WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE) January 22, 2011--In a conference in advance of the latest round of nuclear talks between the P5+1 and Iran in Istanbul, Turkey, a number of senior officials from the past three U.S. administrations on Thursday underscored the failure of the policy of engagement with Tehran and offered a broader range of options, most significantly lifting the terrorist designation of the principal Iranian opposition movement, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK).
Gen. James Jones, former National Security Advisor to President Obama; Bill Richardson, former Energy Secretary under Bill Clinton; Gen. Anthony Zinni, former CENTCOM Commander; James Woolsey, former CIA Director; Michael Mukasey, former Attorney General; Tom Ridge, former Homeland Security Secretary; former FBI director, Louis Freeh; and Mitchell Reiss, former State Department Policy Planning Director, were among the speakers.
Entitled, “Iran’s Nuclear, Terrorist Threats and Rights Abuses: After Engagement and Sanctions, What?” the conference was organized by the ExecutiveAction, LLP. Former New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli was the moderator.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Neil Livingstone, ExecutiveAction’s Chairman and CEO, said, “The Iranian regime is presenting to the United States and to the world community with many challenges right now. The nuclear clock is ticking much faster than the pace of sanctions so the United States must do more. It must do it faster and it must do it better.”
“Hope is not a strategy and we can’t continue to hope that Iranians will see the wisdom of our position and come to the negotiating table,” Gen. Jones noted, adding that President Obama, is intent on “preventing” the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons.
According to Governor Bill Richardson it is important to embrace freedom movements in Iran, and “it makes sense to take [the MEK] off the terrorism list.” Sanctions are a tool, “that have to be refined and continued but has to be combined with new approaches to talk to the Iranian people. One is through the MEK group.”
Noting that “It's clear that the regime in Iran has always sought to be a hegemon in that region,” Gen. Zinni added, “I'm shocked and surprised that we still chase this illusion that there can be a meaningful dialogue.” Underscoring an opposition that runs “across the entire spectrum of Iranian society” which the Iranian regime fears most, he also called for the MEK’s delisting.
“It is important not only that the designation be removed but also that it be removed quickly,” stressed Attorney General Mukasey, citing a federal appeals court ruling last July which “expressed a good deal of skepticism” about the State Department’s evidence.
Former CIA Director, James Woolsey, compared the regime’s claims about “peaceful intentions” to Hitler’s assurances before WWII, and said, “It is amazing to me the degree to which sensible people in different parts of the world have fallen prey to that nonsense.”
“We need to realize that it is not 1933. It’s 1938.”
Woolsey said the July court ruling on the MEK “said quite bluntly” that the State Department has done what the “red queen does in Alice in the Wonderland” when “she says execution first, then trial.”
“In my judgment the western world presently faces no greater threat than from Iran,” said Ridge, warning that a nuclear Iran “would surely signal a failure of western diplomacy.” “The strategy of peaceful engagement well intentioned has been totaled ineffective and counterproductive. Time is running out.”
Mr. Freeh, who led the FBI from 1993 to 2001, focused on the 1996 Khobar bombing and said there is “very substantial proof” that the attack was carried out by the Iranian regime. US personnel are targeted around the world by the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Freeh added.
Reiss noted that the Obama administration “should continue to tighten the economic noose around this regime.”
He also dismissed claims that supporting the Iranian opposition would derail negotiations. “Supporting the opposition would give any American leverage more leverage, not less leverage at the negotiating table.”
“The listing of the MEK as a terrorist organization by the United States government is wrong,” according to Senator Torricelli. “It is wrong as a matter of law; it is contrary to the facts.”
Speakers also referred to pressures imposed on MEK members in Camp Ashraf, Iraq and called for more protection. Governor Richardson said, “We've got to find ways to protect those Iranians that are in Camp Ashraf. I think it's inexcusable that we're not doing it.”