Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is in Jerusalem for his organization’s National Leadership Mission, taking place February 20-24.

Speaking to Israel National News on a wide array of topics, he begins by remarking on the pressing issue of what the US government is currently doing on the Iran front. He explains that his organization has been working on the issue for many years going back to the 1980s when they started warning of the dangers of a nuclear Iran.

“The situation inside Iran is much worse than people know. COVID took a toll that they tell me was perhaps five or 10 times greater than what they said. Even more, the drought is eating up half the country. Millions of people have moved into the cities. The currency they lopped off at one time four zeroes from it. People’s pensions are worthless. People are living very difficult lives but they are willing to do it and they’re willing to take additional sanctions they tell us if we are willing to help them against their regime.”

While the West is focused on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the Iranian people are "oppressed by the regime. It’s what’s happening inside the country. Fifty percent of college graduates are unemployed. There are no jobs for people.”

According to Hoenlein, the best way to support the citizens of Iran against the regime is for the West to make public statements in their support, and for unions to stand up in support of striking Iranians. He estimates there are 6,000 strikes a year inside Iran, but there is little outside reporting on it.

“People put their lives on the line – many lose their lives in anti-government actions. When hundreds and thousands were marching saying ‘We will not die for Gaza, we will not die for Hezbollah, we will die for Iran’ America twice said we don’t get involved in internal feuds. That killed them. The people were looking to the West for support.”

“It’s imperative that Western governments show we stand up for them, we speak up for them, and that sanctions be contingencies and reflect the violation of human rights, the regional and global aggression by Iran.”

He adds that it’s not just Iran’s nuclear program but it’s ballistic missile and conventional weapons programs in violation of UN sanctions.

However, he notes that we are not back to the days of the Obama administration, where Netanyahu was forced to go to Congress to speak against Obama’s Iran policies.

“We’re not going to go back to those days because this government is not going to take that approach,” Hoenlein says. “The problem is [at this point] if you simply take away the centrifuges, they’ll be able to bring them back in 10 minutes with their know-how and even if you ship out their uranium they can reproduce it.”

He says that he believe wholly in the promise of the Abraham Accords, of which he has been working to bring together the Gulf nations for 15 years.

With Arab countries now removing antisemitic components from textbooks, and fixing up Jewish sites – he mentions Egypt, Morocco and the Khaybar digs in Saudi Arabia – this will encourage many other countries to sign up. Hoenlein explains how the earlier Mediterranean Initiative with Greece and Cyprus and Israel from 13 years ago has also been a success and that more countries, including Malta, Romania and Bulgaria may sign up.

“We should acknowledge they are having Holocaust Memorial Days, that they’re fixing up Jewish sites,” he says. “But nobody tells you the positive side of the story. And these things are reflective of a trend. I meet all the leaders of these countries and I honestly believe that it’s Iran that’s driving it on one hand, but there’s a positive motivation as well. We’re seeing it in many other countries that are going to in the not distant future come into some arrangement.”