Former Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, addressed the first day of The Free Iran World Summit on July 1, 2023.
Stephen Harper: Iran’s Regime Must Face Determination and Strength
The full text of Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s remarks, is as follows:
President Rajavi, distinguished guests from around the world, ladies and gentlemen, and friends. Isn’t it great to be here in person and to know that this time the threats from the terrorist government in Tehran have not been able to shut down Free Iran 2023?
Friends, today I want to share with you three messages. The first message is this: the people of Iran continue to show that they wish to live in a free and democratic nation. They have shown this once again in the most recent wave of protests beginning this past September and continuing to this day. Despite the brutality of the regime, the deaths of hundreds, and the imprisonment of thousands, the people of Iran have yet again taken to the streets to demand an end to the theocratic dictatorship. And they are so determined to make the point that they oppose the Ayatollah’s rule, that they took the ancestral home of the founder of the regime, Ayatollah Khomeini, and they set it on fire. That’s how determined they are.
Friends, this latest round of protest has been led by the women of Iran. But to be clear, these protests are much more than a feminist movement against the hijab. They are rooted in over 40 years of organized resistance with women like Maryam Rajavi playing a leading role. Because the women of Iran have long understood that their rights and their equality and even their personhood can only be realized with the overthrow of the regime and its primitive ideology.
And another important point, these protests are looking forward, not back. They want an end to the theocratic dictatorship of Khamenei and Raisi, but they are not calling in any way for the restoration of the monarchical dictatorship of the Shah. As I said, the Iranian people demand a free, constitutional, and democratic state. That’s my first message.
The second one, friends, is this. Change is within reach. Do not believe the propaganda that the regime is well-entrenched. Unfortunately, this line does not come solely from the regime, but also frequently from so-called policy experts in the West. And let me take a moment to talk about that. I’m sure that Vice President Pence and many others here who have had some of the same experiences in high office that I’ve had in a Western country can tell you what I’m about to tell you. You know, you will meet these analysts who are well-read in some area of foreign policy. But because of flawed intellectual frameworks, they consistently misjudge what will happen in foreign affairs. One of those consistent misjudgments is to vastly overestimate the strength of regimes that govern solely by brute force and to vastly underestimate and be constantly surprised by the inevitable fragility of such regimes.
We saw that again just one week ago with the sudden and brief military rebellion in Russia after being told for a year and a half that President Putin had zero discontent in such circles. In fact, Western governments are making the same mistake today with Iran that they made in the 1970s. Back then, our governments assured us that the Shah’s regime was all-powerful and fully in control. Let me give you a couple of examples.
At a state dinner in 1977, U.S. President Jimmy Carter described Iran under the Shah, and I quote, as an island of stability in the troubled region. A year later, even the CIA reported that, and I quote, “Iran is not in a revolutionary or even a pre-revolutionary situation”. Five months after that, the Shah regime had vanished with barely a trace.
And friends, the Mullah’s regime is much more vulnerable than the Shah’s. It is more brutal, it is more dysfunctional, and it is deeply rotten from within. Corruption is raging throughout the system to the highest levels. Poverty is on the increase. According to state media in Iran, inflation is expected to soon hit 100%. In short, Iran is in an explosive situation. It is exactly like a powder keg that could explode any day by any trigger. Remember, remember once again that not one so-called Western expert predicted that the death of one young woman, Mahsa Amani, would lead to sustained nationwide protests.
My third message, my friends, is always to remember that there is a viable alternative to the regime. Never believe the propaganda from the regime, again, far too often repeated in our Western nations, that the only alternative to the regime is chaos. To them, I ask, how could a change in the status quo in Iran really be worse? How could something be worse than a theocratic regime with an apocalyptic ideology, relentlessly pursuing nuclear weapons, and openly listing the nations it wishes to wipe off the face of the earth? We could get worse than that, really? How could it be worse than a regime that at great expense of the suffering of its own people, funds terrorism and war from Syria to Lebanon to Yemen and Iraq to Ukraine and beyond? We could get worse than that, really?
Friends, the only realistic policy in dealing with this regime is not fear and weakness, it is determination and strength. It is not to soften sanctions, it is to toughen them. It is not to accept human rights violations, it is to condemn them. It is not to excuse the regime’s institutions, it is to list them as agents of terror. It is not to get another pathetically ineffective nuclear deal, it is to make the regime understand that its nuclear ambitions will never be tolerated.
And friends, it is not to strengthen relations with this vile regime, it is to do what my government did in Canada: close down the regime’s embassies around the world.
Friends, as I have told you before, I’m not here to tell the Iranian people who their government should be. That is for them to decide in open and free elections. But there are alternatives. I am a signatory, also a signatory, to that open letter supported by over 100 former presidents, prime ministers, and leaders from around the world that offers comprehensive policy recommendations to all governments on the matter of Iran. It highlights the missing link of Western policy toward Iran. That is the failure to reach out to organized Iranian Resistance and to support viable alternatives to the regime.
It is time to end the decades of silence and inaction by the international community that has helped fuel a culture of violence and impunity among the mullahs and their henchmen. It is time to hold the leadership of the Islamic Republic accountable for its crimes. It is time to stand in solidarity with the people of Iran in their desire for a free, secular, and democratic state.
Friends, that is the future that you, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, have consistently and tirelessly advocated. A commitment to free elections, freedom of assembly and expression, pluralism and the rule of law, human rights and gender equality, the separation of religion and state, and the autonomy of Iran’s ethnic minorities and of course, a non-nuclear state at peace with the world. That is your vision and it is worth fighting for. It is the vision of the vast majority of the Iranian people. They understand that the regime represents a perversion of Iran’s great historical Islamic and Persian traditions.
As you continue your fight for that alternative vision, please know that millions around the world stand with you in wanting to see that better future for Iran, its neighbors, and the world.
Thank you once again for having me.