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Iran Policy AND a viable alternative – MEK Compound- Albania-July 11, 2019
Ashraf-3, the MEK’s headquarters in Albania, hosted an international conference on Thursday, July 11th entitled “Policy on Iran and a Viable Alternative.” A panel of prominent politicians and dignitaries from the United States and Europe offered their perspectives on the best approach to dealing with the Iranian regime. They also discussed the need for the international community to support the MEK as the democratic alternative to the mullahs’ regime in Iran.
- Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Lincoln Bloomfield
- Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani
- Former Commandant of the U.S. Marines Corps James Conway
- University of Baltimore Professor Ivan Sascha Sheehan
- Former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Ambassador Robert Joseph
- Former Foreign Minister of Canada
- Former U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli
The following are some of the most notable moments from the day’s event. (Questions in bold type were asked by panel moderator Ambassador Lincoln Bloomfield.)
What is the Achilles heel of the mullahs’ regime?
Sen. Torricelli “There’s a fundamental belief that things will work out. The future is not as bad as the past. Even a despotic regime will reform itself over time. That’s a handicap for us. The Iranian regime is not going to reform. It’s not going to change.”
“The second handicap is, those who would accommodate the regime take the high ground because they’re speaking out against war. Here’s the problem: first of all, there is a war. There’s no one fighting back. Tens of thousands of Iranians were killed by their own government. There’s been a war waged on the Iranian people since 1979. Those who would argue for patience and time have no moral high ground.”
Where can we have the maximum effect on pushing the regime back?
Amb. Joseph: “The right policy is whatever accelerates the end of this regime. The wrong policy is what prolongs the life of this regime. Appeasement has turned out to be not just a failure but also counter to American interests. We should start with maximum pressure, and the administration has been doing a good job. The sanctions are having a deep impact on the Iranian economy.
“If we show weakness, it’s provocative. When we show strength, the regime backs down. It’s important that we always keep in mind that the show of strength is key to success.”
“Land invasion is not what’s necessary. Change has to come from within [Iran]. A more effective policy would include calling out the regime on its gross human rights violations. We don’t do that often enough.”
“We should negotiate on nuclear affairs, but we have to keep in mind what our principles are. We should not be victim of the mindset that negotiations mean compromise and giving the other party concessions. That is what happened in the JCPOA.
“Our focus ought to be calling them out, and combining these tools, whether its sanctions or the military, that will facilitate the end of this regime.”
What’s the right strategy to impair the military of the Iranian regime? Is it something we should be looking at? What else could we be thinking of that would undermine the cohesion of this criminal enterprise?
Prof. Sheehan: “The contest is ultimately over the right to think freely. The regime fears the truth, they fear facts. We must hold panels like this and expand the truth. We must give the Iranian people a sense of what’s going on around them and the idea that there is this viable alternative.
“The Iranian opposition does not fear the truth, and they know ultimately that it is on their side. With time these ideas will lead to the revolution that we’d all like to see take place.”
Should we be more specific about the guilt of the Iranian regime?
Baird: “We can exploit the regime’s vulnerability, to support the people of Iran. The regime realizes that when it falls, they will have no place to go. The senior members of this regime know that they will have nowhere to go and they will be held to account for their crimes such as the 1988 massacre of political prisoners and the bombing of the Jewish center in Argentina.”
Sen. Torricelli: “No one can seriously believe this regime will last long. It’s an unsustainable situation. If you’re in the leadership today, there’s going to be a moment in your life when you’re going to be held accountable.”
What messages are the ones that really hurt the regime the most and isolate them among their people?
Amb. Joseph: “We must continue to push forward on exposing the regime’s brutality and its human rights violation. In the information space, we ought to focus on how this regime has failed the people. Just look at their inability to respond to the recent flooding. It is an incompetent regime. That is a vulnerability that would further deteriorate support for this regime in Iran, which is already decreasing day after day, month after month, year after year.”
Do the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) deserve to wear a uniform at all, given their unprofessional behavior?
General Conway, “Iran’s regime invariably gets greedy. Every one of the leaders of this regime have Swiss bank accounts that are growing while the people of Iran are living in poverty. We should expose that and let the people know who their leadership is.”
What will do the trick [to overthrow the mullahs]?
Prof. Ivan Sascha Sheehan “The regime in Tehran fears internal pressure more than it fears external threats. The people of Iran don’t need the world to rescue them. The regime change will be led by you.”
Are we playing strong offense and defense?
Sen. Torricelli: “Not enough.”
“It happens all the time. In Tehran, they have carefully disseminated false information into the mainstream media. We’re fighting back, and it’s been a long climb. What the mullahs are doing with misinformation in Washington, London and Paris, you can do with the truth. “
Baird: “The fact that the European authorities uncovered a plot by the regime that tried to attack the Free Iran rally in Paris in 2018, the rashness just shows how fearful the regime is of you.”
How do we amass the power of the many outrages about the regime and put it all into a powerful mixture?
