The big mistake about Iran Regime - Speech by Struan Stevenson
NCRI- Below is the text of speech by Mr. Struan Stevenson, President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) at University of California- Berkeley on October 15, 2016. Mr. Stevenson was a Member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014). He was President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009- 2014) and Chair of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (Caucus) from 2004-2014.
Speech by Struan Stevenson
University of California- Berkeley
October 15, 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear sisters and brothers,
Thank you so much for coming to this event today. It is great to be back in the States. I would like to thank the American-Iranian communities for inviting me to USA.
I should tell you that I come from Scotland. I live on the coast in South West Scotland. I can see Ireland from my window. Belfast is only 18 miles across the sea from my front door. In fact, the rugged Scottish coastline where I live is a magnet for geologists. They come from around the world and can be seen chipping away at the local rocks, searching for special fossils, which are found in only two places in the world - South West Scotland and the Appalachian Mountains that run down America’s Eastern seaboard. Apparently some 480 million years ago, when the earth’s crust was forming, a chain of volcanoes erupted tearing Scotland off the American continent and ramming us up next to England, where we have remained rather uneasily ever since. So technically, or at least geologically, Scotland could have been the 51st US State!
During my many years of collaboration with the Iranian democratic opposition PMOI or as they are called here MEK, I visited America on frequent occasions. I remember tense meetings in the State Department and the House of Representatives, where I denounced the policy of appeasement being followed by successive US administrations in respect of Iran. I recall addressing meetings in the Senate where I spoke about Iran’s terrorist footprints across the globe.
I remember joining a protest rally outside the White House where we demanded the removal of the PMOI and the umbrella coalition NCRI from the black list, one of the great injustices suffered by the Iranian opposition.
I was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and President of the Delegation for Relations with Iraq during my final 5-year mandate. That meant I was able to visit the region and see for myself the abject failure of the West’s policy of appeasement in respect of the Iranian mullahs and their marionettes in Iraq.
I was able to learn at firsthand about the Iraqi government’s repeated attempts to annihilate the defenceless PMOI refugees in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, under the guidance of the Iranian regime, while the US, UN and EU stood back apathetically and watched, in a classic act of betrayal. I will say more about Camp Liberty later.
I also chaired an important group or Caucus in the European Parliament for over 10 years called the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup, which became the centre of European activities for democracy in Iran. This Caucus played a big part in changing the attitude of the European Union towards the Iranian opposition and in the campaign to put pressure on the US State Department and the EU to de-list the PMOI-MEK.
We are still spellbound by Iran. Many westerners and even some Iranians who live here, make a big mistake about the Islamic Republic of Iran. They think that the regime’s interventions outside of Iran, its meddling in countries like Iraq, Syria and Yemen, is due to the strength of the regime. The reality is that currently the regime is extremely weak and vulnerable. When we criticize the west for giving too many concessions to Iran under the terms of the nuclear deal, we mean that if we were tougher and took a firmer line with the mullahs, we could have gained much more because of the regime’s weaknesses and many problems.
After signing the nuclear deal, despite all its shortcomings, it has in fact made the regime weaker and its problems have increased. The West should remember that it was the PMOI network inside Iran, at huge risk to their own lives, who first informed the world, way back in August 2002, about the mullahs’ secret nuclear programme. Western intelligence agencies had simply failed to uncover this conspiracy. And yet, rather than rewarding the PMOI for this information, the US, UK and EU fought tooth and nail to keep them on their international blacklists, where they had been placed at the direct request of the mullahs, based on trumped-up and farcical charges dreamed up by Tehran. This was appeasement policy at its worst and it took us many years of difficult, complex and expensive court battles in Washington, London, Paris and Luxembourg to have the terror tags removed.
A year after the deal, no major economic problems have been solved and the money the government of Rouhani has received, has been spent on exporting terrorism in the region.
For example a sum of $150 billion of frozen assets was released by the Obama administration, providing a windfall for a government that was teetering on the brink of economic collapse. But far from investing in its own people, the fascist mullah-led regime has used this money to re-double its spending on weapons and on exporting terror through the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Qods (The Arabic name for Jerusalem) Force, both of which are listed terrorist organisations in the West and both of which are involved in almost every conflict in the Middle East. The IRGC and the Qods Force supply arms, money and military personnel to every Middle East war zone.
The Iranians are already in breach of the nuclear deal. In March they test-fired two Qadr-H missiles in open defiance of a UN Security Council resolution tied to the agreement. The missiles were chillingly marked with the phrase: ‘Israel must be wiped out’ and the test firing took place provocatively on the same day that the US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel.
