Today (10 November), the National Council of Resistance of Iran hosted an online conference to mark the one-year anniversary of a nationwide uprising against Iran’s clerical regime. The demonstrations comprising that movement took place across at least 191 cities and towns, having erupted spontaneously after the government announced a sharp increase in gasoline prices. But the uprising also lasted only several days before it was fractured by brutal repression, primarily at the hands of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Throughout the past year, the NCRI has been committed to promoting the idea that neither the spontaneity nor the brief duration of November 2019 uprising undermines its significance. Now, on the occasion of its anniversary, the coalition of democratic Resistance is making a new push for global recognition of the possibility that further uprisings will lead to the overthrow of Iran’s current regime.
Toward that end, the NCRI’s latest online conference featured remarks from young supporters in Iranian expatriate communities in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and a number of other countries.
Many of those remarks emphasized that the coalition’s youth support within the Iranian diaspora is indicative of its support among the overwhelmingly young population of their Iranian homeland. Many also noted that this was reflected in the composition of last year’s uprising, which was reported led by 'Resistance units' associated with the NCRI’s main constituent group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
The MEK’s role in this and other nationwide protests is a major factor in justifying the expectation that further uprisings could lead to regime change. Although the group has long been recognized a major focus of Tehran’s ubiquitous crackdowns on dissent, questions have swirled for years about its capacity for overcoming those crackdowns. And those questions seem to largely derive from Iranian propaganda that portrayed the MEK as a “cult” or disorganized “grouplet”.
That propaganda was finally called into question by none other than Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei nearly two years before last November’s uprising. That uprising had been preceded by another, spanning roughly 150 localities, in January 2018. While it was at its peak, Khamenei responded to the earlier uprising with a speech that acknowledged the MEK had played a leading role in planning the demonstrations and popularizing provocative, anti-government slogans.
Those same slogans, including “death to the dictator” re-emerged on the even larger scale of the November 2019 uprising, which proved similar to its predecessor in other ways, as well. Both movements reportedly featured a great deal of demographic diversity, including ethnic and socio-economic groups that had long been assumed to support the clerical regime. Both also featured prominent leadership from young activists and particularly young women.
This latter fact came as little surprise to those who are familiar with the MEK, the NCRI, and their platform of regime change leading to pluralist, democratic governance. Tuesday’s online conference provided a distinct outlet for praise of the “10-point plan” for Iran’s future which has been written by NCRI President Maryam Rajavi, and which features, among other modern democratic principles, a promise of legal safeguards for the rights of women and minorities.
The full catalogue of these principles was celebrated today not just by expatriate members of the Iranian Resistance movement but also by a wide range of political supporters, including lawmakers and former government officials from at least nine European countries, plus the United States and South Africa.
Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, was the keynote speaker. In her remarks, she said: “"The flames of the November 2019 uprising suddenly erupted in upwards of 200 cities in 29 provinces. Courageous protesters attacked the clerical regime in numerous centers and bases of suppression. The world witnessed that the mullahs are just a small minority surrounded by the fire of the Iranian society’s rage and fury. The uprising in November 2019 was neither indiscriminate nor spontaneous. It was a genuine example of a revolt and a struggle to overthrow the regime. Its driving force were the deprived but aware youths. The uprising in November 2019 was not a fleeting meteoroid. Rather, it was a manifestation of the burning determination that will continue to carry on until the mullahs’ religious dictatorship is overthrown."
In his remarks at the virtual conference, British MP Matthew Offord credited the NCRI with presenting a “democratic platform for the future of Iran” and “offering the people of Iran a clear choice and a roadmap to establish a secular, free and democratic republic in Iran.” He then went on to argue that this roadmap stands alongside recent developments in the Islamic Republic as a reason why Western governments “must recognize and back this Iranian democratic alternative”.
Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, the Policy Planning Director under the George W. Bush administration said: “This is a regime that fears its own people. Above all, this is a regime that fears the MEK and what it stands for. This is a regime that fears Madame Rajavi especially, and her 10-point plan to bring democracy, true representative government and the rule of law to Iran. Today the MEK is recognized as a legitimate political organization representing a large section of the Iranian population and the leading organization to bring about peaceful change in Iran. The heroic protests we witnessed last year are part of larger trends that are strengthening the opposition and weakening the regime in Tehran. A democratic future for Iran is closer today than before.”
Theresa Payton, White House Chief Information Officer for President George W. Bush, offered several steps that the international community must take to counteract Tehran’s targeting of dissidents abroad and empower the people of Iran at home. She said, “We need a comprehensive strategy across countries and the private sector to enable the citizens of Iran to achieve a free Iran. We need to ensure that the people of Iran can share, in real-time, threats that could have an impact on their anti-regime protests and call for democracy. We must quickly evaluate the effectiveness of diplomatic measures, and set up a threat-hunting team that aggressively searches for malicious activity from the Iranian regime, especially those targeting the opposition. Act. We can't allow excuses anymore. This is the crisis of our time. If a coalition of international policymakers, technology and citizens act now, the overall future for the people of Iran, and the world, will take a more positive and different course.”
Tuesday’s event was an outlet for substantial optimism on this point. Although it has been a year since the 2019 uprising, many speakers emphasized that that was not the end of the underlying protest movement. Even the deaths of 1,500 protesters and the arrest of 12,000 others did not halt unrest for very long. Anti-governments emerged across multiple provinces, coalescing particularly on university campuses in January. And throughout this year, Iranian officials themselves have been warning about the prospect of new unrest being led by the MEK
The NCRI and its supporters have reasonably observed that as long as the Iranian regime recognizes the potential for new uprisings in the near future, it should be relatively easy European policymakers to do the same. With that in mind, participants in Tuesday’s conference also outlined some of the specific policies that democratic nations might implement in support of the Resistance movement.
