Wednesday, November 25, 2009

U.S. Acting in Iran’s Interest, Opposition Leader Says

Kenneth R. Timmerman Article Font Size

The leader of the outlawed Free Life Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PJAK) has accused the Obama administration of thwarting negotiations among Iranian pro-democracy groups that were on the verge of creating a united opposition front that could have led to the collapse of the Islamic regime during this summer’s post-election turmoil. That leader, Rahman Haj Ahmadi, contends that Iran was able to suppress the pro-democracy movement well before this summer’s protests because they lacked a united leadership and a strategic nerve center.

In an exclusive interview, Ahmadi told Newsmax that the decision by the Treasury Department to designate his party as an international terrorist organization on Feb. 4, 2009 "directly benefited the Iranian regime."

Efforts by PJAK and others to forge a common front with a wide variety of Iranian pro-democracy groups over the past year came to an abrupt halt as a result of the U.S. action in February. “We were very close to success in bringing these groups together,” Ahmadi said. But the Treasury action “made the other groups afraid to work with us, for fear of U.S. government reprisals.”

The Treasury Department explained its actions by labeling PJAK “a splinter group” of the PKK, a Kurdish organization that has been fighting for Kurdish rights in Turkey for the past 25 years. Tens of thousands have died on both sides over that time.

Both the Iranian and the Turkish governments welcomed the Treasury order to freeze PJAK assets in the United States. The Treasury Department order also prohibits U.S. persons from conducting any financial transactions with the group. But lawyers for PJAK say that the Treasury Department violated U.S. law by making the designation without any prior consultation with PJAK or allowing the group to counter the allegations against it.

The Obama administration failed to take into consideration a recent German court decision that rejected a similar effort by the German government to designate PJAK as a terrorist organization.

The German court “found no factual basis for this terrorism determination,” PJAK counsel Morton Sklar wrote to theTreasury in March.

Sklar is a well-known human rights lawyer who chaired the Helsinki Watch Committee in the late 1970s to monitor human rights abuses behind the Iron Curtain, at a time when most human rights organizations were turning a blind eye to Soviet abuses.

In his interview with Newsmax, Ahmadi extended a hand to other Iranian opposition groups to coordinate their efforts against the Iranian regime.

“We as Kurds cannot overthrow the regime by ourselves. Neither can the Persians, or the Azeris, or the Balouch. If we want to get rid of this regime, we must work together. We must unite. The only reason this regime has stayed in power for 30 years is that they have managed to sow hatred among Iran’s minorities and false rivalries among Iranian political parties. It is time for that to end.”

PJAK operates several camps in the Qandil mountains of northern Iraq, where it also trains activists as “self-defense” fighters. Newsmax visited the PJAK camps in October 2007 and found no evidence of a PKK presence.

Ahmadi referred to the camps as “our university,” because of the intense political, social, and economic classes PJAK activists take in addition to receiving rudimentary military training. For more, read “Kurdish Rebels: ‘We’re Not Terrorists.'”

PJAK activists insist that what differentiates them from other Kurdish groups that are based on tribal loyalties is their dedication to “changing the feudal and tribal culture” of Iranian Kurdistan.

PJAK activists played key roles in the post-election protests this summer, organizing demonstrations at Tehran University and at other universities across the country.

“We lost a lot of our people” when the regime cracked down, Ahmadi said. The Kurdish leader said that his group will continue to defend Kurdish rights in Iran and to work with other groups to promote a secular Iranian republic no matter what the Obama administration does.

“We have many common interests with the United States,” he said. “First and foremost is our stance against political Islam. Americans need to understand that Iranian nuclear weapons are not as dangerous as political Islam. This is the No. 1 danger, not just for the region, or the United States, but for the whole world.”

Ahmadi said that there was no evidence "that PJAK ever committed a single terrorist act anywhere . . . It does not exist."

Instead of designating PJAK as a terrorist group, the Iranian opposition leader said the U.S. should be concerned about the growing strategic alliance among Iran, Turkey, and Syria. “If the Iran-Turkey-Syria alliance continues, U.S. policies will fail in the region,” he warned.

Lots of governments in the region work with the United States. But in most cases, the people in those countries oppose their governments and oppose the United States, Ahmadi argued. “If the U.S. were to follow a democratization policy in the region, we could be the closest and most valuable friend of the United States. The only people in the region that is a friend to the U.S. is the Kurdish people.”

© 2009 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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