“Men and women of camp Ashraf need to know that those of us who enjoy the blessings of freedom and liberty are united in support of their heroic and courageous quest for freedom. That their cause is our cause. And that the most effective and important first step in achieving their goal is for US to rid the MEK of their status and to let them to unleash the power of freedom," said Tom Ridge, first U.S. Homeland Security Secretary under Bush Administration, in a conference in Paris on December 22, 2010.
Excerpts from his remarks follow:
Well first let me thank you for that nice introduction and also let me thank you for that very warm welcome. It is a true privilege to be among the very distinguished guests who appear today united in public support of the democratic resistance in Iran, lead by the MEK (People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran – PMOI) and to call for the removal of the MEK from our state department’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. I have been privileged to meet many family members who have sons, daughters, brothers and sisters in Camp Ashraf and I am pleased to stand with you in support of them and their freedom. Ladies and Gentlemen, time is not our ally in our collective efforts in preventing the Tyrannical regime in Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Time is not our ally. Time is running out. I would like to share with you, observations made by someone very well known to you that underscore the sense of urgency that the free world must have in the months ahead in dealing with Iran. Permit me to read it to make sure I would not miss a single word. “I wish to address a pivotal issue; How to confront this regime and the fundamentalism and terrorism it fosters? This issue is a key. Because on international level all approaches of politics vis-à-vis the Mullah's religious dictatorship have proven futile. In many cases they have been taken advantage of by the regime, which has been the only party to benefit from them. For many years Western countries indulged in a quest for a moderate current within the regime. They pinned their hopes on improving regimes behavior through economic engagements. Simultaneously a number of big powers invested in a policy of appeasement. The experience of the past 16 years however has proven that none of these policies have bear fruit. They have failed to have any impact on the conduct of this international outlaw.”
You probably know this person! Mrs. Rajavi what you do not know however is that she spoke those words in Oslo, Norway in 1995. Not much has changed. The western world faces no greater foreign threat than that of Iran. In several decades the slowly emerging regional and International influences of the radical regime with its anti Western, anti American, anti Semitic action has certainly been the subject of debates, discussions and occasional actions, but there is no evidence that their conduct has in anyway been mollified or modified.
And as its bellicose virulent and threatening behaviour has become more sure with every passing year and progressively more problematic and destabilizing. The western world while not been sitting idly by, none the less has been sadly and mostly ineffective in responding to it.
The west is running out of time to prevent the extremist, religious leadership of Iran from achieving their goals of nuclear extortion. Let's be very clear about the continued deception of the Iranian government, in their assertions that their intentions are peaceful and that the enrichment is strictly for nuclear energy, not weaponries.
It is a mist, it is a fabrication, it is a lie. The evidence is clear and un ambiguous that the regime seeks to build the most lethal weapon known to mankind.
Ever since 1979 the western world and Iran have been locked in a very high stake struggle for power and influence, drifting further apart each time their interest collides. Washington and the western world and Tehran's vision of the region could not be more different. The western world has tried to provide more stability encouraging Arab leaders to provide more space to their disaffected publics. Supporting reconciliation between Israel and Palestinians are moving assertively to neutralize radicals. Iran has done precisely the opposite. Every single step of the way.
No nation on earth provides more financial aid and military support to Islamic terrorists than Iran. Iran and its surrogates. Let's talk about them briefly, Hamas, Hezbollah, The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the militants in Iraq, Afghanistan and yet even Al-Qaida, threatening the region and the world as Iran proceeds to build its nuclear arsenal.
Today the traditional balance of power in the Middle East has certainly shifted towards Tehran as Tehran Geo political gains, makes the region far less hospitable to the United States and western world, and basically the objectives of the civilized democratic society. And now the regime is on the verge of obtaining the technology necessary to build the most lethal weapons known to men. Time is running out. In the past when threats of this magnitude have emerged to challenge International peace and security, Europe and America could be count upon to intend them, yet this unified west which once faced down the demons of the 20th century, which my friend the Mayor articulated so beautifully a few moments ago, its not what once was and it's not what it needs to be doing to confront this threat. Often disagreements over tactics have stalled negotiations over the modest and potentially least effective sanctions. And frankly if you think back over the past 20, 30 plus years and try to look back to United Nations efforts trying to eliminate the efforts to try to become a nuclear power, I think it is only fair to conclude that those efforts have been futile and will continue to be futile unless a democratic resistance in Iran is allowed to survive and flourish and speak their minds and allows the patient of their fellow citizens.
Other countries always mindful of the strong economy and energy ties to Iran are predictably inclined to adopt a non-interference posture; we are not going to get involved. That’s really something that we are going to allow the western world trying to figure out, to solve. Which certainly dashes any hope of any internationally concerted action either through the UN or any other multilateral organization.
