A European-American Conference was convened on invitation of the Friends of Free Iran intergroup in the European Parliament on February 7, in relation to the current political situation in Iran and the region, and the necessity of protecting Ashraf residents, members of the Iranian opposition.
STEVENSON head of the Delegation for Relations with Iraq in the parliament: Thank you very much Jim, and it’s a pleasure to share a platform with Mrs. Rajavi and such notable distinguished personages once again. I was in Geneva yesterday having the second meeting with Antonio Guterres, the High Commissioner for Refugees, and they are working hard I have to say to resolve the situation. And the focus of our meeting yesterday was on the issue of resettlement, which many of the speakers I hear have been referring to. And our efforts in this Parliament now must be focused on getting these 3,300 or 400 out of Iraq.
It’s not a question any longer of getting them out of Ashraf and into Liberty and then trying to resolve the problem of what to do next. We have to start the process of getting them out of Iraq. And that means having them individually recognized by UNHCR as refugees, and that means what Governor Howard Dean just said, getting the blacklisting in America lifted in order that America can take a sizable chunk of these people. And I don’t understand—and I’m grateful for the words that you’ve just spoken Governor Dean—but I don’t understand what is in it for the State Department to keep them on the list. We know they were originally put on the American terror list for the same reason they were put on the EU terror list and the British terror list. It was a policy of appeasement of the mullahs. And we have recognized that and we’ve recognized the absurdity of trying to appease dictators.
We should have recognized that 60 years ago in Europe with our history. It’s an absolute absurdity and that’s why the courts ordered us to take them off the EU list and off the UK list. So what’s the game now in the Statement Department? What’s the advantage of keeping them there? The most recent dialogue that took place in Tehran with the most recent inspectors going once again with Ahmadinejad saying, “We open our doors to inspectors from the West to come and see our peaceful nuclear enrichment program.” In fact it has turned out to be a disgraceful farce as we knew it would be. All this appeasement policy has done has been to buy time for the mullahs to continue with their relentless program of nuclear enrichment to the point now where we are told within the next two months Israel may launch a military strike against the nuclear targets inside Iran and that would inflame the whole conflict in the Middle East. But you know this policy of appeasement has to stop. Having achieved nothing, take them off the list and make it for heaven’s sake, easier for us to resolve this crisis in Camp Ashraf.
My good friend and colleague, Alejo Vidal-Quadras, will next week in Strasburg launch a task force involving those of us who have played a prominent role in the European Parliament in trying to resolve the crisis in Ashraf. And he will task each of us to go back to our interior ministers and our member states and look them in the eye and say, “What are you doing to help get these people out of Ashraf?” And I want to leave a message today to our colleagues in France on this issue because I’m hearing from many senior people that France is actively going around the European Union Schengen states telling them not to take anyone from Ashraf on the grounds that they believe that they will all come into the Schengen countries and then make their way without any controls to Paris, to [5:32] and create another Ashraf, which is absolute rubbish, absolute nonsense. This is in the imagination of some French politicians. They must stop this aggressive policy of interference. They are undermining the whole process of trying to save these people. What is the French alternative? Do they want 3,400 deaths? Do they want another massacre? Is that what France is actively pursuing? So please to the French, lay off and start cooperating with us in achieving a solution and not undermining all the work that we are doing. But already those countries, like Italy, who have generously taken people who were seriously wounded in the massacre in April last year, have taken them into their hospitals and said to them that they can remain in Italy although they had no previous connection with that country, France has criticized them and said, “You know, you are doing the wrong thing.” This is outrageous. This is a country showing its humanitarian ethos living up to the values that we hold so dear in Europe and being criticized by one of the countries that claims to be one of the founding member states of the European Union. I think that is a disgrace and France, really you should hang your head in shame and start coming to the table and cooperating with us.
I have, throughout this entire process, ladies and gentlemen, been aware of one key issue, that Mrs. Rajavi cares deeply about the people in her organization. And when these people have been isolated in Camp Ashraf, have been attacked, have been under siege, have been massacred, have been wounded and mutilated horribly, she is the one that has kept the pressure on to find a solution that will avoid violence and will save the lives of her people, her people on the front line. And I think this is a mark of the leadership of Mrs. Rajavi and that’s why one day I would like to see that leadership extended to the whole of Iran. That would be something worth fighting for. [applause]
And let me be clear about the tactics of the mullahs because some speakers have mentioned what is happening in Iran today as well as me. The mullahs have taken the pressure on the Iraqi government on Ashraf to the extent now that this issue has been debated in the UN Security Council; it has led to the UN sending Martin Khoblar, their special representative to Iraq, where almost all of his time since he arrived in Iraq has been devoted to resolving the Ashraf crisis; it has led to Hilary Clinton appointing a special ambassador, Dan Freeh, to deal only with the Ashraf crisis; it has led to Baroness Ashton appointing John
(Deroit) as her special envoy on Ashraf; it has led Antonio Guterres, the High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, telling me that with all the crises happening around the world in Syria, in Pakistan, in many, many countries, the issue that is filling his mailbag and crowding his e-mails every day is Ashraf—most of the e-mails coming from Paulo Casaca I think, who he sends his very deep regards to by the way. So what the mullahs have achieved in doing this is they have made all of us focus on Ashraf and take our eyes off the nuclear enrichment program, a very cunning plot by the mullahs. While our focus is intensely on saving the lives of the people at Ashraf, as of course it must be, they quietly get on with the job of preparing their nuclear weapons.
That’s why we have to resolve this crisis quickly, and that’s why the solution of Camp Liberty and the revolving door approach, which the PMOI and Mrs. Rajavi herself has referred to, sending a hundred people possibly within the next week without conditions to prepare the Camp, it’s not ready to take 3,400 people in any case but it is ready to take three or four hundred. So send the first hundred, then send another three or four hundred and get them interviewed by UNHCR and taken out of Iraq immediately. Then bring in the next 400, interview them, get them out of Iraq. That conveyor belt process is the way to resolve this situation. And when you consider that Camp Liberty, only a tiny corner of what was a huge 40-square kilometer American military base, only a tiny corner has been allocated for the 3,300 people from Ashraf by the Iraqi authorities, it would be quite impossible with no running water supply, no drinking water to have all these 3,300 crammed in there with three police stations inside the camp. It would lead to violent confrontation I’m convinced. The conveyor belt approach is the only way to resolve that situation, only have 400 or a maximum 500 in the camp at a time.
But to achieve that we need the EU member states and America, Canada, Australia, and other countries agreeing that they are prepared to take people from Ashraf. So the time for decisions has arrived and I am delighted that Alejo Vidal-Quadras is setting up this task force. That is where we must focus our energies next and after we get all the people from Ashraf, every one of them—none of this nonsense about any of them being arrested by Nuri al-Maliki on trumped up charges of terrorism—every one of them must be rescued and taken out of Iraq. Once we have completed that our focus will be back on the mullahs and we will be looking for nothing short of regime change and then we will fight for the election of Mrs. Rajavi to be President of Iran. Thank you very much.