|Ambassador Phillip Crowley -The Vexing Problem of Iran|
|Monday, 13 February 2012 20:02|
Ambassador Phillip Crowley -The Vexing Problem of Iran
Speaker: We will now give the floor to Ambassador Phillip Crowley, assistant secretary of state from 2009 to 2011. You are welcome to take the floor. [applause] And you have ten minutes.
CROWLEY: Well, thank you very, very much. It’s a pleasure to return to Paris. My wife and I had the honor of living for some time next door in Germany. And we always enjoyed our time in Paris. Now I realize that after listening to Prime Minister Bruton, Governor Rendell, I know what my responsibility is here. I’m part of the support act. [laughs] But we are all here—my colleagues on the dais, you—to find ways to support the Iranian people as they and others try to move Iran from the wrong side of history to the right side of history.
Now I was the spokesman at the State Department. I’m now a professor. So let me try to put a little bit of what is happening now in a slightly broader context. The vexing problem of Iran is the most difficult, complex and arguably over the next several years, the most consequential regional security issue the world faces today. What is going to be the future of Iran? How does it answer questions to the international community about its nuclear programs? Now, depending on the choices that Iran makes, how will the region respond? What does it mean for countries like the United States, other countries here in Europe and around the world, and our political, economic and security interests? Now as many have said before we have watched over the past year the remarkable transformation that is underway in the Middle East. Now while working at the State Department we all knew that this moment would happen where repressive regimes in the region would begin to crumble given the hopes, the aspirations and the dynamism of the 21st century. My view always has been that the awakening that we are seeing now began in Iran in 2009. And from that push in the aftermath of the flawed election in 2009, we saw the courage and determination of an Iranian people. And it was that that began the process of motivating the inspirational movements that we’ve seen in Tunisia, Egypt and others.
Now, I think we can be confident that change will come to Iran. [applause] How can we be confident? Because we’ve seen it before. My wife and I had the honor of serving here in Europe in 1989 when the Berlin Wall opened. It was a moment and sequence of events that we will never forget, skillfully managed through an incredible partnership among leaders here in Europe, and from our standpoint in the United States, Andy Card’s former boss, President George H. W. Bush. But there was also an extraordinary moment of statesmanship where when confronted with profound and inevitable change, Mikhail Gorbachev did not stand in the way.
And that stands in sharp contrast to what we’re seeing today, you know, where Bashar al-Assad, supported by the regime in Tehran, has turned its weapons on its own people and continues to deny them their rights and aspirations. As my very good friend, Susan Rice, our U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said earlier this week in New York, Assad’s days are numbered. But with the help of the regime in Iran, unfortunately and tragically, this will take some time. But we are, as we said here today, inspired by the courage of the Syrian people. And France, the United States and others, with the UN effectively sidelined by Russia and China, must join together and find other ways to put pressure on the Assad government. Now, why do we mention what’s happening in Syria? Because ultimately part of the solution to achieving change in Tehran involves change in Damascus. Now, helping the Syrian people is a profound way of helping ultimately the Iranian people. Once change comes to Syria it will be much more difficult for the government of Tehran to argue that there cannot be change there.
Now I’ll take exception with a couple of my colleagues. The diplomatic effort that the Obama administration has engaged in over the past couple years, it has not delivered results in terms of a new understanding with the leaders in Tehran. But it has allowed the international community to arrive at a very significant consensus and there is unparalleled and unprecedented pressure on the government in Tehran. How do we know this? They’ve admitted it. So, as we look to see how to continue to apply pressure in Iran and how to engineer democratic change in Iran, we can take—we can take confidence in the dynamic that we saw in 2009 and look ahead to see what might happen in Iran in 2013, and whether these fissures will continue to grow wider between the regime and its people. No wonder that the ayatollah recently, I think last fall, said, “Maybe we don’t need to have a president.” Yes, we do need to have a responsible president in Tehran. [applause]
But there is great danger here. When I arrived at Dulles airport yesterday to come here to Paris, I met a friend of mine, an outstanding journalist who was on her way to Tehran to interview the leaders there about the prospect of war with the international community, and potentially with the United States. While diplomacy has not yielded the results that we hoped for, by the same token a conflict in the Middle East I think would be a great danger to the region, and particularly a great danger to the people of Camp Ashraf. So we should do everything that we can to resolve the outstanding issues that we have with Iran, particularly surrounding its nuclear program and do so peacefully.
Now, turning finally to the issue of Camp Ashraf, this is an issue that I first encountered early in my tenure as the assistant secretary of state for public affairs at the State Department. I met with a delegation of concerned relatives of the residents of Camp Ashraf and have followed it keenly since then. Now, I do think that it is of significance that at the end of last year there was this agreement negotiated by the United Nations with Iraq and the residents of Camp Ashraf. Many of us have said it’s a tribute to all of you and to Mrs. Rajavi that you have been so flexible and have been so forthcoming in trying to meet the requirements of this potential—this agreement and now this potential process. Now it’s vitally important for the international community and the United States to turn this process into reality and move these people from Camp Ashraf from a position of danger to one of safety. Now, in this context there’s no reason why this process can’t begin now. It can begin now, it should begin now, and as many have said, with full appreciation and respect for dignity and fundamental human rights.
Now, in this political world that we live in, politicians talk about the art of the possible. But everything that we hope to achieve with respect to Camp Ashraf is absolutely possible. Just as Ed Rendell said earlier, it means the international community including the United States must simply do the right thing. Now in this context, various countries are understandably asking, “Okay, we’re going to be asked to help and support this process. What is the United States going to do?” The United States has stated firmly and appropriately that it supports this UN process. And the United States needs to be an active part of the solution. This means accepting its fair share to resettle the people of Camp Ashraf, and this is simply doing the right thing. It means to support this process from start to finish and the best way to support this process is to finish the process that started well over a year ago regarding the foreign terrorist organization designation.
As General Phillips will I think tell us in a few minutes, the residents of Camp Ashraf demonstrated their commitment to nonviolence in Iraq. Now it’s up to the international community and the Unite States to support the people of Camp Ashraf and move them from danger to safety. The United States has made a political, as well as a moral commitment, to help protect the residents of Camp Ashraf. And it requires doing everything possible to make sure that all aspects of this process are respected, people are secure, people are safe, their dignity and their human rights are fully respected. Now, the United States must support this process, and I think that includes being open to the potential not just to support the process, but to meet its requirements and od its fair share to resettle residents not only here in Europe but also within the United States itself. Now there are a number of ways to accomplish this. But the only thing that the United States cannot do is stay on the sidelines. Thank you very much. [applause]
[end of audio]
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