Now Putin, in a further flagrant signal of aggression to the West, has sent the first shipment of Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran and last August he even reached an unprecedented agreement with the theocratic regime to use an Iranian airfield as a launch pad for Russian airstrikes in Syria. Iran and Russia are close allies and are jointly massacring the innocent civilians in Syria. Indeed only this week, Russia has announced its intention to locate a permanent Mediterranean naval base in Syria.
Iran’s main export, now that sanctions have been lifted following the nuclear deal, will not be oil. Its main export is and always will be terror. As well as Yemen’s Houthi rebels, Iran funds and supplies Hezbollah in Lebanon, Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the brutal Shi’ite militias in Iraq. This is the real Iran under the theocratic and fascist rule of the mullahs, whose so-called ‘moderate’ president Rouhani the West believes it can do deals with. We should wake up! The ‘smiling’, ‘moderate’ Rouhani is in charge of a venally corrupt government, which has executed nearly 3,000 people since he took office in 2013. Mass hangings are now the order of the day. Many are done in public, even in football stadiums. But this should come as no surprise.
Despite the wishful thinking of some people in the West, the nuclear deal has not resulted to any opening in society because what we have in Iran is a theocracy, a religious dictatorship.
Any relaxation of their oppressive laws would result in a crack in the system, a fracturing of the atmosphere of fear and terror. That is why Ayatollah Khamenei has even issued a fatwa, banning women from riding bicycles! That is why the same mullahs who have been responsible for the mass executions in the early eighties in Iran, are still in government. So the theocratic nature of this Islamic fundamentalist dictatorship has not changed but its appearance has changed. Instead of Ahmadinejad, we have Hassan Rouhani who smiles and his foreign minister, Javad Zarif speaks very good English and frequently tweets, as if speaking good English or being active on Twitter is an indication of moderation! Bear in mind that the rest of Iranian society are blocked from having access to Twitter and Facebook.
On August 9th this year, the son of Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, the former Deputy Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic and the nominated successor to Ayatollah Khomeini, published a previously unknown audio-tape in which Montazeri acknowledged that the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, most of whom were supporters of the PMOI/MEK, had taken place in 1988 and had been ordered at the highest levels of the regime. In the electrifying tape, Montazeri can be heard telling a meeting of the ‘Death Committee’ in 1988 that they are responsible for a crime against humanity. He says: “The greatest crime committed during the reign of the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you. Your (names) will in the future be etched in the annals of history as criminals.” Because of his forthright protests, the Grand Ayatollah was dismissed as the heir to the Supreme Leader by Khomeini and placed under house arrest until his death in 2009.
The mass executions, in jails across Iran, were carried out on the basis of a fatwa by the regime’s then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. A ‘Death Committee’ approved all the death sentences. Indeed Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, a member of that ‘Death Committee’, is today President Hassan Rouhani’s Justice Minister. None of the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre have ever been brought to justice. When the massacres began, hundreds of political prisoners were hanged or shot every day and their corpses were buried hurriedly in mass graves in all of Iran’s major cities, in particular Tehran. In my book ‘SELF-SACRIFICE – Life with the Iranian Mojahedin’ I included a series of interviews with PMOI supporters who had been imprisoned and horrifically tortured at that time.
Iran’s so-called ‘moderate’ President, the smiling Hassan Rouhani with whom the West believes it can do business, was Deputy Commander-in-chief of the regime's armed forces at the time. As such he was certainly fully aware of the shocking extermination of the political prisoners in Iran and as such should be held to account, together with all of the other perpetrators. Twenty-eight years on from this barbaric crime, international condemnation has been slow to emerge.
Indeed the West seems determined to overlook this perhaps one of the greatest human rights outrage since the end of World War II, so that it can sign lucrative commercial deals with the Iranian regime. It is a disgrace that there has been no prosecution of the criminals who orchestrated and carried out the gruesome 1988 murders.
If the UN is to retain any shred of legitimacy it must immediately launch a full and independent investigation into this appalling crime and insist on the arrest and trial for crimes against humanity of Khamenei, Rouhani and all of the other murderers whose bloodstained hands the West continues to shake.
Rouhani’s government, under the ultimate control of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, condones torture and arbitrary imprisonment, discriminates against women and encourages public floggings, amputations, eye-gouging, stoning to death and hanging as a means of terrorizing its own population into docile submission.
Of course to this day one of the biggest targets for arrest, imprisonment, torture and execution in Iran is the PMOI. Supporters of the PMOI face a mandatory death sentence under the Iranian Constitution for ‘Waging War Against God!’
