|Ambassador John BOLTON – What Should be the Policy of United States|
|Monday, 26 March 2012 09:49|
March 24, 2012 - Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Let’s start at the beginning. I believe that the declared policy of the United States government should be overthrowing the present government in Iran. [applause] The reasons are very clear. This government is a threat to international peace and security through its role as the world’s central banker of international terrorism, and through its two decade long pursuit of nuclear weapons. It oppresses not only its own people but it oppresses people in the region and around the world. This is not a government that’s loyal to the people of Iran; this is a government that’s loyal only to keeping itself in power. Increasingly, a military dictatorship as well as a theocratic dictatorship, every action that it takes endangers its own people, people in the nearby countries and people around the world. What does it tell you about the government in Tehran today that its best friend in the world, the government it cooperates with more closely than any other government is the government of North Korea? North Korea, with whom it shares ballistic missile technology. North Korea, with which it undoubtedly was building a nuclear reactor in Syria until it was destroyed by the Israelis in 2007. North Korea, which has made a prison camp of 23 million people, which apparently the government in Tehran is trying to emulate. This is the tragedy that has befallen the people of Iran and that endangers the peace and security of the rest of the world.
There’s simply no argument here but that American policy should be to actively encourage regime change in a host of different ways. But perhaps the most important way in which the United States can encourage regime change is to get out of the way of legitimate Iranian opposition. That would be nice for a start. [applause] As other speakers have made clear, those of us who have had the opportunity when in government to see information about the MEK have seen nothing that justifies its continued presence on the list of foreign terrorist organizations. We may not have seen everything, but among us we have seen quite a bit. The real problem here is that the question of listing on the foreign terrorism organization list has been highly politicized over the years, and it continues to be politicized. As Judge Mukasey said, the original listing in the late 1990s was in hopes of getting negotiations going with the regime in Tehran. That was a decision not based on facts, as far as I could tell—and I looked into it when I was in the State Department—but on a political determination as to what could be accomplished.
Sadly when Secretary Rice made the decision at the end of the Bush administration to keep the PMOI on the list, she made that decision by the unambiguous statements of her closest advisors, not because of the evidence that was presented to her, which is required to be the basis for the statutory determination, but again in the hope that the incoming administration would be able to have negotiations with the ayatollahs. And now a third secretary of state has allowed political considerations to affect her view. Secretary Clinton said just a few weeks ago that the MEK’s handling of the transfer of the residents of Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty would affect the State Department’s decision on the listing on the foreign terrorist organization list. That’s another impermissible basis on which to make that decision. Now Mrs. Clinton, and her husband, were a year ahead of me in law school. We had some pretty creative teachers when it came to statutory construction. But there is nobody who can argue that there is any basis in the foreign terrorist statute to justify the politicization we’ve seen over the years.
I’ve been clear on this before; I’ll be clear on it again. Let’s get the facts out. Let’s let the facts fall where they may. There’s no factual basis for this designation. It should be lifted. Since Louis Freeh is not here, I’ll steal one of the excellent points he made. You know, in Washington if people wanted to leak information about the justification, such as it is, for keeping the PMOI on the list, they would do it. The information would be out in the public record. But there have been no such leaks. That tells you something. Nor have there been calls from the top of the State Department warning people who might have spoken out on this issue to stop speaking out. Now, I’m realistic enough not to believe that the Obama administration or the Clinton State Department would call me to give me a head’s up. But it’s entirely likely that they would have called others on their side of the political spectrum who have spoken to this question. And as far as I’m aware there has not been a single such call to warn their friends away from this. And that’s because I think they know that the evidence isn’t there. So let’s get on with this and let’s have a decision. Could well be that we’re going to have to see the decision ordered by the court. That’s a shame because it shouldn’t take a court to get the State Department to do the right thing. But that’s the way it is in Washington.
But let’s look at the situation in Iraq and the residents of Camp Ashraf and those who have been moved to Camp Liberty. You know, a few days ago the former prime minister of Iraq, Ayad Alawi, said that the Al-Maliki regime was becoming—these are his words—an emerging dictatorship. And Alawi said that the role of the ayatollahs in Tehran in influencing Iraqi policy had become what he called the dominant feature of Iraq. Now this is not what the United States had in mind at all. And it’s significant, despite the debate we have in our country about how the policy in Iraq was conducted, whether or not the United States troops should have withdrawn, and a whole range of issues, it is significant that Al-Maliki did not move decisively against the residents of Camp Ashraf until American military forces were no longer in a position to protect them. That tells me all that I need to know about what the Al-Maliki government’s motivation is and who they’re taking their orders from.
That is a tragedy that needs to be changed because it means, for the people of Iraq going forward, fear of what’s happened to the people of Iran over these past 30 years. Or it could signal what’s happening to the people of Syria now who confronted with the possibility of overthrowing the Assad family dictatorship have found officials of the [not clear] from Tehran assisting Syrian military units in repressing their own people, have seen arms shipped from Iran to use in the killing of what the UN estimates are now 8,000 Syrian civilians. This is a situation that arouses the concern for everybody worldwide. But make no mistake about it, there’s no intervening in Syria that‘s confined to Syria itself. Intervening in Syria means taking on the regime in Tehran. And I say to that, as I said at the beginning, that’s exactly what we should have done at least ten years ago, so better late than never.
Now let me be very clear here about the next 12 months, certainly a period approximating that. We are in a very dangerous time for the people of Iran, the people of the Middle East, the people of the whole world. The ayatollahs are very, very close to achieving their 20-year-long objective of a deliverable nuclear weapons capability in Iran. A lot of things have been done to try and stop it. They have all failed. Today people say that economic sanctions are going to be sufficient to stop the regime. Not if they’re determined enough. Not if they’re clever enough to be able to smuggle oil and evade financial sanctions, which they have demonstrated great ingenuity in doing to date. One of the things that I think is most important about the democratic opposition in Iran is the repeated insistence that they don’t want a new Iran to be nuclear. Madame Rajavi’s platform itself says we want the free Iran of tomorrow to be devoid of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction. This to me is absolutely critical. But we will see the risk in the very near future of action taken against the Iran nuclear weapons program as we have seen action already in small pieces. This undoubtedly the regime in Tehran will try to use to its own advantage.
But I want to make it clear that those who are opposed to this regime having nuclear weapons are not opposed to the people of Iran. And the people of Iran should understand, and all who have their welfare at heart should help explain that it is the regime itself which has brought this on. It’s this regime that sees nuclear weapons as a trump card. It’s this regime whose pursuit of nuclear weapons will produce widespread nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. If Iran gets nuclear weapons Saudi Arabia will get nuclear weapons, Turkey will get nuclear weapons, Egypt will get nuclear weapons and on and on and on. This is not good for the people of the region, it’s not good for the people of Iran. So I think it’s particularly important as we discuss the importance of seeing Iran have the benefits of an open and representative government that our opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons be very much at the top of the agenda. Thank you very much.
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