“The current regime in Tehran, as a threat to international peace and security not just in its region, but worldwide, and the way that you deal with that kind of threat is to end that regime,” said Ambassador John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under Bush Administration, on January 25 in Brussels’ international conference entitled, “Camp Ashraf and the policy on Iran.”
The following are excerpts from his speech:
Thank you for including me in the program. It is a great opportunity to do something Americans love to do, which is disagree with one another in front of a foreign audience.
So let’s get to it. The declared and unequivocal policy of the USA should be the overthrow of the regime in Tehran.
The reason for that is that we are in a race with this regime on several critical fronts. One is their 20 year pursuit of nuclear weapons and the second is their support for international terrorism where this regime has in fact become the world’s central banker for terrorist activities.
Let’s take the nuclear front first. It is clear and has been clear for some time, we didn’t need Istanbul this weekend to explain it to us, that there is no way that the regime can be negotiated out of its nuclear weapons program.
Let’s consider the possibilities. The regime in Tehran wants nuclear weapons. The US and others don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons. What is the compromise, iran gets a small number of nuclear weapons? There is no compromise on this point.
Moreover we have to understand that negotiations are no different from any other kind of human activity. They have benefits and they have costs and if you engage in negotiations when the benefits outweigh the cost. That is simply not the case here.
Negotiations consume time. The most important thing that a would be nuclear proliferator needs is time, time to overcome the complex scientific and technological obstacles to getting a nuclear weapons program and the regime in Tehran, for going on 8 years now, has taken the West to the cleaners and used that time as close as they are now to nuclear weapons.
Now many people believe that in the wake of the success of the Suxnet virus that suddenly a large window of opportunity has opened which will be filled I have absolutely no doubt by people in the EU and the US looking for more excuses to negotiate.
The fact is that whatever delays the Suxnet virus has accomplished in the regimes pursuit for nuclear weapons, they remain being extremely close to the capability. Even the IAEA publicly acknowledges iran has enough low enriched uranium for nuclear weapons right now and the amount of work, the amount of energy consumed to enrich uranium to reactor grade is two thirds of the work needed to enrich it to weapons grade. So they are very very close.
Moreover the idea that we have got a much longer time frame before the regime gets nuclear weapons ignores what else the regime is doing, which is expanding and hardening its nuclear infrastructure which makes it all the more difficult to route out at the appropriate time.
We are losing the race with Iran over nuclear weapons and it is fanciful to believe that sanctions, economic sanctions are going to materially slow down Irans progress.
And let’s be clear, just to disagree with the last two speakers, the most comprehensive set of economic sanctions were imposed after Iraqs invasion of Kuwait, Security Council resolution 661 which cut off essentially all contact with Iraq other than humanitarian supplies.
Those sanctions utterly failed to achieve their objective of convincing Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait and the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran by the Security Council have had little or no effect other than an increment in the cost of various transactions that the Iranian regime needs to engage in.
The pursuit of their nuclear weapons objective remains largely unaffected. The economic turmoil that we see within Iran today is minimally caused by the sanctions, maximally caused by three decades of economic mismanagement.
So the idea that we have very much time left is a delusion that only puts all of us at greater risk. I think that is why the support for regime change in Iran is so critical, because that will directly affect the leadership and could well affect their policies.
But let’s be clear. It is not simply irans pursuit for nuclear weapons that should trouble us. Look at their support for terrorist activities in Iraq. Look at their support there for a regime there that will threaten once again the stability in the Middle East and beyond. Look at what Iran is doing in Lebanon. We have just heard today President Michel Sulemain as expected has appointed Mr Najib Makabi as Prime Minister with the support of the whole Hezbollah bloc in the Lebanese Parliament.
We are on the verge of seeing the extinction of representative government in Lebanon, creating a regime that will be a complete puppet of the one in Tehran as has been the case with Syria.
We see the spread of Irans support for international terrorism, having a detrimental effect all over the world.
So look at the policies that the government of Iran is pursuing. We can see the pursuit of nuclear weapons, the support for international terrorism and the repression of its own people.
All of this is going on while the West talks and talks and talks.
Now with respect to the MEK and the consideration that Secretary Clinton is currently giving to delisting, let’s be clear. I think that the evidence is unequivocal that when the MEK was added to the list of foreign terrorist organisations under the Clinton administration, it was added under a very strongly held view that so doing would make the rulers in Tehran more amenable to the policies that the Clinton administration wanted to pursue, more amenable to engagement.
If that was the calculation, it failed unambiguously. The same feelings underly the decision of Secretary Rice in 2002, at the end of her tenure at the State Department to continue the listing of the MEK, representing the failed notion that this kind of step would make it easier to negotiate with the regime in the future.
But I think that there was an important point in Secretary Rice’s decision where she says expressly that the decision should be reviewed again in 2 years, that is to say right now, because I think that was an indication that she felt, even then, even operating under the bias that a decision on the listing on the Foreign Terrorist Organisation list should be affected by other political factors. That the evidence was sufficiently ambiguous that revisiting it today would make sense.
Judge Mcusey has summarised the important aspects of the DC circuits opinion in this case and I think that the submission that the lawyers for the MEK have made plays out in great detail what they are able to say about the information that they know about, the unclassified information.
I think it is clear beyond any argument that political factors should not influence either the decision to list an organisation as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation or to delist it. In the prosecutorial metaphor, you have to follow the facts wherever they lead.
If the facts show that there is neither the capacity or intent to engage in terrorist activity, then the organisation should not be on the list. This is the decision we are waiting for from Secretary Clinton. I hope she takes the hint that Secretary Rice gave her to revisit this in an objective way, unlike the circumstances under which the listing was made in the first place and we will see what happens.
But most importantly I think that the view not just in the United States but in Europe as well has to be to understand the current regime in Tehran as a threat to international peace and security, not just in its region, but worldwide and the way that you deal with that kind of threat is to end that regime.