February 21, 2023 - 22:37

TEHRAN – In a bizarre move, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg expressed support for a group of Iranian oppositionists who rallied in Brussels on Monday in solidarity with rioters in Iran. 

Stoltenberg sent a message to the demonstrators through Belgian lawmaker Theo Francken who told the demonstrating oppositionists that the NATO chief is standing by the “cause” of Iranians. 

“I asked NATO Secretary General today whether he supports your rally, and he said NATO supports the Iranian people's cause, keep fighting. This is an important signal,” the Belgian lawmaker told the gathering of the Iranians in Brussels. 

He added, “NATO Secretary General @jensstoltenberg told me that NATO supports a free Iran. As you know NATO is a very powerful Western military organization. So, it's a very important pulse.”

On Monday, members of the Iranian diaspora gathered in Brussels in support of the wave of unrest that gripped Iran in the wake of the death of Mahsa Amini in September. 

In addition to the NATO chief, two former U.S. officials who are known for their hardline views on Iran also sent a message to the Brussels gathering. Former U.S. President George W. Bush and former National Security Advisor John Bolton called for designating the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in their messages to the gathering. 

The Brussels commotion comes at a time when the unrest has come to an end in Iran and Iranian officials issued pardons for those who were arrested during the unrest. 

The Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, has decided to pardon or commute the sentences of the convicts in response to a proposal from the head of the judiciary, who had asked the Leader to show mercy for inmates observing certain requirements.

The judiciary chief said in his proposal that some prisoners, detained during recent riots in Iran, had been duped into committing crime by the impact of the enemy’s propaganda effort.

The message of the NATO chief aroused bad feelings among Iranians given the nature of the Western alliance. Many Iranians were surprised to see a message of support coming from an organization with a track record of destroying certain countries, namely Libya and Afghanistan. 

The consequences of the NATO intervention in the two countries and the resulting death and destruction were enough for Iranians to be wary of inviting any support of this security alliance, according to many pundits. 

In addition, NATO is by no means a civil institution that promote democracy. Instead, it is a war machine that leaves scars and rubble wherever it interferes outsides Western Europe. The protracted woes of Libya and Afghanistan bear witness to this fact. 

Further stunning is the fact that Iran has moved toward internal cohesion and unity in the wake of the unrest. Simultaneously with the dwindling of the unrest in recent weeks, the Iranian authorities have moved toward addressing grassroots grievances and boosting national morale. And good results have been achieved in this regard. 

The Raisi administration has unveiled a unity package that included, inter alia, facilities for Iranians living abroad to safely return home.

Alireza Salimi, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s presiding board, has praised the Raisi administration for offering a “package of unity” that includes measures aimed at facilitating the return of Iranian expatriates. 

President Ebrahim Raisi announced the package on the sidelines of the rallies marking the Islamic Revolution anniversary on February 11.

He said in continuation of the pardons offered by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, the government will pursue amnesty for cultural, sports, and media figures who have been subject to restrictions as the result of their involvement in illegal actions over the last months.

Raisi also said that unprecedented facilities have been created for Iranians living abroad to return home, including those who have once committed actions in violation of the law, according to Tasnim.

Commenting on the package, Salimi said, “Iranians abroad are social capitals and cultural ambassadors of the Islamic Republic in all parts of the world, and most of them are loyal to Iran, and some of them want to return to the country.”

He made the remarks in an interview with Iran’s official news agency IRNA. 

“Iranians abroad are interested in the development and progress of Iran, and the new approach of the 13th government can be effective in attracting them to be in Iran,” the MP remarked.

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