John Bolton: In the world of the UNHCR, Camp Ashraf is not a problem, Camp Ashraf is an interim solution

Sunday, 08 January 2012 20:31    .NCRI – 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. John Bolton:

Thank you very much.  Thank you to the organizers, Madame Rajavi and others, for inviting us here today to this very important discussion.  I think 2012 is going to be a dispositive year for Iran, for Iraq, for the broader region and perhaps the world because of developments taking place there. And I think that in many respects, what happens to Camp Ashraf and the MEK are as we say canaries in the coal mine.  We’re going to learn a lot by how these issues are resolved.  Let me start first with Camp Ashraf and the disposition of the people there.  You know, the United Nations is a culture of its own.  I know how it operates.  I understand why there are difficulties with dealing with the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, in part because it sees itself as accredited to the government of Iraq.  Part of its objective is to make sure it gets along with the government of Iraq.  So I think it’s very important as Madame Rajavi and others negotiate with Ambassador Kobler that those who want an equitable and correct result for Camp Ashraf understand what needs to be done to persuade the ambassador and the UN bureaucracy in New York that their principal responsibility is not making the government of Iraq happy, it’s protecting the residents of Camp Ashraf.

Now number two, number two, UNAMI is not the only element of the United Nations involved here.  The UN high commissioner for refugees has global responsibility for refugees.  You know, the symbol of UNHCR is a picture of a refugee family with two human hands forming a roof over it, depicting HCR’s mission of protection and assistance.  The UNHCR doesn’t operate under any illusions that it’s responsible to member governments where refugee populations live.  I think that the high commissioner for refugees really needs to take a look at the symbol on the flag in his office and remember that protection and assistance for the refugees comes before anything else.  And I think members of the UN that care about that should be insisting on it.  I’d say a nice symbolic thing for the high commissioner to do would be to take his flag and get on a plane from Geneva and go to Baghdad and drive to Ashraf and plant that flag in Camp Ashraf.

You know most, most refugees, most refugees come across international borders with little more than the clothes on their backs, and it’s the responsibility of HCR to provide them with protection and to provide them with a place where they can take refuge until they’re either moved to other countries or they can go back to their own country without fear of persecution.  Camp Ashraf, in the world of the UNHCR, Camp Ashraf is not a problem.  Camp Ashraf is an interim solution. And how, how tragic it would be, how  how tragic it would be, what a stain, what a stain on the reputation of this Nobel Peace Prize winning agency to preside over a degradation in the living status and freedom and welfare of refugees.  I just really don’t think if the West and others put appropriate pressure on UNHCR that Commissioner Guterres really wants that to happen.  And I think it’s important that he understand that.

Now let me turn to the question of Iraq.  You know, there are those in the world who believe that the reduction of U.S. military capabilities and the withdrawal of American forces will contribute to international peace and security.  I believe they are 100% wrong in that view, and there has not been, I think, a more tragic demonstration of the error of that way of thinking than to see what’s happened in Iraq since the withdrawal of American forces.  I have been amazed at the speed with which Nouri Al-Maliki’s government has disregarded even the pretense of a free and open political system and the rule of law.  American influence in Iraq today is dramatically reduced, but it’s not absent.  And if we don’t exercise our influence, as other speakers have said, to make sure that the government of Iraq honors the commitment that the United States made to them, what conclusion will the regime in Tehran draw from that?  What conclusion will they draw about American will and resolve?  Especially when we look at the performance of this dictatorship in Tehran just in recent weeks: threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz through which so much vital oil is shipped into the international market; being indicted in the United States for conspiring to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador on the streets of Washington; contributing to the killing of thousands of civilians in Syria; supporting that fascist dictator ship in Damascus; continuing to support international terrorists like Hezbollah and Hamas; and obviously, and worst of all, continuing to make progress toward its long-sought objective of nuclear weapons.  You know, there’s a lot of talk in the press these days about sanctions which the United States is going to impose, and sanctions which the European Union is considering.  I wouldn’t draw too much comfort from that talk about the sanctions because Iran is by the estimate of Secretary of Defense Panetta within one year of achieving that objective of getting nuclear weapons.  U.S. sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran will not take effect for six months.  They are subject to waiver provisions and the president of the United States himself said when he signed the legislation authoring those sanctions into law that he didn’t believe he was constitutionally bound by them.  So one can ask, in the race between Iran’s effort to get nuclear weapons and our efforts to sanction them, who’s going to win that race?  It is a very, very dangerous situation we’re in.  And if there is any signal that the United States and Europe send to Iran that our will is failing on such a matter as humanitarian protection for innocent women, children and male civilians, I don’t know what signal it will send on the nuclear weapons program. 

That brings us to the most important thing that the United States can do.  You know I’ve listened to some of my colleagues express their concern that maybe the State Department isn’t quite up to the job of protecting the people at Ashraf.  And the reason , I think, beyond anything else why the State Department has not been strong in carrying out its responsibilities to honor America’s own word is because the State Department has not yet announced its decision on whether or not to delist the MEK as a foreign terrorist organization.  You’ve heard the other speakers say they know of no evidence why that listing should continue.  I think that the issue here is really quite simple.  I don’t think that organizations should be put on that list for political purposes, as the MEK was in 1997.  I don’t think organizations should be kept on that list, as the MEK was in 2008, for political purposes.  I think the facts should be allowed to fall where they may.  If the State Department has facts that justify the listing, let’s hear them.  If it doesn’t have any facts, delist the MEK and remove this pretense that Iran and the Al-Maliki government use to try to pressure the residents of Camp Ashraf.

And I’ll just close with one final thought.  I have a very simple view of America’s role in the world.  It is to lead in the defense of liberty.  And in that connection I think it it should be—and long since—it should be the declared policy of the United States to overthrow the regime in Tehran.  Thank you very much.


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