Former VP Pence, UK ex-PM Truss back exiled Iran opposition group

Former US vice president Mike Pence and British ex-prime minister Liz Truss on Saturday gave their backing to an exiled Iran opposition movement, slamming Western “appeasement” of Iran’s clerical authorities.

They addressed a meeting outside Paris of the People’s Mujahedin (MEK) group outlawed by Tehran, as thousands of supporters of the group staged a rally in the centre of the French capital that had initially been banned by the police.

The MEK and its political wing the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) are far from having universal support among the Iranian diaspora but are backed by several high-profile former US and European officials.

Pence, vice president under Donald Trump who is now seeking to challenge his former boss for the Republican nomination, told a conference in Auvers-sur-Oise outside Paris that the “Iranian regime has never been weaker than it is today” in the wake of the protest movement that erupted in September.

“This is not just another protest but the beginning of a revolution for freedom,” he said, adding: “One of the biggest lies the ruling regime has sold to the world is that there is no alternative.”

“No oppressive regime can last forever,” said Pence who addressed the meeting in person and last year met the MEK’s leader Maryam Rajavi at its headquarters in Albania.

“We are seeing a rising threat from authoritarian regimes across the world,” said Truss, Britain’s shortest term prime minister, pointing to the China of Xi Jinping and Russia of Vladimir Putin.

“These regimes have been emboldened as the free world has not done enough. I will never give up hope for a free and democratic Iran.”

“Democracy is under threat around the world. Now is the time to turn our backs on accommodation and appeasement,” she said.

Trump’s former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, another prominent supporter of the group, also warned by video link against making any new deal with Tehran on its nuclear drive saying it would be a “calamity for the Iranian people and the world”.

Other prominent MEK supporters present included former Canadian premier Stephen Harper and ex-Belgian prime minister and prominent MEP Guy Verhofstadt.

“Appeasement towards the mullahs’ regime may lead to more bloodshed among our people,” Rajavi told the meeting, while adding it would “be futile in protecting” supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “from his inevitable downfall.”

Paris police had angered the group last week by saying their rally had been banned because of the risk of tensions with other Iranian factions and the danger of an attack.

But the Paris administrative court overturned the ban, which the MEK had said was an example of Western “appeasement” towards Iran.

Thousands gathered in Place Vauban in the centre of Paris for the rally, with supporters coming from all corners of Europe.

“We don’t want the mullahs’ regime or the shah’s regime. The Iranians don’t want to go backwards. We are moving towards democracy,” said supporter Massoumeh Raouf, who said she was a former political prisoner in Iran.

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©️ Agence France-Presse

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