Former US Energy Secretary and Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Bill Richardson who was Governor of New Mexico until the beginning of this year addressed the ‘International Conference on Camp Ashraf and Policy on Iran’ in Brussels on January 25 underlining “the need to find a solution to avert a humanitarian crisis of Camp Ashraf.” He emphasized that solution means more American security. Excerpts from his speech follow:
Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, my thanks to Mrs. Rajavi, all of the organizers of the event. I want to also pay tribute to the European leaders that are here. Obviously the European Parliament, the EU, have been moving in the right direction, Struan, Dirk, Alejo. By the way, Alejo I noticed there are a lot of Spaniards here with the great standing ovation you got. You got it because of your actions. I want to also say to the audience that I don’t expect a standing ovation after I speak because I’m going to say some things that you may not agree with. I think it’s important that I [applause] Thank you very much. I want to talk about first the areas that I think we agree. And I’m going to try to give my perspective as a member of, an American former official. I’ve been governor in New Mexico for the last eight years. So I haven’t been totally involved in foreign policy. I’ve been running a State. But previously I had quite a bit of foreign policy experience.
I want to just list the areas and I think there are five, where I sense common agreement, at least from my perspective.
Number one: it does make sense to delist the MEK as being a terrorist organization. There is no link, there is no terrorist link, there is no capability, no intent, and I believe here America needs to follow the lead of the European Union and the European Parliament that has taken a sensible step, almost a year ago. I also want to thank Judge Mukasey because I think he’s pointed out, at least when it comes to American policy, that there’s been mistakes on both sides – on the Republican and the Democratic side.
The second point that, I believe, unites all of us, is that Camp Ashraf. Obviously, we need to find a solution to avert a humanitarian crisis of Camp Ashraf. And that solution means security, more American security for the UN force that is there. Actually, American security because right now it seems that Iraq is not providing the necessary protection for the 3,400 human beings that are there. So that is another effort that I believe we can commonly agree.
Number three: I think we need to find ways to support the Iraqi opposition forces in Iran and outside of Iran.
I think this has to be the new policy ingredient that a conference like this needs to evaluate and find new arenas, new policies. I don’t think we’ve explored that enough.
It is obvious that when I visited with Mrs. Rajavi yesterday, she is a woman of vision, she’s a woman of intellect, who speaks many languages, and cares deeply about her people and has a very good team surrounding, a very good team. Now, what does that mean in terms of a new policy? It means that what happened in Istanbul in the last few days provides an arena for new opportunities and new policies. It is obvious that those that have advocated negotiations, like myself, dialogue, diplomacy, now have to realistically look at the results of that policy. And it is obvious in Istanbul that the Iranian government was not serious. They wouldn’t accept a discussion on the fuel cycle or providing a fuel cycle for Iran that the European Union had presented. They refused to look at IAEA procedures to inspect some of the nuclear facilities in Iran, and they set preconditions of eliminating sanctions before we even talked. It was not a serious effort and I believe this means that new policies need to be looked at.
Now, in terms of other steps that we can take, obviously we need to condemn the executions that just took place, push for democratic change in Iran, and by the way I think we have to stand also with the Russian people, in light of the recent tragedy that they had, the Moscow airport [applause].
So, where are you going to disagree with me? I believe that you have to continue diplomacy and dialogue. It doesn’t mean continuing talks that have no success but it means not abandoning the negotiations that Europe and America and many other countries have participated in – whether the United Nations, whether in forums like Istanbul – it doesn’t mean that you embrace them but it doesn’t mean that you say okay, this is the end of these discussions. I don’t believe that you take a military option off the table but I don’t see that right now as being realistic.
So what do we do? I believe we continue these discussions but you add a new element that I will formally propose at the end of the discussion.
The second issue is sanctions. I’ve heard very little talk about sanctions. I think that General Jones articulated them very well. This is the most comprehensive series of sanctions that has ever probably been placed on a country. And the sanctions have been strengthened in the last two years because of the strong participation of the European Union and the United States working together. I fail to think why sanctions might not eventually have an effect. One half of Iran’s gasoline is imported. A large part of its food stuffs are imported too. So I believe those sanctions need to be continued, strengthened, retooled, perhaps expand them, as Mrs. Rajavi elucidated in her discussion.
The new element that draws forth is: what are the most effective ways that the world, and America, and Europe, can support the Iranian opposition? What is the best way to make this happen? Is it technical support, is it political support? Obviously America needs to lead the way with the delinking of the MEK with the Camp Ashraf issue. But also, it means finding new means of communication, perhaps the Internet, perhaps through technology, perhaps through new forms of satellite technology, perhaps through new ways that movements flourish.
Look what happened in Tunisia. What is it that happened there? I think those that say that events cannot happen anywhere else like they did in Tunisia maybe were not reading what is happening in democracies, burgeoning democracies around the world.
I will now conclude with Mrs. Rajavi at the end of our meeting, this is why I believe she is a good leader. She said Governor what’s your advice? Well I’m going to give it to you because I believe listening and finding ways that we learn from each other is critically important. And I’m going to give this advice mainly in the context of an American because it seems that a good part of the problem today, lies in American legislation, and American change of policy which I believe we need to advocate.
The first is: get the message out in America. Now I’ve been involved in foreign policy for a long time but it wasn’t until two weeks ago that I learned of the situation with the MEK. The first time I’d heard of Camp Ashraf and I am somebody that has been active in foreign policy. I was in New Mexico, I was dealing with these issues relating to the running of my State. So spreading the message in America is vey important and I believe you have a very good team to make it happen.
Number two: when approaching America, I think as the Judge pointed out, mistakes have been made on both sides. Be bipartisan, don’t pick one political party over the other, although if you ask my advice I’ll tell you which one is the better one, but I will not do that. But it’s important that that support be bipartisan.
Number three: despite of that, I will say this. I think that the movement, the opposition, you in America, need to strengthen ties with the Democratic Party more than you have.
Number three: focus on Istanbul. I think that is the turning point. Talk about the importance of moving forward in light of the failure of the negotiations and the fact that Iran has not taken serious steps.
I mentioned this before. Find new ways of communicating, not just with the people of Iran but among yourselves.
The fact that there are so many European leaders here, Iranian Europeans, Iranian Americans, that can find ways to communicate with each other effectively and communicate with those in Iran that want to hear your voice.
Number five: women and the young. I think that is the key, the fact that you focus on the oppression of women, and the standing of women in Iran is very important. The fact that you have a woman leader. And remember that the revolutions in this world have been mainly pushed by the young. Find a way to connect with those young people in Iran and all over the world. Now I have nothing against older men, but I’m just saying, that was supposed to be funny, I guess not, but I guess the focus of successful revolutions have dealt with those two communities.
My last point is America. America can’t do it all. And I’ve noticed all the recommendations: America needs to do this, we need to change here. We can’t do it all. In fact, our history in Iran has not been the best, if you recall. But [applause] I do believe, I do believe we have a President that understands the importance of engagement, a President that understands that the world is full of diverse cultures and people and understands that change comes from the population itself. So I’m delighted to be with you [applause], I thank you and now I give you the best part of my speech: The End! Thank you.