In an international session held in Paris on Saturday, November 5th at the initiative of the CFID Committee (French Committee for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran), European and American personalities called on the European Union, United States and United Nations to take immediate measures to cancel the Iraqi government’s illegal and repressive deadline to close Camp Ashraf by the end of 2011. This call comes after the announcement of US forces’ withdrawal from Iraq by President Obama and also Iraqi forces’ preparations for an attack against the camp.
The speakers at this conference were: Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance; General Hugh Shelton, former US Joint Chiefs of Staff (1997 – 2001); Ed Rendell, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (1999-2001) and Governor of Pennsylvania (2002 – 2011); John Bruton, Prime Minister of Ireland (1994 – 1997) and the Ambassador of European Union to the US (2004-2005); Lord Peter Mendelsohn, European Union Commissioner (2004 –2008) and UK Deputy Prime Minister (2009); Robert Torricelli, US Senator (1997 – 2003); Romeo Florin Nikoara, Romanian Senator; Jean-François Le Garrett, Mayor of Paris 1st district; Jean-Pierre Béquet, member of the Valdoise Provincial Council and mayor of Auvers-sur-Oise.
Below is speech by General Hugh Shelton:
Senator Torriceli: Ladies and gentlemen, Winston Churchill once said that, “When two nations shed blood together in a common cause, their relationship is never the same.” Iraq is a sovereign country. Like American, British, Canadian, and other nations expect no special privileges. But, we certainly have earned the right to be heard for what is decent and right. There is no better person to speak to that in my country than General Hugh Shelton. There is no higher honour for an American soldier than to be chosen by his president for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present to you, General Hugh Shelton.
Thank you very much Senator for your very kind comments and thanks to each of you for your very warm reception. To those of you in camp Ashraf, I say, “salam aleikom”, greetings. It’s always tough to follow up president-elect, Rajavi, because when she finishes there’s very little left to say. But it is great to be here with you, with president-elect Rajavi, and with my distinguished colleagues on the dais here today.
Today, time is of the essence. If we are to prevent a disaster in camp Ashraf, we have 56 days left, and that includes the holidays which are always periods in our government’s time when things don’t move very fast. It’s really hard to believe that I stood here in Paris almost seven months ago and outlined the reasons why the United States should delist the MEK from the Foreign Terrorist Organization List. It was an easy decision then, it’s an easy decision now, based on the facts. Yet today, I’m sad to say that America’s lethargic State Department still has not made the decision, even as camp Ashraf faces a very dangerous and potentially life threatening situation. A situation that is right now left to the hands of the Iranian-control, Maleki government in Iraq.
Allow me for just a few minutes today to review with you the facts. You’ve heard many come from president-elect, Rajavi. Fact number one: even the current terrorist exporting Iranian regime has trouble articulating why the MEK should be on the Foreign Terrorist Organization List. Recently as you know they tried to blame the attack on the Saudi Ambassador in the United States on the MEK, only to have the State Department defend the MEK. That’s how desperate that Iranian regime is. Fact number two: the D.C. Court of Appeals rule that the Department State had actually broken the law by placing the MEK on the FTO List, because they had failed to allow the organization de-process. We all know that Secretary Clinton has not complied with the court ruling. That court ruling was produced evidence and she hasn’t replied because there is no evidence to be produced. Fact: over thirty very senior former U.S. officials, by partisan, actually by partisan correlation, non-parochial if you will, have publicly supported the MEK’s removal from the FTO list. That should be noted, because whenever you get anything that’s non-parochial in Washington D.C. you’ve accomplished a major feet. Not only that, but these are individuals that are of great integrity, great ethics, who passionately believe and support the MEK because they believe in the cause. There are individuals like the former attorney general of the United States Moe Casey, the former director of all Federal Bureau Investigation, Louis Free. There are four governors, two of which are here with us today. There are whole hosts of general officers. All of whom have great integrity. I know them personally and would only support the MEK if they believed that the cause was just and that the MEK did not belong on the FTO list. You and I know that the MEK should not have been placed on the list and we all know it should be taken off immediately. A fact: We, United States, disarmed the residents in camp Ashraf in 2003. In doing that, we guaranteed them protection under the fourth Geneva protocol. It was a commitment. It was a promise that we made. And that commitment and promise has not changed although we have turned the territory over to the Iraqi government. A fact: in April of this past year, we stood by and watched the massacre that took place in camp Ashraf, although we had commanders and troops in near parks and into the camp. That was in spite of our promise. It was in spite of our commitment. It was in spite of those military forces being nearby. We did nothing to protect them and I’m ashamed to say that. Fact: the U.S. government continues to provide the Iraqi government with billions of dollars in U.S. aid. And to say that we do not have the means to influence the Iraqi government just because we don’t own the territory, is an outright fabrication of the truth. The truth is there are many tools in America’s kick bag, tools that we can use. They’re diplomatic, political, economic, military, informational, whole host, and the economic tool is a big one. If we cannot protect the innocent civilians of camp Ashraf with our military forces, then we need to turn to the economic tool. If we cannot influence the Iraqi government to start taking care of the people of camp Ashraf, then we ought to quit pouring billions of dollars of aid into a country although which we have no influence. The U.S. still has that powerful economic tool and president Obama should have the political courage to use it.