Tehran fears and loathes the PMOI and in particular the Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, whom they recognize as their main opposition and the main threat to their power. When Mrs Rajavi talks about restoring freedom, justice, democracy, human rights, women’s rights, an end to torture and the death penalty and the eradication of nuclear weapons, it sends shivers down the spine of the turbaned tyrants in Tehran.
I must tell you about a recent bizarre event inside Iran that made the Ayatollahs mad. The regime reacted furiously to the printing of Maryam Rajavi’s photo in an important university magazine. Many years ago, Mrs Rajavi was a graduate of Sharif University of Technology in the Faculty of Metallurgy Engineering in Tehran.
The Iranian regime closed down the Society of Graduates in Sharif University, one of the most important technological establishments in Iran, after the publication of a photo of Mrs Rajavi, in its latest book listing its former graduates in October this year. The Iranian regime’s officials and their affiliated organizations reacted furiously to the publication of her photo describing her as the “number 1 enemy“of the regime.
This incident also sparked a protest by over 30 members of the Iranian regime’s parliament or Majlis who asked the Minister of Higher Education “What is the reason behind the publication of the photo of the leader of The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) in the magazine?”
The regime continuously says that the PMOI is an insignificant grouplet and that it has no support. If that is the case why did the mullahs become hysterical at a simple photo of the opposition leader?
Many of you also perhaps attended the huge annual rally in Paris in July, when over 100,000 PMOI supporters were present to listen to Mrs Rajavi. No other group or movement that I know of can organize such a major event and attract such a big crowd. It just shows how important your support is. PMOI supporters in the US and Europe have forced the regime onto the back foot again and again.
Can I also say a few words about the problems in the region? Why is it that the West always seems to back the wrong side in the Middle East? Despite repeated warnings, the UN, US and EU backed Nouri al-Maliki as Prime Minister in Iraq for 8 disastrous years. He was a puppet of the fascist Iranian regime, doing their bidding by opening a direct route for Iranian troops and equipment heading to Syria to bolster the murderous Assad regime.
The mullahs’ support for Maleki in Iraq and for Bashar Assad in Syria, two corrupt dictators who repressed their own people and particularly the Sunni community, resulted to the rise of ISIS in the region. Because the Sunnis were humiliated and repressed, they were pushed towards being recruited by the Islamic extremists. So thanks to Tehran, ISIS grew and became a threat to the whole world.
In fact what we call Islamic Fundamentalism today, really began when Ayatollah Khomeini, came to power in 1979 and set up the first Islamic Republic in the world in recent history.
And since then Tehran has been the main source of exporting Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, for both Shias and Sunnis. Tehran’s role in supporting Islamic extremism and providing inspiration as well as logistics for them, is similar to the role of Moscow during the spread of communism. There were many different communist and Marxist parties with a lot of internal ideological differences. But Moscow played a vital role for them. As soon as the Soviet Union crumbled and Moscow lost that central role, many of these communist groups disappeared and vanished. That is why we believe that when we have regime change in Tehran, all these extremist Islamic groups will fade away.
It is time we woke up to the fact that as long as the mullahs remain in power there will be no possibility of peace in the Middle East. The mullahs will always be the problem. They can never be part of the solution.
Obama’s failure to back the Syrian opposition has allowed the bloody civil war in that country to rage on for almost six years, costing hundreds of thousands of lives and sparking the huge migration crisis in Europe. Indeed US policy (or the lack of it) in Syria has bolstered the Iranian regime’s support for Bashar al-Assad and has allowed Vladimir Putin to flex his Middle East muscles in direct confrontation with the West, pouring petrol on the flames of conflict, hand in hand with Tehran. The West should back the Syrian opposition.
Allow me now to say a few words about our courageous PMOI brothers and sisters who were trapped first in Ashraf camp, then in Camp Liberty near Baghdad Airport. I am extremely happy that they have all been recently transferred to Europe, mainly to Albania.
Since the American occupying forces transferred control and jurisdiction for the residents of Ashraf to the Iraqi government under Nouri al-Maliki seven years ago, there was a constant state of intense siege imposed by the Iraqi government. The residents were moved to a former American military camp, called Liberty. The siege involved the complete imprisonment of the residents of Camp Liberty in a small compound vulnerable to repeated rocket attacks. The residents suffered a continuing blockade against fuel, food and essential equipment.
A medical blockade of the camp cost many lives and much suffering and there was constant psychological torture involving bogus ‘family members’ from Iran, who were allowed to penetrate the security perimeter and shout abuse and threats at the residents through loudspeakers, while carrying out reconnaissance missions to prepare for further rocket attacks.
These serial violations of the basic human rights of the civilian residents of Camp Liberty were ignored by the UN. Three massacres at Camp Ashraf, five missile attacks on Camp Liberty, two cases of abduction of defenceless residents, and the imposition of a fully-fledged eight-year siege, which left 177 residents dead.
