|Governor Tom Ridge – The “Iran Answer” is Regime Change|
|Saturday, 02 June 2012 09:00|
Washington, May 30, 2012 - Thank you. I'm told that our next speaker is here. Yes. Okay. you know, Pennsylvania, I'm not sure exactly why, but it is giving us some of the greatest, most -- (Applause.)
Pennsylvania Governor line up here. Tom Ridge, first United States Secretary of Homeland Security under George Bush. 43rd Governor of Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2001 and prior to that served as a member of the United States House of Representatives 1983 to '95.
Currently Mr. Ridge is the founder and CEO of Ridge Global, LLC a Washington D.C. based security consulting firm. Author of the "Test Of Our Times, "America Under Siege" and "How We Can Be Safe Again." Tom Ridge. (Applause.)
MR. RIDGE: Thank you. First of all, I want to thank you for that gracious introduction and your very warm reception.
It's good to be with so many of my colleagues and the individuals with whom I've worked off and on both politically and in terms of policy. Great to be part of this distinguished group of panelists. I want to thank you for your invitation to join you today.
Oh, there has been so much said, so much to be done and our collective efforts are to be recognized, applauded, but we still have a long way to go. My first thoughts of deep appreciation and gratitude to all of you and your colleagues not only in this country but around the world.
I realize that what the panelists do here overseas is give confidence and hope to the men and women in Ashraf and Liberty; but frankly you are the strongest most resilient advocates that any group seeking humanitarian relief has ever had in my judgment in the history of the world and you are to be applauded as well.
MR. RIDGE: This has become very, very personal. I'll speak for myself but I dare say to all of us. I take a look at my friend, Wes Martin, and know how personal it is to him because he lived and worked with the people of Ashraf. And some of the other military leaders who lived and worked and got to know and respect and understand their desire for democracy, for regime change, for living in peace with their neighbors, living in a community and society that accepted diversity of thought, diversity of religion. A society that was not a nuclear, a society that wanted good relations with the west instead of antagonizing the west. So all of us have seen from one time or another and spent some time with family members.
I mean, I got to tell you, every time I've been privileged to interact with family members it's painful when, for them when they show me the pictures of people who have been murdered and assassinated by the Mullahs. We know that story since 1979 over 120,000 the estimates are 80 or 90 percent of the members of the MeK. It's been a continuous staying effort to deny the voices of democracy for well over, almost 30 years.
So we get to a point and talking about the nuclear Iran and at the risk of being somewhat repetitive, I want to just take a quick glimpse of history and kind of set the stage for where we are today and what our expectations should be and what our responsibilities should be as we continue to sustain our effort, humanitarian effort, to get the men and women from Ashraf to Liberty and resettled with their family members and loved ones around the world.
It's not that far back, '79, but then we remember what happened in Beirut a couple of years later. You can trace that to the Mullahs, Khamenei. And in the Embassies in Africa and the bombings.
Remember President Bush's speech when he talked about the axis of evil. Clearly Iran is one of the countries that lie, well, not only are they -- well, they are the number one terrorist state in the world.
We all know they support Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad. They're joined at the hip with Syria. And for those who think that United Nations resolutions and condemnation has any impact on Iran, they just need to look in the region and see what has happened in Syria.
U.N. sanctions and U.N. condemnation statements are normally ignored and regrettably tragically a loss of 12,000 Syrians, men, women and children. They'll continue to be condemnation but little action. Talks, but little progress.
So we get to the point now where we're during all this time the United States has been involved in both bilateral actions with Iran. But let's take a look at the record of the United Nations itself. 2006 resolution I think its 1696, the U.N. strongly condemned an appeal to Iran to terminate its enrichment activities. Strongly condemned in 2006 and there have been six resolutions since 2006, six resolutions.
While we continue to go the U.N. and frankly there have been a lot of bilateral efforts to bring additional pressure on the Iranian regime and many, many series of talks, more sanctions, more talks and more centrifuges.
You say to yourself, the talks have not been terribly successful. The sanctions are probably squeezing the lower middle class. But the more we talk, the closer they get to the kind of enrichment they need for nuclear weapons.
