A bi-partisan panel of members of U.S. Congress and senior former public officials and national security experts entitled “U.S. Policy, Iran and Camp Ashraf: The panel, held at the U.S. House of Representatives to make it the policy of the United States to “prevent the forcible relocation of Camp Ashraf residents inside Iraq and facilitate the robust presence of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq in Camp Ashraf.”
The House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL); Rep. Bob Filner, (D-CA), Co-Chair, Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus; Representatives “Judge” Ted Poe (R-TX); Judy Chu (D-CA); Dan Lungren (R-CA); Trent Franks (R-AZ); Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX); and Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) were joined by John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Andrew Card, former White House Chief of Staff; Michael Mukasey, former Attorney General of the United States; John Sano, former Deputy Director of CIA for National Clandestine Service; Robert Torricelli, former United States Senator; and Professor Steven Schneebaum, Counsel for U.S. families of Camp Ashraf Residents.
Below is an excerpt of the speech by Hon. John R. Bolton. Mr. Bolton, a diplomat and a lawyer, has spent many years in public service. From August 2005 to December 2006, he served as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations. From 2001 to 2005, he was undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. Ambassador Bolton is currently a foreign and national security policy Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Thank you very much. Thank you, Bob. It’s a pleasure to be with you here today and everybody else on this critical issue.
I’d like to try and put this in a little bit of context because I think it’s important to see the larger picture to understand really what the stakes are, and I think the critical point that we need to come back to is the nature of the regime in Tehran right now.
This is an authoritarian government that oppresses its own people. It is pursuing weapons of mass destruction very vigorously and it has served for two decades as the world’s central banker for international terrorism.
It supports terrorists groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, the kind of an equal opportunity financier of terrorism. It has aided those inside Iraq to attack American and other allied forces. It even supplies and finances its once sworn enemy the Taliban in Afghanistan in their hostilities again against American and NATO forces.
So when you hear the government in Tehran accuse someone else of being a terrorist, you immediately have to take into account who is doing the talking and what they’re objectives are.
This government that is manifestly unwilling to submit itself to a free and fair election of its own people which is the central element in the MEK platform.
If you look at what the regime in Tehran did after the June 2009 election using brutal force against the people of Iran and if you look today at what’s happening in Syria, knowing as we do that officers of the Revolutionary Guard are assisting the Assad family dictatorship in killing the people of Syria, that the assistance that has been given to Hezbollah over the years is now being used in Syria as it has been used in Lebanon repeatedly, that this is the nature of the regime that oppresses its own people and seeks to oppress those in other countries. And it’s a regime that has activity pursued all manner of weapons of mass destruction nuclear, chemical, and biological.
Now, the efforts of the world to deal with the mullahs pursuit of nuclear weapons has not been successful. I think we have to be very candid about this.
International diplomacy has failed because there was no way that the regime was going to be talked out of its pursuit of nuclear weapons. International sanctions have failed for a variety of reasons and are not going to succeed and dissuade the regime from continuing to pursue nuclear weapons.
We have a case already in North Korea, the heavily sanctioned regime on earth, that’s already exploded two nuclear devices. So while the sanctions may have their economic effect, they’re not going to stop the regime from trying to achieve that objective.
We can see even in the past few days how the regime has successfully avoided sanctions to date and how it will continue to do so. The government of China has announced that it’s trying to find a way around the financial sanctions imposed on Iran by the security council through a barter system.
We’ve seen contracts announced where China has agreed to construct for over $3 billion a subway system in Tehran where China has agreed to an over $12 billion contract for the construction of railroads, how China has agreed to construct and is constructing petroleum refining capacity.
This is a kind of barter arrangement that will allow the regime to avoid sanctions just as it works with governments like North Korea, like the Hugo Chavez’s government in Venezuela and others to continue its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
As Senator Torricelli said it was one of my responsibilities during President Bush’s administration to be concerned with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
I have to say here is where I had my first knowledge of the MEK which time and time and time again made public revelations about Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Now, in some cases we were aware of what they were making public and in other cases we were not, but I have yet to find a circumstance where the MEK revealed information about Iran’s nuclear weapons program that was not entirely consistent with the information that the United States had. I might say, it was often I felt in the interest of those trying to stop this nuclear weapons program to have a group like the MEK make this information public when for various reasons, good and sufficient in some cases, maybe not so good in others, where we didn’t want to make it public ourselves.
So the MEK I think has served a large and important international interest because of its ability to reveal the clandestine activities of the regime in Tehran in contravention of repeated resolutions by the security council and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
This brings us to the question obviously of the dangers to the innocent people at Camp Ashraf, and really the fundamental question still outstanding of why the MEK is on the list as a foreign terrorist organization.
I looked into this when I was in the government, knowing what the MEK was doing in its public releases of information to try and find out how this designation had taken place. And I have to say that what I uncovered was that in the late 1990s it was felt that if the MEK was put on the list that that would make the regime in Tehran more amenable to negotiations to end the nuclear weapons program.
Well, that certainly worked out well, didn’t it? It not only had no affect on the ayatollahs, I’m convinced that it led them to believe that the United States was dealing from a position of weakness and simply encouraged them to continue with the program.
Now, I have to say disappointingly at the end of the Bush Administration when the designation was reviewed, the determination was made to keep it on the list for essentially the same reason, that it might help to convince the regime in Tehran that the time for negotiation had come, and that failed too.
Now, here are two instances of nonfactual reasons being used to put the put and keep the MEK on the list. I think that reasoning is fundamentally flawed. I don’t think anybody ought to be on the FTO list based on political rationals whether to reward an organization or to punish an organization, just as I think on the list of state sponsors of terrorism the designation has to be factually based.
So I think it was a mistake when the United States, for example, took North Korea off the list of state sponsors of terrorism when it hadn’t done anything to make amens for or full disclosure of its kidnapping of innocent South Korean and Japanese civilians over the years.
For the same reason a the decision to put a country on that list has to be factually based and not driven by policy. And in the case of MEK, I don’t claim to have seen all of the information, but I didn’t see anything when I was in the government that justified them being on the list.
And we’ve got public statements by officials of great integrity and service to the United States who have testified about the work the MEK did. Generally Hugh Shelton, the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, who’s talked about the assistance that the MEK provided in the days before the invasion of Iraq.
We’ve had very senior officials in our American intelligence and counter-terrorism activities that have talked about the work they’ve done with the MEK. We have repeated testimonials by senior American military officials during the days of the American military presence in Iran after the overthrow Suddam Hussein who have talked about their cooperation and the renunciation of terrorism, the disarming of Camp Ashraf and the work that was done to help the United States during that period.
And now we’ve got a Court of Appeals of the United States that has told the State Department it must come up with a fresh review of this question.
Now it’s been a long time since that court decision has been handed down and I think it’s time for the State Department to make a factually based determination not swayed one way or the other. Let’s have the facts fall where they may and let’s look at all of the facts and let’s get this decision and let’s in particular, however long that takes, and it’s already taken too long.
Let’s have the United States abide by the commitment it made to protect on the residents of Camp Ashraf. Let’s follow through on the important amendment that the House Foreign Affairs Committee adopted last week. Let’s put pressure on the United Nations to do what it should do for legitimate refugees which has provided them protection and assistance and let’s insist that the government of Iraq live up to the commitment that it made to the United States to protect the people of Camp Ashraf.
This is not a political argument. This is an humanitarian argument and it’s in the finest tradition of the United States to pursue that sort of objective. It ought to be in the tradition of a representative government in Iraq and it certainly ought to be in the tradition of the United States. Thank you very much.