in Washington discussed U.S. policy options towards the clerical state, in a conference on Capitol Hill yesterday, at the invitation of the Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus of the U.S. House of Representative. Iran Focus
Washington, Apr. 07 A leading Iran-policy group in Washington discussed U.S. policy options towards the clerical state, in a conference on Capitol Hill yesterday, at the invitation of the Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus of the U.S. House of Representative.
Iran Policy Committee, comprised of former officials from the White House, State Department, Pentagon, intelligence agencies, the Congress, and experts from think tanks and universities, called on the Bush Administration to provide a central role for the Iranian opposition to facilitate regime change.
Prof. Raymond Tanter, a Middle East security expert and former staff member of the U.S. National Security Council under President Ronald Reagan, advocated "forceful diplomacy" to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.
Prof. Tanter, whilst outlining IPCs approach, said that there was a race being run between two clocks. While Irans nuclear clock is ticking very fast, the clock for a regime change is much too slow. And if Iran were to acquire the bomb before the people are able to change the regime, it might obtain a new lease on life, he added. Thus he argued that it was imperative to deal effectively with the issue of the Peoples Mojahedin (PMOI) and remove their name from the list of terrorist organisations.
The PMOI is a member organisation of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the main umbrella coalition opposing the Irans religious leaders. The State Department designated the PMOI as a terrorist organisation in 1997 in what many analysts believe was part of the Clinton administration's policy of appeasement towards Tehran.
The conference on Capitol Hill drew more than 80 members of the Congress and their aides, foreign diplomats, experts from other think tanks, and members of the press, according to the organising committee.
Lt. General Edward Rowny (ret.), former Ambassador to Strategic Arms Reduction Talks, Dr. Neil Livingstone, terrorism expert and CEO, Global Options, Inc., Paul Leventhal, founder and President Emeritus, Nuclear Control Institute, Captain Chuck Nash (ret.), President, Emerging Technologies International, Lt. Col. Bill Cowan, USMC (ret.), CEO, wvc3, Inc., and Clare Lopez, strategic policy and intelligence analyst, were among the other IPC panellists who joined the conference.
The advocacy group believed that engagement, pursued by the Europeans and consecutive U.S. administrations, had produced little tangible results over the past quarter century.
They explained that the solution to the Iran conundrum was to support the Iranian people and their organised resistance movement.
IPC called on the Bush administration to remove the name of the PMOI from the list of terrorist organisations, so as to send a clear message to Tehran that Washington was serious about its support for the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people.
Congressman Bob Filner, (D-CA), Co-chair of the Caucus, chaired the briefing session and said that it was an attempt by the Caucus to provide a setting whereby members of the Congress could learn about Iran and consider options to deal with threats Tehran posed to the region and the world.
Congressman Tom Tancredo, (R-CO), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Congress and Co-chair of the Caucus, said, The MEK [PMOI"> was designated not because it was involved in terrorist activities, but because the Clinton administration sought to curry favour with the Iranian regime.
The idea of engaging a terrorist-sponsoring regime such as Iran only emboldens it to continue its rogue-like behavior, Dr. Livingstone argued.
Mr. Leventhal, addressing Tehrans nuclear threat and the breaches of its obligations to the International Atomic Energy Agency, rejected the regimes justification for embarking on a nuclear path. He emphasised that the regime had hidden its nuclear weapons program from the eyes of the international community and that it was the NCRI which revealed it to the world.
Captain Nash speaking about the pros and cons of military action against Iran, argued that while all options must remain on the table, a limited or large-scale military campaign was not only impractical, but also likely to be ineffective in ending the Iranian nuclear and terrorist threats, and therefore the least desirable of options.
Lt. Col. Cowan suggested that there was an urgent need to address the Iran issue, adding that a wait-and-see attitude could have dire consequences, given the nature and the urgency of the threat posed by Tehran.
Ms. Lopez condemned the human rights violations by the Iranian regime and cited several recent anti-government rallies and demonstrations as proof of growing opposition to the regime inside the country.
Earlier this year the IPC released a policy paper outlining their recommended approach to the Tehran regime.
The IPC report said, "Iran is emerging as the primary threat against the United States and its allies: Iran's drive to acquire nuclear weapons, continuing support for and involvement with terrorist networks, publicly-stated opposition to the Arab-Israel peace process, disruptive role in Iraq, expansionist radical ideology, and its denial of basic human rights to its own population are challenges confronting U.S. policymakers".
IPC recommended backing the PMOI, whom they said was "indisputably the largest and most organised Iranian opposition group".
The IPC noted that a review of U.S. policy concerning the MEK [PMOI"> and the overall Iranian opposition was in order. It wrote, The designation of the MEK as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department has served, since 1997, as an assurance to the Iranian regime that the United States has removed the regime change option from the table. Removing the terrorist designation from the MEK could serve as the most tangible signal to the Iranian regime, as well as to the Iranian people, that a new option is now on the table. Removal might also have the effect of supporting President Bush's assertion that America stands with the people of Iran in their struggle to liberate themselves.
The policy group added, In the same way that the United States was receptive to South African anti-apartheid leaders and the Soviet Union's anti-communist activists, Washington should invite prominent opposition figures both in Iran and in exile to the United States. They might meet with U.S. officials, Members of Congress, academics, think tanks, and the media. The European Parliament offered such an example in December 2004, when it invited Maryam Rajavi, the president of the NCRI to its headquarters in Strasburg, where she offered an alternative view to that of the Iranian regime. Tehran's angry reaction to this invitation served to highlight the effectiveness of such measures.
The IPC also argued, As an additional step, the United States might encourage the new Iraqi government to extend formal recognition to the MEK, based in (Camp) Ashraf, as a legitimate political organization. Such recognition would send yet another signal from neighbouring Iraq that the noose is tightening around Iran's unelected rulers.
The PMOI's military wing, as part of the National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA), is based in Camp Ashraf, some 60 miles northeast of Baghdad.
The policy paper suggested, In light of the MEK's status as protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention and the continued protection that the U.S. military provides the group in Iraq, Washington has an opportunity to decide whether to return to the MEK its weapons, which would relieve responsibility from the American military for the protection of its camps and personnel. Such a move also would send an unambiguous signal to the Iranian regime that it faces an enabled and determined opposition on its borders.