In an international conference held in Paris on Friday, January 6, at the invitation of the CFID (French Committee for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran), dozens of distinguished American and European dignitaries warned of obstructions and non-cooperation by the Iranian regime and Government of Iraq in guaranteeing a peaceful solution for Camp Ashraf, where members of the Iranian opposition reside in Iraq.
The conference speakers were Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance; Gov. Howard Dean, former Governor Vermont, Chair of the Democratic National Committee (2005-2009) and US presidential candidate (2004); Gov. Tom Ridge, former Governor of Pennsylvania and the first US Homeland Security Secretary (2003-2005); Louis Freeh, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (1993-2001); Gov. Ed Rendell, Chair of the Democratic National Committee (1999-2001) and Governor of Pennsylvania (2002-2011); Judge Michael Mukasey, US Attorney General in the Bush Administration (2007-2009);
Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, former Director of Policy Planning at the US Department of State; General James Conway, Commandant of the US Marine Corps (2006-2010); Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Member of US House of Representatives (1995-2011); Gen. Chuck Wald, former Deputy Commander of US European Command; Gen. David Phillips, Commander of U.S. Military Police (2008-2011); Prof. Alan Dershowitz, one of the most prominent advocates of individual rights and the most well-known lawyer in criminal cases in the world; Ambassador Dell Dailey, Head of the State Department’s counterterrorism office (2007-09); Col. Wesley Martin, former Senior Anti-terrorism Force Protection Officer for all Coalition Forces in Iraq and Commander of Forward Operation Base in Ashraf; Prof. Ruth Wedgwood, Chair of International Law and Diplomacy at Johns Hopkins University; Philippe Douste-Blazy, Former French Foreign Minister and to the UN Secretary General; Alain Vivien, former French Minister of State for European Affairs; Rita Süssmuth, former President of German Bundestag; Günter Verheugen, European Commissioner (1999-2010) and former Advisory Minister in German Foreign Ministry; and Sen. Lucio Malan, Member of Italian Senate.
Below is speech by Hon. Gov. Ed Rendell:
Good afternoon everyone. You know, Ambassador Riess and Governor Dean used the term “just words,” and it is true that words don’t mean anything unless there’s enforcement, implementation, and unless there is an eventual product as Governor Dean said. But there are two words that the United States and the United Nations haven’t used that have to be used and those two words are “why” and “no.” And let me begin by echoing what’s been said by Governor Dean and Governor Ridge and will be said by every one of the Americans who are speaking here today, there is no doubt, not one scintilla, not one iota of doubt, that the United States has a moral and legal responsibility to ensure that the residents of Camp Ashraf are protected in every way until each and every one of them is relocated on foreign soil. There’s no doubt about that; it’s our responsibility. If you would listen to these phone calls that we’ve been having with the State Department and other U.S. officials, there is all sorts of attempts to avoid responsibility. Well, it’s the Iraqis’ responsibility now or it’s the United Nations responsibility. No, it is the United States’ responsibility to make sure that this works out .
Now I keep thinking that you are a wonderful audience because many of you have heard many of us speak on a number of occasions, and there are a number of speakers and after awhile we’re all emphasizing the same points. But those are points that need to be emphasized and if you look back over what’s happened since July it’s amazing to me how we have shown—the United States and the United Nations—have shown virtually no backbone at all. First of all, we should have used the word “no” when it came to the Iraqi government’s objection to having United Nations blue helmets or U.S. troops protecting the residents of Ashraf until they were relocated. That was the first mistake. What was wrong with that? If the Iraqis had no ill intention, if the Iraqis were committed to the safety of these residents as well, well what would the problem have been to have the United States leave- Colonel (Martinez) told me that we could have left about a small company of U.S. soldiers or U.S. Marines and that would have guaranteed their protection. Or if they didn’t want United States ‘cause we were leaving the country, what about U.N. soldiers? Well what was the reason? We didn’t ask the Iraqis why they objected to that. Because there’s no good reason for them to object to that. And then we didn’t ask a second question, why relocate out of Camp Ashraf at all? Why? What was wrong what harm was being done to the Iraqi government by having these 3,400 people live peacefully, controlling their own destiny, paying for their own expenses, living peacefully, endangering and threatening no one in this camp? Why was it necessary to move them? Why couldn’t the UNHCR have done its work in Camp Ashraf? We were told that was unacceptable but nobody told us why. And think about it. What possible reason was relocation necessary? Why couldn’t the goals, if the Iraqis are honest that they want these people out, why couldn’t it have been done in Camp Ashraf? Why didn’t we ask that question? And getting no good answer, why didn’t we just have a little backbone and say, “No, they’re staying in Camp Ashraf until the relocation process is done.” We didn’t ask that question.