The challenge embodied by the radical messianic president of Iran is like anything the western world has yet confronted. IN the 20th century our enemies were evil but they were rational, they cared little for human life but a great deal about self preservation.
And those realities allowed for a window for compromise and negotiation to exist. Today with the Mullahs and this radical regime those realities are none existent. Today we face enemies who are strategic actors, who do not accept the principal and values of a democratic and civil society; we are fighting an ideology, not just an ideologue.
The approach taken by the United States and some of its western allies has generally evolved over the past 30 years and with the passage of time has occasioned the need to consider in one form or another a variety of strategies to deal with Iran. In retrospect I think it is easy to criticize the initial approach of the west but criticism is justified. Some analysts have described the strategy as based upon naïve optimism. There was a time, and to a lesser but still troubling extent, it does exist today that the well intentioned belief appealing to the forces of moderation within the region, some would say impossible to do because they are impossible to find, engaging with dialogue to confront and resolve the most challenging issues was the best approach; the most enlightened approach; the best way to path reconciling the differences between the regime and the western world. If the past is prologue, there is no reason whatsoever to be optimistic that this approach will ever succeed. In the late 1990s the curry favour with the regime in Tehran as you well know, which is why you have gathered here, the United States declared that the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran to be a terrorist organization and many of our allies followed suit. It is clear that the designation was intended to be strictly a concession. As many have reported a good will measure based upon a strategic goal of entering some form of illusory productive talks that might resolve our differences. A foreign policy aspiration, engagement but not a counter terrorism objective was the rational. And I say that your good will gestures had no impact on those individuals or countries that have no good will.
Here is what we know, we know that your brothers and sisters and sons and daughters and those that you support at the camp disarmed and consolidated themselves under the protection of the United States troops. We know that the men, women and children in this group were given protected persons status under international law. And under protection of US troops until the Iraqi protection forces pledged, pledged their protection in 2008. We know that the 16 month review by the United State found no basis to charge any single member of the Iranian opposition group with any violation of the American law. We know that the decision and the designation by the United States has been the justification used by the tyrannical regime for imprisonment, torture and mutilation and murder. We know that after a thorough investigation led by distinguished jurists throughout Europe including classified information both at EU and the United Kingdom, no longer view MEK as a terrorist organization. And we know that finally this designation is again under investigation by the state's department of state after a federal court said the government failed to provide sufficient support for the classification.
I join with all of you with believing that the United States must lift the designation immediately. Time is running out.
It is a painful irony which I do not believe is lost on my fellow Americans that during the president's earlier visit.
Ahmadinejad's earlier visit in to the United Nations we are subjected in our country to his hateful and vengeful and invenemous speech, with that same right of self expression he denied to his fellow citizens back in Iran.
Perhaps that is why there is a growing consensus within the United States Congress, particularly in the House of Representatives. At a time when our politics have particularly spear headed and there is a great sense of partisanship rather than bipartisanship. That is probably one of the reasons, in addition to your strong and effective advocacy and continuous education, but it is one of the reasons that Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives from the right and the left, that there is a growing and emerging consensus, as evidenced by the letters that have been written with more and more signatures to our State Department asking that they lift the terrorist designation.
Over the years, the list of concessions made by the United States and our Western allies is as long as it is discouraging if you think about it. We dropped our opposition to Iran’s entry to the World Trade Organization, we lifted our import restrictions on several items, in late 1990s we dropped the designation of Iran as the world’s leading sponsor of terror, and we no longer referred to Iran as a rogue state and the list goes on and on, and yet despite all these accommodations, in spite of these measures and in spite of reaching out our hands and conciliation, we have made no progress.
The strategy of peaceful engagement, well intention perhaps, but totally ineffective and certainly in my judgment it has been counterproductive. I believe that it was Goldamayer that has made this observation; “You cannot shake hands with someone who extends a clinched feast.”
For thirty years with their clinched feasts Iran has terrorized its region and most importantly its citizens. A nuclear Iran, which surely signals a failure of Western diplomacy, would it not?! Or perhaps even more tragically, perhaps a failure of Western will.
One would think that more than any other region within the world, the West understands the tragic and unthinkable consequences of appeasement.
So we must reject as inconceivable and unacceptable the notion that a terrorist supporting nuclear armed and threatening Iran could somehow be restrained or controlled through a cold war strategy of deterrence. It would not happen.
President Obama has stated that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. I am reminded when I read that time to time of a conversation that I had with two political figures in different parts of the Middle East. One of them from one of the countries that would be effected directly by a nuclear Iran told me that there are three problems that we have in this region; Iran, Iran, and Iran.
