|Secretary Tom Ridge Interview on “Weekends with Alex Witt” (MSNBC)|
|Wednesday, 29 February 2012 20:13|
Saturday, Feb. 25 at 1:45 pm ET
Alex Witt: Iran is showing more signs of becoming a growing threat to Israel and even to the U.S. International inspectors have reported that Iran has been increasing its enrichment of uranium which could be used to build a nuclear weapon. An attack on Iran could lead to the collapse of Israel.
Joining me now from Washington is Tom Ridge, former Secretary of Homeland Security who spoke at a conference today in the nation’s capital about threats from Iran. We are very glad you’re here. Welcome.
Sec. Tom Ridge: Thank you for having me, Alex. Thank you.
AW: Is military action by Israel unavoidable at this point?
TR: It certainly seems that keeping that very visible and potential option on the table not just from Israel and embraced by the western world is something that Iran should take very, very seriously. Whether it’s unavoidable or not depends on a lot of different things – negotiations and the impacts of sanctions. But Iran needs to know unequivocally, that not just Israel’s interest in Iran being a non-nuclear nation, but that the broader western world and frankly, much of the Arab world doesn’t want them armed with nuclear weapons either.
AW: So if Israel does attack Iranian nuclear sites, do you have an idea of what would happen immediately thereafter?
TR: They would call to speculate if they’ll go after these sites and what the repercussions would be. I think everyone is doing their very, very best to ensure that the military option is not exercised but I frankly think that this country along with western allies need to send a much stronger message to the mullahs as and Ahmadinejad that we are serious, that the military option is one that if we need to exercise, we will, but in the meantime, there are so many other things we could be doing to tell Iran that we’re serious. And one is recognizing throughout the Arab world the legitimate democrat opposition. There is a group called the MEK that we put on the terrorist list. It is a group of Iranian democrats who are presently sheltered in Iraq who we promised to protect and we keep them when we took their weapons away from them and for whatever reason we have them on the terrorist list. They are pro-American and pro-non-nuclear and very much committed to an open, tolerant society in Iran and we consider them as terrorists.
As we consider the nuclear option there are other things we need to do and one is to recognize, legitimate, democratic opposition either in Iran or somewhere outside of Iran. We haven’t done that. It’s amazing.
AW: What about Iran’s direct threat to the U.S. homeland? Does Iran have sleeper agents here?
TR: I think it would be foolish if we concluded given the openness of our society and the ability of people to move in and out that if they don’t have sympathizers, they do have agents. Let’s see, just a couple of months ago our FBI recovered plots for the Iranians to assassinate a Saudi ambassador here in the United States so it seems to me that the FBI thought they had the capability to do that, and we’d be foolish to think otherwise. We’d be foolish to think that a country that has supported terrorism around the world -- Hamas, Hezbollah, is responsible with the assassination of the president of Lebanon, that is responsible for killing Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq -- and the list is endless. We’d be foolish to think that we can negotiate our way, through them, and that everything would be fine in a year or two. We must send a strong message about the potential use of the military and we must do as we’ve done in other countries from around the world, recognize those committed to democracy and for whatever reason, for whatever reason, this administration has failed to recognize the MEK movement, and whether they failed to recognize the movements in ‘09 and ‘11, and it seems to me that that’s one of the strongest messages we can send to Iran.
We’re serious about the credibility and we’re serious about the military option and if we have to use it, we will, and for the time being let’s continue to keep the options on the table and I don’t think we should be too hopeful about the negotiations.
AW: Given the fact that you were the former director of Homeland Security, do you sleep well at night? And I don’t mean this in a flippant way. Do you worry about the potential of what may be coming down the road?
TR: I used to be asked that question from time to time when I was privileged to serve my country as secretary, and I used to tell people I slept well, I didn’t sleep often. The fact of the matter is that this country, we have thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of men and women every day trying to make us more secure, keep us safe and protect this extraordinary existence that we have in this country, but what we don’t have right now, in my judgment, is a strong enough message to the mullahs, a strong enough message to Iran that not only the United States, but the rest of the world is prepared to support the use of a military option. We don’t have a strong enough message to say we recognize those democratic groups within that country, Iran and we recognize the group called the MEK who for whatever reason have on a terrorist list and we don’t even have the Taliban on the list. There are a lot of pro-democrat people in Iran and around the world. We need to recognize them like we recognize the forces that have been very responsible for changing government in the Arab world over the past year.
There was a Persian Spring and we ignored it. It’s about time we got back to supporting democracy in Iran.
AW: All right, former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge.
TR: Thank you for the opportunity.
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