|Lieutenant General David Deptula – Two Reasons to Free the Iranian Cause|
|Thursday, 23 February 2012 12:00|
Thanks very much for that very kind introduction and thank you for your service to our country and everything you've done for this organization.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is really a pleasure and a privilege to be here today, to advocate for the free Iranian community in support for the people's Mojahedin organization of Iran.
There is a bestseller out there that is written by a New Yorker whose name is Simon Sinek and the name is his book is Start with Why. So let me start today by following his advice. Why free the Iranian cause? I suggest two reasons and you've heard these expounded upon here today.
The first is that it is the right thing to do from a human rights perspective. The second is that it's the right thing to do from a U.S. national security perspective. Let's explore the rationale behind these perspectives in a bit more detail and why it's so important to support this cause and what's the most effective action that can be taken to do that.
In 1998, 1999, I have the distinct privilege of being the director of the combined task force Northern Watch. Northern Watch was to follow to operation Provide Comfort that was established in 1991 to deter Saddam Hussein's aggression against his own people. People he had relentlessly subjugated. I won't go into the details of U.N Security Council Resolution 688 that established the reason operation Provide Comfort was initiated except to relate that the focus of that effort as well as Operations Northern and Southern Watch was on humanitarian relief in protecting human rights.
We spent twelve years successfully executing these operations by dominating the skies over Iraq, exposing hundreds of thousands of American coalition lives over those years in Iraq.
My point is is that the United States will go to great lengths in its insignificant effort to support humanitarian efforts. There are many, many other examples and the United States has a long record of protecting those who are suppressed and being prosecuted. And you all are very well familiar with the situation surrounding the fate of the 3400 unarmed members of your exiled Iranian brothers, and sisters, and sons, and daughters who are living in Camp Ashraf.
Following liberation of Iraq, several U.S. government agencies conducted thorough investigations of the residents of Camp Ashraf and recognized them as protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention. From 2003 to early 2009, U.S. forces protected the camp from Iranian regime. After that, however, Iraqi forces have launched attacks several times on the camp's defenseless resident killing nearly fifty and injuring over 800.
Tehran's reaction is to praise the Iraqi army for its attacks and they asked Baghdad to continue attacking the citizens of Ashraf until their destruction. Since these attacks, the most occurring a year ago, the situation has become more complicated. Tehran, in a plan working with Baghdad, has called for the closure of the camp in order to have the residents extradited under different pretext where we know what their fate would be, death.
This last December, the United Nations, with strong support by the United States got involved and the head of the United Nations initiated a series of negotiations with the Iraqi government and a memorandum of understanding was drafted to relocate the resident of the camp to another location, as you heard about today, known as Camp Liberty. Which, by the way, we need to change the name of that camp.
The idea to relocate residents who have already agreed to leave Iraq to Camp Liberty, before departing Iraq, is suspect at best. Does Tehran have a plan to arrest a number of the residents of the camp through its Iraqi surrogates and do they plan to use the relocation process as a means to get their opponents arrested? Nine days ago, the U.N. highlighted that it attaches upmost importance to peaceful solutions being found, including that any relocation outside Camp Ashraf proceed on a voluntary basis with freedom of movement, the most desirable state, at the site of relocation. The MOU that was signed by this past December by the U.N. and the government of Iraq explicitly says Iraq will ensure, quote, that transit locations meet humanitarian and human rights standards, unquote. But nobody has yet to certify these standards in regard to Camp Liberty.
Three days ago on February 8th, 400 residents of Ashraf are waiting for the U.S., the United Nations, the European Union, and the government of Iraq, to agree to the executive document for the arrangements of transfer to Camp Liberty. They are still waiting.
Reaction from the United States on this entire chain of events was to condemn the attacks against Camp Ashraf and support the U.N. in its efforts to relocate the camp and inhabitants. But more can and must be accomplished if the United States is to live up to our principals of vigorously supporting human rights. Given that U.S. forces are no longer in Iraq, the tool we have in protecting the people of Camp Ashraf, protection we assured those people in 2004, and you heard it described today how those procedures came about, is to remove the MEK from the list of foreign terrorist organizations.
