Iranian dissident group gets extraordinary official embrace from Italy

MEK leader addresses Italian parliament committee, a move that could further strain relations between Rome and Tehran.

Published: July 12, 2023 11:56pm

Updated: July 12, 2023 11:57pm

Italy is giving its strongest support yet to the the National Council of Resistance of Iran dissident group in a move likely to erode already-troubled relations between the founding member of the European Union and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Maryam Rajavi, the NCRI leader, on Wednesday addressed a closed-door session of the Italian Foreign Affairs Committee before addressing around 250 legislators, journalists, and members of the Iranian diaspora in Italy in a parliamentary meeting room.

The main event of the day was a formal endorsement of Rajavi’s 10-point plan for Iran after the rule of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The plan includes an ambitious outline for the creation of a modern, non-nuclear Iran with a non-clerical government and guarantees for human rights for women, non-Muslims, and other minorities.  

With Italy’s support, NCRI now says the blueprint has the support of more than 3,600 lawmakers from some 40 countries around the world, including several members of the U.S. Congress and some state legislatures.

In her remarks, Rajavi thanked Italian lawmakers for their support and called for greater efforts to help topple the Khameneii government in Iran, including confronting its crackdowns on resistance groups like the NCRI.

“One of the most significant forms of support and concession western governments have provided to the Iranian regime over the past four decades has been exerting pressure and imposing restrictions on Iranian resistance,” Rajavi said. “This element lies at the core of the appeasement policy and has contributed most to prolonging the rule of the mullahs.”

Joining Rajavi in the public event were leading current and former members of the Italian legislature including Carlo Cottarelli, an economist and former senator who five years ago was briefly asked to become Italy’s prime minister (he was unable to form a government). John Bercow, a former speaker of the U.K. House of Commons who specifically came to Rome for the event, gave rousing remarks supporting Rajavi and the NCRI.  

Wednesday’s event is sure to deal a blow to already-strained relations between Italy and Iran. The Iranian Embassy in Rome did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Just the News, but the Iranian government’s opposition to NCRI is well documented.  

In the latest move in that area, Iran’s Mehr News Agency reported this month that the Khamenei government called for Albania to kick the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, or MEK, out of the country, which is where it has its main base. MEK is the militant wing of the NCRI.  

Italy has a long and traditionally strong relationship with Iran that has weathered many storms. The Italian-Iranian Chamber of Commerce, or the CCII, was founded 25 years ago, and as recently as 2019, the countries celebrated “six decades of cultural collaboration” with a high-profile workshop at Iran’s National Museum in Tehran.  

But while trade ties are still growing -- the CCII reported the value of trade between the nations grew by nearly a quarter over the year ending in the first quarter of 2023 -- in other areas they have soured.

The brutal crackdown on Iranian protesters after the death last September of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was reportedly beaten by police in Tehran for failing to wear her hijab correctly, was big news in Italy.

And amid protests in Iran, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, an Iran critic, took office. Meloni used her end-of-the-year press conference to strongly condemn developments in Iran, even threatening to rethink Italy’s diplomatic relations with the country.

The NCRI’s appearance in Rome capitalized on the latest trends. Italy was the first stop for the organization after its big annual summit in Paris earlier this month (where former Vice-President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former National Security Advisor John Bolton all addressed supporters). NCRI took out a half-page ad in Wednesday’s Corriere della Sera, Italy’s most read newspaper, to publicize its growing support among lawmakers in Italy and far beyond.

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