Those who think that the nuclear agreement with Iran’s supreme leader will blunt Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s equating religion with fanaticism and terrorism must have missed the Ayatollah’s latest tweet.
Tweeting from Tehran this week, the Ayatollah once again called for the destruction of Israel, declaring that “God willing, there will be no such thing as a Zionist regime in 25 years. Until then, struggling heroic and jihadi morale will leave no moment for serenity for Zionists.”
As for nuclear diplomacy leading to improved relations with the United States, there was no sign of the Ayatollah changing his anti-American spots: “Some people insist on disguising this Great Satan as the savior angel. [However] the Iranian nation expelled this Satan; we must not allow that when we expelled it though the door, it could return and gain influence through the window.”
Coming as it did a day after the Ayatollah’s tweet, Sen. Orrin Hatch’s Iran speech — delivered on the Senate floor on Thursday, Sept. 10 — was an expression of American statesmanship at its best. It should leave every Utahn — indeed, every American — proud. Hatch clarified what is really at stake in this debate and turned the widespread bipartisan opposition to the president’s deal into a call for greater action.
Building on the Utah legislature’s unanimous 2011 resolution that declares “the people of Utah stand with the Iranian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and peace” and denounces Iran’s supreme leader for “equating the fundamentals of religion with fraud, force, terrorism and tyranny,” Hatch refuted Khamenei’s depiction of America as a “Great Satan” and Americans and Israelis as warmongers who want to bomb Iran.
Hatch began his service in the Senate in 1977 when Iran was a staunch ally of the United States. His experience gives him a deeper perspective on the Iranian people. He lends the gravity and dignity of four decades of service to a debate that promises “to shape the course of our future.”
“Neither I nor any of my colleagues seek a war with Iran,” Hatch said. “The Iranian people are not our enemies. They are our friends. No people have paid a higher price for the regime’s record of terrorism, mass murder, corruption and duplicity. The prospect of inflicting collateral damage on our long-suffering friends counsels further against any course of action that leads to war.”
Hatch was also quick to point out that America’s quarrel is not with the Iranian people — or for that matter with Islam — but with the Ayatollah’s “dictatorial and fanatical regime,” a sentiment echoed by virtually every other senator, Republican and Democrat, and most poignantly captured by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
“The biggest moment for change in Iran came in 2009 when young people and women took to the streets demanding a fair election that was stolen from them by the Ayatollah and his response was to beat them, shoot them, put them in jail and torture them," said Graham, adding "if they will shoot their own children down in the streets to keep power, what do you think they'll do to ours?”
Lest the warnings against the Ayatollah’s tweets and deeds be dismissed as grandstanding, the Boroumand Foundation, an Iranian human rights group, has established a cyber memorial listing the names of over 17,820 Iranians murdered by the Islamic Republic since its establishment in 1979. The actual numbers are much higher.
Recognizing the gravity of the historical moment, Hatch reminded all of us that real people’s lives hang in the balance: “Those of our friends and neighbors, those of our fellow countrymen, those of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, and even those in faraway and distant places that look to America as a guardian of freedom and peace, what Abraham Lincoln called ‘the last, best hope of Earth.’”
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Hatch’s willingness to challenge a theocracy founded on fear, fraud and force is a reminder of the enduring strength of American democracy. Despite the setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, America remains a spring of hope for our allies in the region, and for millions of Iranians who not only seek relief from sanctions and war, but from their source: an Ayatollah whose hateful tweets and deeds pose a threat to the Iranian people’s freedom, faith and future.
Khosrow Semnani is an Iranian-American industrialist and philanthropist. He is the author of the “Ayatollah’s Nuclear Gamble: Humanitarian Consequences of Military Strikes on Iran.”