I'm reminded, if you don't mind a little levity. My daughter now is a wonderful woman but as a child when I was a young congressman I brought her to town and she sat with dad. I took her to the congressional office. And I remember one time we were getting ready to leave and I turn on CSPAN and they were debating something I thought was frivolous. I said we're going to go get dinner or clothes, we're getting out of here so we're going.
She had occasion to be talking to my wife at the time and she turned on the speaker of CSPAN and put the telephone receiver up to the TV and said, did you hear that -- my little girl is five at the time -- she said mommy, talk, talk, talk, that's all they do is talk.
MR. RIDGE: I think this very young, prescient lady, now a fine young woman, would say the same thing with regard to our talks with Iran. Our discussions. We agree to meet. And everybody looks at it as a success. Well, we had a conversation, you know what we did? We agreed to meet again.
Well, during these, some people may look at it as progress, I think all of us look at it as a delay. Obfuscation. The more we talk, the more we dig, the faster the centrifuges spin.
So what's the answer? Regime change.
MR. RIDGE: Looking at some reading I noted President Obama once said, "let there be no doubt America is determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons."
The conversations don't appear to be taking us to that resolve or that resolution. At one point in time I think we said we don't want you to have nuclear power. Well they've got nuclear power and heavy water reactors, they got those. And I guess the next would be nuclear weapons.
The only answer is regime change. At the heart of this effort, we all believe that, is to recognize the democratic opposition. We know what we're talking about, it's the MeK. I mean, this is an extent -- if I were preaching to men and women and sharing a vision and a hope and aspiration that you have in your hearts and head for the longest time and we're just here to reenforce it.
But the fact of the matter is we know that, in order to move men and women from Ashraf and Liberty and resettlement to loved ones there has to be de-listing. We also know as much as we'd like that to happen that decision is in the hands of the Secretary of State.
We know there have been judicial hearings and who knows what that outcome will be. But there are a couple of things that need to be done even before that outcome when they're finally de-listed.
One is that we certainly need to have a habitable, humane environment as they move from Ashraf to Liberty. We call on the administration.
MR. RIDGE: Many of us are involved in correspondence, phone calls, but the plea is simple. Understanding the listing is a decision for which we will continue to advocate but there's still the need to provide decent living, habitable conditions so that while the U.N., moving rather slowly at this point, moves hopefully more aggressively in the future in the resettlement process that people can live in decent surroundings. What do we beg for before the 6th convoy moves? What do we want?
It would certainly be nice if the U.N., and here's where they have a role to play in addition to the U.S., we're not categorizing them as the asylum seekers, they call Camp Liberty a refugee camp. Give them that protection. While you're at it, how about electricity. How about water on a regular basis. How about simple provisions for the disabled and the elderly. There's a long, long list.
I think the United States has some leverage. I believe the U.N. has some leverage. It's my sincere hope before the 6th convoy moves -- remember there have been many assurances given and very few delivered during the past five convoys. Memorandums of Understanding, as I understand it, have been negotiated I think prior to the movement of every convoy.
If you did a checklist with regard to all the memos you would find that very few of the promises made were kept and it's about time the Maliki government kept its word and it's about time the United Nations and the United States exerted far more pressure, far more leverage to the decision makers in Iraq to deliver to the promises they made to the United States when the change of status of forces agreement was concluded several years ago.
My commitment to this cause can be distilled down to a time when I happened to wear the uniform of my country a long time ago in a faraway place called Vietnam. And in my enormous respect for the men and women in our military, here we are a couple days after the Memorial Day.
But when the United States being represented by our United States military gives a signed pledge to every single resident at Camp Ashraf, you are assured the protection of the 4th Geneva Convention and we will provide for your safety and security, that's a pledge the United States has made and that's a pledge that all of us would do everything we can for as long as we can to make sure they keep it.
Provide the humanitarian conditions. We're hopeful they'll de-list the MeK. One of these days instead of meeting in Washington we can all meet in Tehran.
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