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.Tom Ridge:
Viva Ashraf. And Mrs. Rajavi, it is a great pleasure and a privilege not only to join you and the leadership of the MEK, but the distinguished group of international citizens who are joined in common effort and in common cause to support you and your efforts for the residents of Camp Ashraf. We appreciate your courageous, your principled leadership. We stand with you on your call to perhaps even replace the United Nations as a spokesperson for the residents of Camp Ashraf. They are a fine interlocutor but no one can better speak to the aspirations and the goals and the needs of the residents than you, Mrs. Rajavi. [applause] By the way I think it’s unlikely that the Maliki government will welcome you to Baghdad or even a neutral site. But if they do, get a large plane because I think a lot of people in this audience want to go with you, including those here as well.
Ladies and gentlemen, years from now I suspect that historians from around the world will take a look at what has transpired over the previous 25 or 30 years at Camp Ashraf, in Iran and they’re going to write a book about the MEK, about the Democratic Iranian Opposition, about the intrepid courageous residents of Camp Ashraf. Many of the members of the panel here have actually witnessed some of those chapters that have probably already been written in the minds of observers for the past 15 or 20 years. Some of are just recent observers. Some of us are just recent participants. So there have been a few chapters that have been written, but sadly a few chapters remain. And I think we gather here today as we’ve gathered for the past year and will continue to gather as long as it takes to make sure that the final couple of chapters are written in a way to achieve the outcomes and the results that Howard Dean mentioned in his remarks just a few moments ago: the peaceful resettlement of Iranian democrats throughout the world in support of the Iranian Democratic Resistance within Tehran, to achieve a regime change in Iran, to replace the mullahs and Ahmadinejad with elected representatives of the people of Iran.
We gather at this critical moment as these chapters have yet to be written, and I suggest for my purpose of my remarks today, there might be a couple of themes at least in this next chapter that I want the historians to pay attention to. The first theme they may want to write about is the deception that has occurred over the past four or five months in relationship to some of the negotiations, or all of the negotiations that have gone on under perhaps the well-intentioned efforts of a lot of people involved, either from the United States or the United Nations, but the very unsuccessful, timid efforts. The deception I speak of begins with the notion at least I think many of us who have been on this conference calls and in communication with your leadership of the MEK have been under the impression that once that artificial deadline was established the UN special envoy was announced, that there would be a legitimate effort to negotiate a mutually satisfactory agreement between the leadership of the MEK and the United Nations and the Iraqi government to provide for the safety and security of the residents of the camp. That was the impression that was given. Many of us felt there would be shuttle diplomacy back and forth. The camp, Paris, Baghdad, back and forth, negotiated settlement. Well that hasn’t happened. There has been no negotiation. There has been talk. But the final agreement was not signed by or signed off on even a rhetorical way by the leadership of the MEK. It’s a rather deceptive practice to say one thing and do another. Let history record, although there were verbal assurances of the safety and security of the residents, it is not embedded in the agreement. Therewas one trip to Paris, one trip to Baghdad, and then it was a fait accompli. “Here’s the memorandum of understanding, take it or leave it.” Mrs. Rajavi, courageous, principled leadership on your part convincing the residents to rely on you, and I might say to rely on the word of the United States, as unsatisfactory as that memorandum of understanding may be, as disingenuous as they may have been in suggesting that it would be negotiated, you have called upon them to trust you, trust us, trust the International community, trust the UN and trust the United States, take the agreement to live by it. Principled, courageous. But there’s still more work to do. That theme, deception. It’s supposed to discuss in good faith if you’re really interested in the kind of principled, righteous outcome that we all believe is absolutely essential in this matter.
