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'Very close to winning': Bolton says Iranian freedom protesters set to 'bring the ayatollahs down'

Former National Security Advisor spoke at bipartisan Senate event in support of struggle against Iran's ruling theocracy, as Amnesty International released a new report detailing regime's violent treatment of child detainees.

Published: March 16, 2023 10:08pm

Updated: March 18, 2023 11:18pm

Opposition protesters in Iran are "very close to winning,"​​ former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton said​​​​​ Thursday at a Senate briefing in solidarity with the struggle against Iran's ruling theocracy, as Amnesty International released a new report detailing the regime's violent treatment of child detainees.

"Marking six months of the unprecedented popular uprising in Iran, sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, Amnesty International reveals the violence meted out to children arrested during and in the aftermath of protests," the human rights nonprofit announced in a press release. "The research exposes the torture methods that the Revolutionary Guards, the paramilitary Basij, the Public Security Police and other security and intelligence forces used against boys and girls in custody to punish and humiliate them and to extract forced 'confessions.'"

The regime is cracking down on protesters with violence because "once people are allowed to think for themselves, there's no way the regime can survive," said Bolton at the bipartisan Senate event in support of a democratic Iran held by the Organization of Iranian American Communities.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said the Senate is often divided along party lines, but "what is inspiring to me is to see bipartisan support for the people of Iran and their cause for a nation that is free and democratic."

Booker, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, vowed to continue to support the Iranian people "who are standing and struggling to overthrow authoritarianism and to achieve freedom and democracy."

Freedom protesters in Iran have "defied state sanctioned violence and decades of injustices in order to make their voices heard, and recent events have underscored what's at stake," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

Shaheen, also a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, called for passage of a bipartisan resolution that formally shows support for the anti-regime protesters in Iran.

"The global community must not take its eyes off Iran, and we must continue to pressure the regime to end its brutal and systemic oppression of its population, especially the women and girls who are standing at the forefront of this movement," Shaheen said when the resolution was reintroduced in late January.

"This is a very dangerous time inside Iran, but it's a time where we need courage from the people there," said Bolton. "And they need to hear time and again how much the international awareness of their efforts has penetrated and how strongly particularly the United States feels about this.

"We cannot underestimate the effect that we've seen of the pictures from inside Iran of women leading these demonstrations against the brutality of the ayatollahs. And one reason that I think this time the opposition has crossed far beyond any achievements that they have had before, one reason that this time I think we're going to be increasingly close to success is that every general in the Revolutionary Guards, every general in the regular military, every one of them has a mother, they have sisters, they have wives, they have daughters."

Dismissing hopes of a negotiated halt to the Iranian regime's nuclear weapons program as an "illusion," Bolton expressed optimism that the popular movement for democratic change inside Iran will succeed where international diplomacy had failed.

"Tens of thousands have been arrested, hundreds have been killed, but they're still out there doing it," he said. "And it's that force of opinion that will bring the ayatollahs down and give us the regime change we need."

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