Amb. Joseph: “The process that I’ve seen is that reporters tend to go to the same sources over and over again. If you look at who they’re going to in the world of think tanks, most of these people are doing the work of the regime.”
“This is where the MEK and NCRI can make a difference.”
Is the world taking notice of the regime’s terrorism in their countries? When did it become acceptable behavior? What should we do about it?
Prof. Sheehan: “There are some groups and individuals that you simply can’t negotiate with, and the regime is emblematic of that group.”
“In Washington, DC, we found a deeply entrenched pro-regime lobby, and that lobby exists in other places of the world. But the tools and power of ideas that we have at our disposal today are much stronger than the tools we had before.”
“We don’t have to wait for Washington to change its policy. Every citizen around the world can help contribute to this change.”
A lot of people in Washington fear that what happened in Syria and Libya will repeat in Iran.
Baird: “They need to understand who the Iranian people are and what their capacity is. We have to push back against the elite foreign policy view in the West. In the West, regimes start to do crazy stupid things and the type of behavior we’ve seen in this regime. They are not being rational in their final days, and the more we see this, the closer they are to their end.”
The Iranian people have had this aspiration from at least the beginning of the 20th century. How can we convince the West that we can trust them if this regime collapses?
Sen. Torricelli: “Tehran is desperately trying to keep the Europeans in a dialogue to keep an economic lifeline. They do not want military confrontation but they are attacking the U.S. drone. These are irrational acts. When the regime becomes this irrational, it means that the sanctions are working. Those irrational actions tell me that we’re reaching a point. If I were Trump or Merkel or Macron, I would press my foot on the pedal because they’re telegraphing that what we are doing is working.”
How do we direct western policy in the right direction? What could we do that we are not doing enough of?
Giuliani: “We had an opportunity a few years ago when the sanctions were working. There are strong indicators that the protests in Iran are becoming political.”
“People have said bad things about you because you support the MEK and Madam Rajavi. What does Washington need to know that this group is entirely misportrayed in Washington?” asked Amb. Bloomfield.
Giuliani: “We need a massive public relations campaign. When people find out what this group really stands for and they get past the allegations, it all starts to make sense. We’ve got the same goal that is a free democratic Iran.”
Is there a potential for Canada, the U.S. and Europe to find common ground on how the regime is gaming the west and escaping accountability?
Baird: “After Iraq, President Obama and other European leaders were so desperate to make diplomacy work rather than military force. What we need is leadership. The weakness in 2009 in not standing up for the Iranian people will go down in history as a lost opportunity. We must do all we can to stand up for what’s right. We need leadership. That is what Madam Rajavi is trying to provide.”
Sen. Torricelli: “The people are realizing that this regime will not moderate. The regime’s behavior is also deteriorating all the time.”
What can we do to show there’s a democratic alternative? How do we find that next gear in Washington?
Giuliani: “In the past year, the regime has become more frightened and irrational. Striking the drone and what they’re doing with the tankers, maybe they want us to attack them and they hope that it would rally the people behind them. We’re so reluctant to take military action, and the world would also react badly, that the mullahs could push us along if they engaged diplomatically. But their poking their finger in our eye.”
“I think the mullahs are going to fall, with these protests going on, the crazy things they are doing. I think they are desperate. What they are doing sounds like a regime that is not thinking in clever ways.”
Let’s assume the Iranians will continue to lash out desperately. What’s your advice in Washington for a legitimate response?
Amb. Joseph: “One of the things we need to do is recognize that revolutions are very messy. What is missing in those revolutions is a viable alternative that would be beneficial not only to the Iranian people but also to the U.S. and the world in general.”
“What we need to do is to think strategically and integrate our tools in an effective strategy. The only solution to the nuclear issue in Iran is regime change and the viable alternative is a key component to that.”
“I spoke to many people in Ashraf. The sacrifices that the members of MEK in Ashraf have endured are many. But they do not have a sense of revenge. That, I think, will deliver the people of Iran their freedom.”
Do we have the ability to select surgical targets as an acceptable response?
Prof. Sheehan: “What unifies us here in this panel and this room is that the mullahs are not irrational when it comes to one thing, which is their fear of the organized resistance. What I wish U.S. officials knew is the democratic aspirations and inclinations of the Iranian people, which run very, very deep. The Iranian people are not the slightest bit irrational. I have come to appreciate how sophisticated and educated they are. I have come to appreciate that the NCRI’s platform and Madam Rajavi’s plan is the future of Iran. That’s the viable alternative that we need Washington to realize.”
People have been in the streets since the late 2017. They are admitting that the MEK and NCRI are organizing the demonstrations. Are we making progress here?
Giuliani: “The fact that the protests continue is a very good sign even though the regime has tried to harm them. The biggest frustration is getting the European governments to do the right thing. Whatever their economic interests and fear, we should all be together in eliminating this regime. We have to keep up the pressure, try to put more sanctions. And the important point is, some of these revolutions have happened without an alternative. Here you do not have to let that happen. We must get Americans to understand that there is an alternative and let them see it.”