|General David Deptula - Why Support The Free Iranian Cause|
|Saturday, 19 May 2012 20:12|
Washington D.C., May 15, 2012 - Thanks very much for the kind introduction. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It really is an honor, a privilege and pleasure to be here today and join with the members of this very distinguished panel to advocate for the free Iranian community.
Patrick, let me add my thanks, too, for your passion and eloquence in articulating and summarizing what we all are here to attempt to accomplish.
Now, there's a bestselling book out there about leadership and inspiring people to take action, the name of that book is "Start With Why."
So let me start today by following that advice. Why support the free Iranian cause? Well, it really boils down to two principal reasons: The first as you heard so eloquently from Secretary Chavez, it's 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.
So what I'd like to do, couple of short remarks this afternoon is explore the rationale behind these viewpoints 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.
Now, in 1998 and 1999 I had the distinct privilege of being the commander of the combined task force operation in Northern Watch. Some of you might not know, but Northern Watch was the follow-on to Operation Provide Comfort. It was established in 1991 deter Saddam Hussein's aggression against his own people, the people he relentlessly subjugated.
I won't go into the details of Security Council resolution of 688 that established the reason Provide Comfort was initiated, except to relay the impetus and focus of that effort as well as Operations of Northern and Southern Watch was on humanitarian relief in protecting human rights.
We spent 12 years successfully executing those operations. My point here sharing this with you briefly is that the United States will go to great lengths and expend significant effort to support humanitarian rights. There are many, many other examples out there. The United States has a long record of protecting those who are suppressed in being persecuted.
Now you all are very familiar with the situation surrounding the fate of the unarmed members of exiled Iranians, your brothers and sisters and family members who are living in Camp Ashraf and now Camp Liberty.
Following the liberation of Iraq, several U.S. Government agencies conducted a thorough investigation of residents of Ashraf and then recognized them as protected persons under the 4th Geneva Convention. We heard that firsthand this morning from General Phillips. There is no better testimony or source of the facts.
From 2003 to early 2009 U.S. forces protected Camp Ashraf from attacks from the Iranian regime.
After that, however, Iraqi forces launched attacks several times on the camp's defensive residents killing nearly 50 and injuring over 800.
What's Tehran's reaction to these attacks been? Well, it's to praise the Iraqi Army for those attacks and they've asked Baghdad to continue attacking the MeK until their destruction.
Since these attacks, the situation has become more complicated. You know about last December's U.N. Memorandum of Understanding, drafting the relocation of residents of Ashraf to Camp Liberty.
Since that time, nearly 2,000 residents of Ashraf have moved to Liberty. The Memorandum of Understanding and signed by the U.N. and the government of Iraq explicitly says Iraq will ensure, quote, transit locations meet humanitarian and human rights standards.
Let's do a brief review of how supportive these standards in regard to Camp Liberty are not being followed.
The fifth movement of residents from Ashraf to Liberty occurred earlier this month. This was the worst movement in terms of limitations imposed on them by the Iraqi government.
Iraq imposed new restrictions preventing the residents to take properties that had already been agreed to. The inspection before they departed lasts more than a week while residents were constantly being harassed by the Iraqi forces. And as a convoy left Ashraf, after an hour, the Iraqis and yet another violation of their commitment stopped six utility vehicles and returned them back to Ashraf.
Then the Iraqi did not allow the residents to transfer special trailers or cars for the disabled so those individuals were not able to go to Camp Liberty.
As we have heard today, Iraqi police are stationed inside the camp equipped with 11 armored personnel carriers and dozens of armed police patrol Camp Liberty. And one of the Iraqis instrumental in previous attacks on Ashraf was appointed as the person in charge of Camp Liberty.
The U.N. in repeated statements has emphasized the need for freedom and movement for the residence of Liberty, yet no freedom exists.
The legal counsel for Liberty residents is barred from visiting. Water supply continues to be a major concern and there's a shortage in the camp.
Electricity is another significant problem. It's not connected to the national grid and the residents rely on small generators that are going to be insufficient for the upcoming hot weather.
Camp Liberty is really, as you've heard people allude to and say, it's not an appropriate name for what's going on there.
Camp suppression is more like it.
Reaction from the United States and this entire chain of events was to condemn the attacks against Camp Liberty and support the U.N. in its effort to relocate the inhabitants to camp suppression. But more can and must be accomplished if the United States is to live up to our principle of vigorously supporting human rights.
