For nearly two decades, during up-and-down negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, the United States has made sure other countries were at the table. On Tuesday, when the U.S. and Iran again resume talks – this time indirectly in Vienna – Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia will be there. While these partners will not be enforcers of a new deal, they all have a vested interest in seeing compliance with nuclear restrictions. From the U.S. perspective, they also serve as witnesses to any Iranian evasions and deceptions – the kind that long hid the country’s covert nuclear activities.
The U.S. is hardly alone in trying to turn the light of truth on the false claims that prop up the Iranian regime. Mass protests in Iran, such as those in 2019 that ended only after mass killings by security forces, have exposed the unpopularity of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. They also revealed the fiction of prosperity. ““People beg for a living while the supreme leader lives like a god-king,” was one popular protest chant.
Iran’s credibility also suffers in nearby countries that it tries to control. The grand ayatollah in Iraq, Ali al-Sistani, repeatedly refutes the Islamic justification used by Iran for Muslim clerics to rule the country. In recent elections, Iraq voters preferred parties that oppose Iran’s covert influence. Protests in both Lebanon and Iraq have challenged the myth of Arab Shiite solidarity with Iran’s Persian Shiites. Lebanese Shiites have bravely protested against Hezbollah, Iran’s Shiite proxy in the country, exposing the group’s hypocrisy over its claim of supporting democracy.
Iran’s leaders may now feel cornered by so many players pointing out the illusions they perpetuate. But facts are stubborn things. One possible sign that Iran might be getting the message was its admission last year that it had shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet – after denying it for three days. Protesters in Iran had demanded the truth.
If enough people “live in truth,” as the late Czech dissident Václav Havel said, it can force dictators to see the emptiness of their lies.
Many people in Iran and the region have removed the mask that Iran has imposed on them. Some of the most prominent are defectors from Iran. The best example is Kimia Alizadeh, the country’s first female Olympic medalist. She won taekwondo bronze at the 2016 Olympics. She defected last year, saying she did not want to remain complicit with the regime’s hypocrisy and lies. “Every sentence they ordered, I repeated,” she admitted.
Her choice of country to live? Germany, one of the major powers that will be present at the talks in Vienna on Tuesday, helping to make sure truth prevails.