There may be a theme called delusion. Many of us have been on these conference calls, and again I don’t doubt the intention of the men and women involved in trying to affect the peaceful settlement. But there’s this notion in my country that somehow the United States is just a bystander. We are an observer. We are a witness to history. It’s not our problem now. We don’t have any say. We don’t have any influence. The Iraqi government is sovereign. And basically sometimes when we listen to these conversations we get the impression that we should be happy, we should be grateful, we should be satisfied that instead of relocating the residents throughout Iraq the Malaki government has said, “Well, all right, we’ll make a concession. We’ll move them from the Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty.” Well that’snot enough. And it’s delusional to think—and I say this to my president, to my secretary of state and all the decent and well-intentioned people in this administration—youcannot deny history. You cannot change history. We are the country that asked the residents to surrender their weapons of self-defense. The United States asked, not the UN, not Iran, not Iraq. We asked. We are the country, the United States is the country, that gave written assurances. We, the United States of America. We assure you that we will protect you since we have taken away your ability to protect yourself. Big issues involved here, none greater in my judgment than America’s credibility. So this notion that we ought to just sit idly by and try to push and move as gently as we possibly can, and I do say this with great respect to those involved in these discussions, you’re not a bystander. You are not a witness. You are not a interlocutor, you’re not an intermediary. It is absolutely essential, as previousspeakers have said and will continue to say, there’s a legal and moral obligation to exert every conceivable influence you possibly can to ensure the safety and security of these residents. It’s the United States’ responsibility.
I think the historians will probably talk about some of the legitimate demands that the residents are calling upon the broader world community to support. They made the single largest concession possible in order to avoid another massacre. They’ve agreed to be relocated at Camp Liberty. At one time they thought it was a military camp, they thought it was of massive size. And all of a sudden it has been compressed to a small area around which they are building walls, which doesn’t sound like a resettlement camp, it sounds more like a prison. And we must demand that the U.S. and the UN live up to those promises made early on in the discussions about humane conditions at Camp Liberty. The preservation and protection of privacy. We do have 1,000 women. We have been told there will be a robust U.S. presence there to observe, which we think is very important. But we’re still unsure what that means. We’re told that there will be UN observers there, but we don’t know whether they’re going to be intermingled with the residents or whether or not they’re going to be outside the prison walls or gates and only allowed access when the Iraqi government chooses to allow them access. We see no reason whatsoever, it’s not an unreasonable demand to keep the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army outside of Camp Liberty. It’s a matter of sovereignty, it’s on Iraqi soil. We appreciate that. There’s no reason for them to be involved and have personnel inside camp Liberty, none whatsoever. And you know why we’re concerned about that? Let history not record that this panel said publicly that there was an incident or two inside the camp precipitated by either the police or by the Iraqi Army and used as an excuse for the humanitarian massacre and onslaught that all of us are working so hard to resist. The demands are reasonable.
And I say to the UN special envoy, to our special envoy, you must use every influence you possibly can. And for those who say we have no—we’re not part of this anymore, I’ll remind my friends in the United States, 4,400 Gold Star mothers in America whose sons and daughters have been killed to bring self-governance and democracy to Iraq. And I would daresay I would not want to be speaking for them, the pain, the sorrow, the anguish to have lost someone in Iraq. But I can’t believe that a single American parent who lost a son or daughter on the field of battle in Iraq would tolerate a United States government sitting idly by while the government that their sons and daughters lost their life in fighting to preserve and protect went in and massacred innocent, defenseless citizens of another country. It is un-American. [applause] Un-American, unworthy of America. I like to tell people from time to time, America if it were a product what we try to sell is a brand. You know every product that you likes there’sa brand associated with it and you’re attracted to it. Sometimes I think America gets a little preachy around the world about our brand, there are certain characteristics of our country of which I’m particularly proud. And it is the freedom and the tolerance and the diversity. It’s also the rule of law, the Constitution of the United States, our credibility.
So the fourth theme that I think we need to hopefully the historians will record is that our persistent cry to delist, delist, delist was finally heard by the United States government. The EU, the UK, even the courts in the United States that said there is no reason, there’s no legal justification. My colleagues here have heard it, and perhaps you’ve heard me mention this before, ladies and gentleman, but every day while I was privileged to serve my government both in the White House and as secretary of Homeland Security, just about every day for almost four years I got a list of terrorist threats against the United States. And I must tell you not on one occasion in those four years of getting those lists, sometimes there was a couple pages, sometimes there was a couple dozen pages, but at no time did I see a reference to the MEK. Never. And what an irony, what an absolute irony it is for the greatest terrorist state in the world, the most significant terrorist state in the world, the exporter of terrorism around the world that’s got surrogates, Hamas, Hezzbolah, the Islamic Jihad, we all know what it is—for them to be having so much influence in Baghdad after we’ve sacrificed blood and treasure to give this regime an opportunity to create a freedom loving society. Delist, delist, delist, do it now.