I should also add that the Iraqi regime has looted all of the property at Ashraf and is now using the camp as a military base. There has been no attempt to compensate the PMOI for this property valued at more than $550 million dollars.
The attacks continued under Iraqi prime minister Abadi with a devastating rocket barrage on 29th October last year, involving 80 missiles fired at Camp Liberty leaving 24 residents dead.
Against this background of violence and aggression, only tiny Albania was prepared to stick its head above the parapet, providing a safe haven now for most of the PMOI refugees. A limited number of residents were resettled in several EU countries but most of them are now in Albania. The Albanians suffered years of oppression under the Communists and they know what it is like to fight for freedom and democracy. Their courage in rescuing the PMOI residents from Camp Liberty, against a backlash of fury from Tehran, should be a lesson to us all. But all of the expenses associated with these transfers and with their subsequent living-costs in Albania, have to be met by the PMOI. This is understandable since Albania is a very poor country, but it is unacceptable that the US and EU contribute so little to this project and do not even put pressure on Iraq to pay compensation for the properties left behind in Ashraf, or for the personal goods confiscated from every batch of refugees before they were allowed to fly to Albania.
The mullahs wanted to eliminate all of the people in Liberty or make them surrender, so it was a terrific victory to see all of the remaining Ashrafis flown out to Albania.
It must have enraged the mullahs. This is another example of the strength of the opposition and the weakness of the regime. Because the mullahs were determined to kill and arrest many Liberty residents but they failed to do so, which demonstrates how fragile the mullahs have become in the region.
One rather funny thing I have learnt from my Iranian friends. There is an old culture and tradition amongst some of the Iranians I have met in recent years that they think the USA controls everything! The older generation of Iranians had the same view about us British!
But the many victories that the Iranian resistance has achieved, such as the recent successful transfer of the Liberty residents to Europe, has shown that this traditional view is not correct because we, all of us, in this big family of the Iranian democratic resistance, whenever we have stood firm, whenever we have joint forces and have been prepared to pay the price, have managed to open up our way forward and brush aside the obstacles. In many cases we have managed to bring the USA and Europe together in our support. The great international campaign to remove the PMOI from various terrorist black lists was another example where the Iranian opposition and its supporters stood firm and with the great friendship of many parliamentarians in Europe and members of congress in the USA, we managed to de-list the PMOI from those terrorist lists.
So because of your efforts that we have managed to achieve these great victories. In the beginning, Western governments were not on our side and in many cases they collaborated with the Ayatollahs against us, but with your steadfastness you managed to bring them to our side in many cases. This is power. This is the power of the resistance. A huge power.
Now that the residents of Camp Liberty are safe, we can turn all of our attention and focus all of our energy on regime change in Iran.
I would like to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for your constant, unflagging support over the years. The reality is that the PMOI and NCRI has always relied on its own Iranian supporters and thousands of US and European citizens who have contributed to this movement. Every penny that’s been raised, every signature that’s been placed on a petition of support, has been a help and contribution for peace and freedom, not just in Iran, but for the whole world.
For decades, Iran has systematically jailed, tortured, and executed dissidents without due process of law and assassinated political opponents, even outside its state borders. But I am absolutely confident that if it were not for this resistance movement, the political situation in the region and in Iran would have been much worse and the Iranian regime would have been able to commit even more crimes in the world.
You, my brothers and sisters in this big family of the Iranian resistance, all of you who have stood side by side with this opposition movement, you have broken the mould. Although no government has supported you, although you were unjustly put on various black lists, although many of you have paid a heavy price in your personal life, nevertheless you are running this huge movement with the help of the people…..people inside Iran, Iranians outside Iran as well as tens of thousands of people in the western democracies. This is quite unique. This is due to your brave and competent leadership and to your faith and commitment. In all these years that I have been in politics, I have never seen any resistance movement, or indeed any political party, to be so committed to its principles and be prepared to make such self-sacrifices for the noble cause of freedom.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have long been impressed by the dedication and self-sacrifice of the PMOI’s supporters. They seek nothing for themselves. Their only goal is to restore freedom for the 80 million Iranians imprisoned by the world’s most brutal and ruthless regime. The mullahs’ fear of the PMOI, the NCRI and Mrs Rajavi demonstrates the extent of support that the main opposition enjoys even within that beleaguered nation. I long for the day when the sunshine of freedom will shine once more on the people of Iran. This resistance movement can lead the people of Iran towards that new dawn and towards the freedom that they so richly deserve. And it is through your support that we will make this happen.
Thank you so much.