease its international isolation is a profound mistake. It’s no wonder America’s primary geopolitical adversary, the People’s Republic of China, was so eager to broker the deal.
Iran’s oppression of its own people has been ghastly since 1979 when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew the last Shah and installed a religious theocracy run by radical Islamic clerics. The lash has fallen hardest on women, who have been forced to wear head-to-toe headscarves under strict purity laws, which leave them under the control of their male relatives. Today, Iran’s women are risking execution and rape by government agents as they take to the country’s streets, chanting “Women, Life, Freedom” and “Down with the Dictator.”
Another victim of the Ayatollah’s regime has been Iran’s ancient religious minorities, like the Jewish community, which was largely forced to flee the country after the dictatorship came to power. The Iran regime’s hatred for the Jewish people also extends to the Jewish state, Israel, which has a history of genocidal rhetoric, including from former Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who vowed to wipe off the map, and another, Hashemi Rafsanjani, who threatened Israel with nuclear destruction.
Like any Destructive Spirit, the wicked power of Iran does not remain confined within its own borders. Indeed, it has been spreading across the region. Iran’s subversive influence is rendering Iraq, my home country, a very unpleasant place to live. At the urging of the Ayatollahs, Iraq has enforced a ban on importing, selling and producing alcohol.
And while at least one-in-five Iraqi women have reportedly experienced domestic violence, Iraq has reduced the penalties for men accused of “honor killings” and lacks adequate protection for women murdered by their family members. Now, alarmingly, the Iraqi government is establishing a morality police for social media influencers, with my fellow Iraqi model Asal Hussam arrested last month for “publishing videos against public morals” on social media after she posted a mildly provocative photo of herself wearing a military uniform.
Iran’s malign influence has also led to it being made a capital crime — subject to the death penalty — for any Iraqi to communicate with an Israeli or work toward peace with Israel. In 2017, I represented my country as Miss Iraq at the Miss Universe pageant; my family and I had to flee our homeland after a photo I took with Miss Israel was posted to social media.
Not all Iraqis share Tehran’s genocidal anti-Israel views: Iraq’s Islamic Fatwa Council recently issued a religious edict condemning Hamas’ oppression of Palestinians in Gaza and calling on the terrorist group to make peace with Israel, noting that Hamas was responsible for racketeering, extortion, the use of child soldiers and falsely accusing Palestinians of treason.
In Lebanon, Iran is the longtime sponsor of the Hezbollah terror organization, which holds the state hostage. In Syria, Iran intervened to support the brutal Ba’athist regime of Bashar Assad, who has slaughtered over 300,000 of his own people in the ongoing Syrian Civil War.
In Yemen, Iran has supported an attempted takeover by a like-minded theocracy which has rained down Iranian-supplied missiles on Saudi Arabia and launched drones against the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). In the Palestinian Territories, Iran is the prime sponsor of the theocratic terrorist regimes, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which terrorize the Palestinian people and are an obstacle to peace.
To counter Iran’s ugly plans, a strong alliance will be needed, backed by vigorous American support. Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy, has begun making peace with old foes to gather an opposing coalition through the Abraham Accords, which have led to normalized relations with the U.A.E., Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. Israel had hoped to add peace and friendship with Saudi Arabia, the so-called “Dead of the Century,” but Iranian-Saudi rapprochement renders this less likely.
Instead, the Chinese-brokered truce undermines American prestige in the region, already severely shattered after the Biden administration chose to abandon Afghanistan to the Taliban.
The Biden administration has pursued an Iran policy that makes no sense, waffling between restoring the failed Obama-era deal that would enable Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and a tepid push for “stability” that has driven Saudi Arabia right into China’s arms.
It’s time for America to remember what it is and what all people around the world who love freedom are looking for it to be: the champion of liberty in a hostile world. Like its partners, Russia and China, Iran is attempting to overturn the American-led world order and impose a darker vision on humanity. America must not let that happen.
Sarah Idan is a secular Muslim who represented Iraq in the 2017 Miss Universe pageant. After posting an Instagram photo of herself and Ms. Israel during the pageant, she received a torrent of death threats. She and her family were forced to flee Iraq, and since then has spoken out on Middle East policy.
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