The United Kingdom, and as you heard, removed the MEK from their lists. We should do the same. As retention on this list gives the Iranian and Iraqi regimes the rationale to prosecute the Iranian opposition and potentially conduct another massacre.
Meanwhile, the Iranian regime is continuing to create propaganda that it plans to demonize the citizens of Ashraf. Within the past couple of days, you've heard about the press report or where the Iranian spokesman, backed by these two anonymous sources from the State Department, told NBC that they were flying MEK members to Israel for training and sending them on to Iran to carry on assassinations. This set the truth that this is no accident. Just as the support is growing to remove the MEK from the list of foreign terrorism organizations, this was injected into the media to prevent delisting.
The Iranian opposition has survived a level of repression that is simply unparalleled in modern times. From a human rights perspective, it's long overdue to averse that oppression. Furthermore, the removal of the MEK from the foreign terrorist organization list would send a signal to the people of Iran that the United States is standing with them rather than with their oppressors.
Now let's take a look at this issue from a U.S. national security perspective. The current Iranian regime is a brutal bureaucracy where the description of their government is a collection of zealots, is not an exaggeration, it's a fact.
Iran today, is a center of international terrorism and much of it is aimed at the United States. The Iranian regime uses terrorism as an instrument of policy both internally and externally. This is why an Iranian nuclear weapons capability would pose a monumental security risk, not only to the countries in the Mid East and Europe, but would threaten the liberty and security of the entire Democratic role. Summarizing the analysis of the impact of a nuclear-armed Iranian are six major concerns to the United States.
First, an Iran with nuclear weapons could embolden in the regime to carry out its aggressive ambitions in the Middle East and beyond.
Second, a nuclear capability in Iran would pose a direct threat to U.S. forces in the region, to European allies and to the continental United States.
Third, nations of the region would feel compel led to obtain their own nuclear capability to counter Iran's. Just yesterday, the London Times reported that Saudi Arabia could acquire nuclear weapons within weeks of Iran developing atomic weapons as a threat from Tehran triggers an arms race across the Mid East.
Fourth, nuclear weapons would consolidate the Iranian Mullahs power and guarantee their survival by severely degrading the prospect of democracy in Iran.
Fifth, the bomb would become an exponential threat to Israel given Iran's stated objection of wiping Israel off the map.
And six, Iran's role in the nexus of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism would make it likely that the regime would sell nuclear weapons to other countries or terrorist groups.
It's also important to recognize that the most secret information about the current Iranian regime's connection in international terrorism about its nuclear weapon program and about its menacing intention for Iraq, has to a large extent, come from the large opposition movement. The MEK's access to intelligence about all aspects of Iranian society are very important to countering the malicious aspirations of the current regime in Iran.
In large measure, this is why Iran is doing all it can to eliminate the MEK. For decades the regime has made punishment of the Iranian opposition its prime negotiating point compelling Western nations to restrict the organization's activities while trying to eliminate it.
Unfortunately, this tactic has too often been successful. The most significant result being the 1997 designation of the MEK by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist organization. However, in realty, the regime depends upon how much it can suppress an increasingly uneasy and critical internal population. The resistance inside Iran is committed to undermining these repressive policies.
But a nuclear arsenal would create a more powerful and resilient powerful repressive machine and eliminate any hope for Democratic change. This is why the Iranian people, even more than the rest of the world, cannot afford a nuclear-armed Iran.
Now, Iran has never been more vulnerable than it has today. They might not say that externally, they don't want that message to come across. Their leaders figure that the organized opposition will continue to gain more visibility and international support. Keeping the MEK on the list of foreign terrorist organizations and actually limiting U.S. national security options unnecessarily while the Iratolas are threatening us and the rest of the world with the nuclear bomb making.
Removing the MEK is in the United States best interest from a national security perspective.
Removal would also send a strong message to the Iranians that their efforts to unseat the radical fundamentalist leaders would no longer be viewed by the United States as terrorism, but rather as an exercise of their legitimate right to change the future.
President Obama, Secretary Clinton, it's time to make this important contribution to the security of the United States and to the world as well as reiterating your commitment. Remove the MEK from the list of foreign terrorist organizations and do it now.
Thank you very much.
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