I remember we had the privilege of having an extraordinary discussion with one of the leaders of her country, reminded me that in our part of the world, it is better that we respect the president of the United States than like him. One must think about that for a moment.
After 30 years of pondering, the recent two-day meeting of Iran with Western powers is a timely reminder of how ineffective the strategy of engagement has been.
The parties with much fanfare agreed that they reached consensus, ladies and gentlemen, that they agreed to meet again in January. And at the same time Iran made it very clear that as they meet again as they did in December, their nuclear ambitions are not part of the conversation. They are masters of deception and delay. While West waits for the next part of conversation, Iran moves closer and closer to its nuclear goals. Time is running out.
So ladies and gentlemen, we had today basically in support of your efforts and in support of your resistance, and called for action, and to certain extend as we appear before you, not so much to challenge you but to challenge the rest of the world, particularly the western world, specifically when it comes to removing MEK from the list of terrorist organizations is a challenge to my country, the United States of America.
Let us be loud and clear and consistent that MEK is not a terrorist organization, it is a voice and a call for freedom.
A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to meet with Binazir Buto, a couple of months before she was assassinated.
And in preparing for that meeting I took upon myself to read some of her reflections, some of her writings, this is what had done with great honor distinction with your leader. I recalled the statement that she made that is so appropriate to your cause my cause and I guess our cause; you can exile a man but not an idea, you can imprison a man but not an idea.
You can kill a man but not an idea.
So no matter how ruthless, violent, despotic and repressing regime in Tehran may be, it will never sear from hearts and minds of loyal democratic opposition and resistance personified by the MEK, led by MEK, that very notion, the goal, the aspiration, the dream to live in a free, tolerant and democratic Iran.
This way the cry of the French revolution, Liberty, equality, fraternity. We are in the right place, in the right building. There is a powerful reminder, given the presence of so many citizens from around the world that UN declaration speaks very specifically to your goals and aspirations as well. UN declaration of human rights. There are thirty articles in that declaration and I guess if we looked at Iran’s conduct on a day to day basis, we would probably find reason to conclude that they probably on daily basis violated all thirty articles of UN declaration on human rights.
Let me tell you what that first article says. “All human beings are born free and equally in dignity and rights.” That is just article one.
And we do indulge as an American citizen, let me share with you what i consider and many people consider the most consequential words in my country’s history. It is from our declaration of independence. You see we started fighting in 1770s and perhaps even before for the same freedoms and liberties and opportunities that you and the resistance are fighting for now in 2010 for your brothers and sisters in Iran. And we hold this truth to be self-evident, self-evident, that all men are created equial. That they are endowed by their creator. It does not say they are endowed by their government. It says there are endowed by their creator. A certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. And perhaps on this day at this place, the more appropriate and inspirational message comes from Mrs. Rajavi who wrote; “Freedom is the most precious of all jewels. Freedom is the source of progress. For us freedom is an ideal and a belief.”
And to that end ladies and gentlemen, the United States must follow the lead of United Kingdom And the European union And lift the designation of MEK As a foreign terrorist organization.
Now permit me A few final thoughts. I was a soldier myself a long time ago in a different place on the other side of the world. So I appreciate the sacrifices on our young and old countrymen have made in Iran excuse me in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ve rid the world of the global discourage of Saddam Hussein; we continue our presence in both countries.
This message isn’t ready for you but it is for the government of Iraq. And I’d like to think that you would join with me as I’d join with you in the saying to that government. Tear down those laud speakers and end the psychological torment afflicted on these men and women and children every hour of every single day. Put an end to the medical embargo and stop the provocative incursion in to the camp.
I read some of the communications among our generals as the Iraqi security forces agreed to take over the security and protection of the camp. And I believe its incumbent upon the Maliki government to honor those assurances every step on the way.
Men and women of camp Ashraf need to know that those of us who enjoy the blessings of freedom and liberty are united in support of their heroic and courageous quest for freedom. That their cause is our cause. And that the most effective and important first step in achieving their goal is for US to rid the MEK of their status and to let them to unleash the power of freedom.
When you think about it, to the mullahs, that is a very radical idea. A radical idea that they have sought and been unable to repress no matter how hard they’ve tried.
Let’s stand with MEK and support the effort of the democratic resistance to replace that clinched fist of tyranny with the open hand, open hearts, open mind, of a tolerant and democrat Iran – peaceful democratic -- Iran.
It is, I think from my perspective and I believe from yours, the unalienable right for Iranian citizens, to life, liberty and the pursuit of their own happiness.
My thinking ladies and gentlemen, it must be more than a dream, it must be a reality that you and I must do work every day to try to accomplish it in their behalf.
Thank you very much