Today, another fact, the Iranian government is the most dangerous terrorist exporting nation in the world today. We saw that secretary defence Peneta recently told the Iranians to ‘quit meddling and quit interfering in U.S. operations worldwide’. Most recently as I said, only they were responsible for the attack on the Saudi ambassador right under the State Department’s news in Washington D.C. A fact: two different by-partisan U.S. congressional resolutions have been sent to Secretary Clinton asking her to remove the MEK from the list. Another fact:
Mrs. Rajavi, your charismatic and fearless MEK president-elect has a 10 point program, which when implemented will provide the citizens of Iraq with the same basic freedoms enjoyed by all democratic societies worldwide. And they will free the Iranians from the tyranny of the current Iranian regime. The theocratic and autocratic regime that the Iranian people are forced to live under today. Fact: the MEK unlike many other organizations needs only an acknowledgment from the U.S. government that they are a legitimate organization and a key ally in fighting terrorist exporting regimes like that in Iran today; an acknowledgment that has already been made years ago by the E.U. and by the United Kingdom. These are clearly undeniable facts that surround the MEK organization and to me make it so obvious that they should not have been placed on the list to start with and should be taken off the list this very moment.
As a reporter, Claire Beckingham, recently said, “we’re only eve on another ….” As the Iranian-control Maleki forces prepare to alienate the residents of camp Ashraf, either in the camp, or in their ill-advised plan to disperse the residents throughout Iraq, so that they can deal with them without the oversight of the international community. And where is the United Nations? Sure the United Nations High Commissioner for human rights has granulated the status of asylum seekers, but the Secretary General has not provided the full-time monitoring for station at the camp that is so urgently needed. U.N. observers on the ground are required to prevent and to at least report to the world what the Iraqis are doing to the innocent disarmed residents of Ashraf. And where is the United States in this endeavour? Where are we in using the considerable influence that we have available to us? Again, that very powerful tool called the ‘economic tool’. But in order for it to be effective, you have to have the political courage to use it. That starts with Secretary Clinton but ultimately it’s a responsibility of President Obama. Today there is no doubt as I said earlier; we’re on a critical juncture for the residents of camp Ashraf. The State Department’s delay, its silence, and its inaction in every front is incredible. Unless immediate action is taken, another tragedy, much larger than that one in April is looming.
I’ll leave you with actions that I think are required. First and foremost the U.S. must remove the MEK from the Foreign Terrorist Organization List. This is critical. Since as we all remember the Iraqis used the terrorist label as an excuse to justify their April attack. The U.S. must tell Maleki and the Iranian government to stop interfering. We must use that powerful economic tool again to demand that the U.N. place a full-time monitoring force at Ashraf to protect the citizens until a proper resolution of that disposition can be made. Third, the U.S. and the E.U. must push the U.N. Secretary General to notify Maleki that he cannot close the camp until he UNHCR has completed its work on behalf of its Ashraf residents. Fourth, President Obama must show the political courage to use the United States’ economic tool to demand that the Maleki government, under the United States’ commitment, to protect the citizens of Ashraf even in the face of Iranian pressure to the contrary. And unless Maleki agrees to honour his commitments, then his scheduled 12th December visit to the White House should be cancelled. And everyone must remember that we have a very very narrow window within which to accomplish these actions, although there will be blood on our hands and the world will see that America and the E.U. did not undersea when we had the opportunity to do so. And we will all bear responsibility for the horrible outcome because we lack both the moral and political courage to stand for what is right. We must make sure for the sake of mankind that it does not happen. Thank you very much.