Now, given that U.S. forces are no longer in Iraq, the most effective tool we have in protecting the people of Ashraf, protection that we assured those people in 2004 is to remove the MeK from the list of foreign terrorist organizations.
You all know that the United Kingdom and the EU removed the MeK from their terrorist lists and we need to do the same.
Meanwhile, the Iranian regime is continuing to create propaganda that attempts to demonize the MeK as we saw just a couple of months ago when an Iranian spokesman told NBC the Masada had been flying MeK members to Israel for training and sending them to Iran to carryout assassinations.
This set of untruths was no accident. Just as the support is growing to remove the MeK from a list of foreign terrorist organizations this fabrication is injected into the media in an attempt to prevent de-listing.
The Iranian opposition has survived a level of repression that unparallel. From a human rights perspective, it's long overdue to reverse that oppression.
Furthermore, the removal from the MeK from the foreign terrorist organizations list would send a signal to the people of Iran that the United States is standing with them rather than with their oppressors.
Okay. Let's take a look at this issue now from a U.S. National Security perspective.
The current Iranian regime is a brutal theocracy where the description of their government as a collection of zealants is not an exaggeration. It's a fact. Iran today is the center of international terrorism and much of it is aimed at the United States.
The Iranian regime uses terror as a instrument of policy both internally and externally. This is why a Iranian nuclear weapons capability would pose a monumental security risk not only to the countries in Middle East and Europe but would threaten the stability and security of the entire world.
Now, summarizing the analysis of impact of a nuclear armed Iran are six major concerns that the U.S. originally laid out by Ambassador Robert Joseph, the former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.
First, an Iran with nuclear weapons would 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, to European allies and possibly the Continental United States. And I would add that just recently the Iranian government current regime announced that it intended to launch a satellite into orbit as early as next week.
And if you put one and two together, if you can launch a satellite into orbit, you can launch an intercontinental missile that may not threaten, possibly threaten the continental United States but certainly will threaten the continental United States.
Third, proliferation of nuclear weapons would ensue by nations in the region that would feel compelled to attain their only nuclear capability to counter.
Recently, the London Times reported that Saudi Arabia could acquire nuclear warheads within weeks of Iran developing atomic weapons as a threat from Tehran triggers and arms raised across the Middle East.
Fourth, nuclear weapons would consolidate the Iranian Mullahs' power guarantee their survival thus severely degrading the prospect of democracy in Iran.
Fifth, the bomb would become an existential threat to Israel given Iran's stated objective of wiping Israel off the map.
Six, Iran's role at the nexus of weapons of mass destruction of terrorism would make it likely that the regime would sell nuclear weapons to other countries for terrorist groups.
It's also important to recognize that the most secretive information about the current Iranian regime's connection in international terrorism about its nuclear weapons program and about its menacing intentions for Iraq has to a large extent come from the Iranian opposition movement.
The Iranian's access to intel about all aspects of Iranian society as well as clandestine aspects of the regime are very important to countering the malicious aspirations of the current regime in Iran.
In large measure, this is why Iran is doing everybody 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.
In that Wall Street Journal report today you may have noticed a quotation by some nameless diplomats that are concerned that the action to de-list may upset the current Iranian regime as all the more reason to de-list now. Unfortunately their tactics have been too successful. The most significant result being the '97 designation of the MeK, by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist organization. However in reality the Iranian regime survival depends how much it can suppress an increasingly uneasy and critical internal population.
The resistance inside a Iran is committed to undermining these repressive policies but a nuclear arsenal would create a more powerful and resilient and repressive regime and eliminate hope for democratic change.
This is why the Iranian people, even more than the rest of the world, can not afford a nuclear armed Iran.
Iran has never been more vulnerable than it is today. Their leader's fear that the organized opposition will continue to gain more visibility and international support.
Keeping the MeK on the list of foreign terrorist organizations is limiting U.S. National Security options unnecessarily while the ayatollahs are threatening us and the rest of the world with their nuclear bombing.
Removal of the MeK from the list 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.
So 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 to defend human rights. Remove the MeK from the list of foreign terrorist organizations and as has been said before, not in 60 days after the last people move from Ashraf to camp suppression, but now.
Thank you very much.
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