The NCRI has long rejected the notion of direct foreign intervention and has maintained that the future of the Iranian nation must be determined by the Iranian people themselves. But the coalition has also argued that targeted economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation of the Iranian regime could help to set the stage for an even more successful uprising by the Iranian people, especially if such pressures are accompanied by formal recognition for the NCRI as a viable alternative to the theocratic dictatorship.
Samskip launches direct container services between Amsterdam and Ireland
Samskip has ramped up its shortsea container connections between Ireland and North Continental Europe by introducing a new dedicated service link into Amsterdam. The weekly connection will mean Irish imports can avoid post-Brexit hassles applying to goods received via UK-based distributors, while exports will benefit from greater reach into EU markets in the northern Netherlands, Germany and beyond.
Launching on 25 January, the fixed day service departs from the TMA Terminal Amsterdam on Monday evenings for arrival in Dublin on Wednesday and a weekend return to Amsterdam. This complements Samskip’s existing Rotterdam-Ireland shortsea services by offering rail, barge and road customers in the Netherlands a new Monday night departure to Ireland.
Thijs Goumans, Head of Ireland Trade, Samskip, said that the service launch came at a time when importers and exporters in Ireland-mainland Europe trades continue to weigh up options as the consequences of Brexit for supply chain management became clear.
“The Ireland-North Continent freight market is in a dynamic phase, and fixed day container services to/from Amsterdam provide the certainty on which supply chain managers serving the Dutch and German markets can base business growth,” he said. Subject to initial moves, Samskip would consider calls to connect other ports in Ireland to Amsterdam direct.
“Shortsea container services can once more prove themselves more than a match for ro-ro, particularly for products previously shipped to distributors in the UK then redistributed across the Irish Sea,” said Richard Archer, Regional Director, Samskip Multimodal. “Amsterdam is a high-performance port connecting straight into the hinterland area and the entire Samskip Ireland team is delighted by this new commitment to pan-European transport.”
Koen Overtoom, CEO Port of Amsterdam, commented: “We are very pleased with this expansion of the port’s short sea network. It underlines the strength of the services Samskip and TMA Logistics offer, as well as our strategic position. Ireland is a key market, and in these rapidly changing times a direct link presents tremendous opportunities. We will continue to work with TMA, Samskip and international partners to make this service a lasting success.”
Michael van Toledo, General Manager TMA Amsterdam, said Samskip’s rail links to Duisburg and TMA’s congestion-free road access offered a platform for growth in FMCG volumes into Ireland and pharma and dairy exports moving the other way. “The service could have been custom-made for our ambitions to grow Amsterdam as a hub for shortsea container business,” he said. “It targets the greater appetite for direct North Continent services to Ireland post-Brexit, with TMA’s cross-docking winning over trailer operators in markets further south.”
European Commission launches New European Bauhaus
The European Commission launched the design phase of the New European Bauhaus initiative (21 January). The New European Bauhaus aims to combine design, sustainability, accessibility, affordability and investment in order to help deliver the European Green Deal.
The goal of the design phase is to use a co-creation process to shape the concept by exploring ideas, identifying the most urgent needs and challenges, and to connect interested parties. As one element of the design phase, this spring, the Commission will launch, the first edition of the New European Bauhaus prize.
This design phase will lead to the opening of calls for proposals in autumn this year to bring to life New European Bauhaus ideas in at least five places in the EU, through the use of EU funds at the national and regional level.
European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said: "The New European Bauhaus is a project of hope to explore how we live better together after the pandemic. It is about matching sustainability with style, to bring the European Green Deal closer to people's minds and homes. We need all creative minds: designers, artists, scientists, architects and citizens, to make the New European Bauhaus a success.”
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth said: “With the New European Bauhaus our ambition is to develop an innovative framework to support, facilitate and accelerate the green transformation by combining sustainability and aesthetics. By being a bridge between the world of art and culture on one side and the world of science and technology on the other, we will make sure to involve society as a whole: our artists, our students, our architects, our engineers, our academia, our innovators. It will kick-off a systemic change.”
The EU has been setting standards for sustainable buildings and supporting projects to improve green living for many years. The latest action is an attempt to bring these ideas closer to EU’s citizens.
EU needs masterplan to move financial business away from London
“We need a clear step-by-step masterplan that helps key financial sector businesses move from the United Kingdom to the European Union. A mere ‘wait and see’ approach will not do to bolster European financial markets. One of the key strategic priorities in the years to come has to be strengthening the Capital Markets Union and moving the strategically important clearing business to the EU”, said EPP Group spokesman in the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee Markus Ferber MEP, ahead of this week’s presentation by the European Commission of a plan to strengthen Europe’s economic and financial sovereignty.
The plan is also a move to curb reliance on the dollar on international markets.
“If the EU wants to play in the geopolitical Champions’ League, we need a financial system to match it. In light of Brexit, having a robust and powerful financial infrastructure is more important than ever. When it comes to the financing of the European economy, we must not be completely dependent on third countries,” Ferber stressed.
“A stable and attractive currency is key for the EU’s financial and economic sovereignty. Fiscal prudence is a prerequisite for a stable Euro. One of the key challenges ahead will be to bring down the high debt levels incurred during the pandemic to a more sustainable trajectory. Therefore, the European Commission needs to establish clarity about the fiscal path forward by laying out its plans for the future of the Stability and Growth Pact and the deactivation of the general escape clause,” he concluded.
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