And now in the face of, as Governor Ridge said, in the face of tremendously responsible conduct by your President and by the residents of Ashraf in going along with this plan with no assurances, we’re going along with the plan and we’re trusting the word, although I give Secretary Clinton credit for the Christmas day letter she sent, the Christmas day statement she sent in which she said that we’re counting on the Iraqi government to ensure the safety and ensure there won’t be violence. But what assurances do we have? We were counting on them to protect the residents in 2009 and we were counting on them in 2011. Given their track record, why didn’t we just say, “No, we’re not going to count on you to protect them. We’re going to go along with the plan to relocate them. You want them out of the country, but we’re going to make sure that there are U.S. or U.N. troops on site to protect them.”
Why didn’t we say, “Why?” Why didn’t we ask why? And why receiving no good answer didn’t we say, “No”? And now responsible behavior by the MEK, by the President, responsible behavior by the residents, those 400 residents who signed on to go, Madame Rajavi I don’t know, they must be the most courageous people on this planet to be willing to go. But it’s time to ask the Iraqis why. Why we went from a 40-kilometer base to a less than one kilometer base. What was the reason for it? Was there any good reason? Was it necessary to protect Iraqi security? Was it necessary for intelligence purposes? What was the reason that we reduce the size? There is no good answer. What was the reason, even though the MOU specifically lays out the fact that the residents have the right to take all of their movable assets and adequate vehicles to Camp Liberty, what’s the reason that they’re saying no now? They’re saying no now. Did we ask? Did the U.N. ask? Did the State Department ask? Did anybody ask, “Why? Why are you doing this in violation of the MOU that the Iraqi government signed?” Nobody’s asking why. Why are there inadequate facilities? Why did the Iraqi police have to be inside the gates? We understand that the Iraqis want sovereignty over the camp but that sovereignty could be assured by having the police stand at the gates to the camp. There’s no way out of the camp; there’s no escape and certainly the residents don’t want to escape. Why is it necessary to have the police inside? Why is it necessary to not have adequate facilities? The answer is there’s no good answer. And it is time for us to show some backbone.
Now we’ve come a long way in many regards and we’re close to at least taking a step that might lead to the eventual peaceful resolution of this problem. But if in fact the Iraqis’ goal is to turn this into a prison, if in fact their actions are no more than punitive to the residents of Ashraf, if in fact that punitive action is no more than an attempt to appease Tehran again, if in fact that’s the case, then the U.N. and the United States of America have to use the word “no” to relocation. We have to stand behind the residents when they say, “No, we’re not going to a place that doesn’t have adequate facilities. We’re not going to a place that is a defacto prison camp. We’re not going to a place where it means we’re losing our personal assets and millions of dollars of personal property. We’re not going to be treated like that because there is no good reason why.” So it’s time for all of us here from the number of different countries that are represented on the panel today to the people who have spoken out in the past who aren’t with us today but who’ve been strong and committed voices to doing this, it is time for all of us, it is time for Secretary Clinton, it is time for Lady Ashton, it is time for all of us to say, “No relocation unless basic standards and the MOU are complied with.” We haven’t said no before. We haven’t asked why before. At this critical juncture it’s important that we do it. The United States of America if it’s going to fulfill its morale responsibility can do no less.