In a conference entitled, "Iran: Prospects for Democratic Change, U.S. Policy Options," a distinguished panel of bi-partisan former U.S. officials spoke to the need for a new course in dealing with the nuclear and terrorist threats posed by the Iranian regime, namely reaching out to Iran's organized opposition movement and protecting its members who are currently in Iraq.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani was joined by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco Marc Ginsberg and Col. Wes Martin (Ret.), chief protection officer for all of the Coalition Forces in Iraq and commandant of Camp Ashraf, Iraq, home to over 3,000 members of the main Iranian dissident movement, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).
Text of speech by Mayor Rudy Giuliani:
Thank you very much, Ambassador.
That film (on February 9 attack on Camp liberty) of course was very difficult to watch but if that doesn't get you angry and get you outraged then you have no sense of justice. You have no sense of fairness or a sense of decency.
The seven people you see here these are all human lives. Those are some of the bodies you saw laying there. None of these people had to die. This did not have to happen. It should not have happened. This was totally preventable. And these people were killed not by some accident or by some misfortune. These people were killed because of very very wrong decisions that were made by the United Nations and the United States. And for that I really am ashamed.
Let me tell you some of the background of this. Some of you know it in great detail and some of you don't know it at all. The attack on Feb 9th occurred just as we were about to have a session in Washington discussing this. We were all shocked to find out about this but I can't say we were all surprised because this has been coming for some time. The possibility of this has been coming for some time.
All of these people have been in Iraq for some time at Camp Ashraf, which was a camp that developed over some 20 year plus period. It was a camp that was a decent place to live. Mostly made decent by them; by their own work, their own money. It was a place that wasn't entirely safe; there had been two attacks by the Iraqi military at the behest of the Iranian government. There have been two attacks on the facility and people have been killed. But because it was a large space and because there were permanent structures, there had been places built to protect against bombings. It was difficult for people to be killed in camp Ashraf.
In fact the only way to invade camp Ashraf with Iraqi troops and have them mow the people down in the streets. Something that can be photographed, something that can be seen. And something that the Iraqi government had to pay a very very heavy price for. So instead of having these people remain there, being allowed to remain there, while they were being hopefully sent to other places under the auspices of the United Nations, the Iraqi government and the UN and the US Department of State required that they be moved from that facility to what you saw, something called camp liberty.
I know the images of the people who were wounded and who died are the starkest; they are the ones that stand out. But if you have a chance to look at that video again, I’d like you to look at the structures that are part of this so called Camp Liberty. This isn’t a camp, this isn’t a relocation camp, and these are trailers. These are ridiculously tiny trailers that are sitting in the middle of an area that sometimes for long periods of time is over 100 degrees, that rains incessantly.
These people are living in a concentration camp. I called it a concentration camp before they went there, and when we arrived in Paris to talk to Martin Kobler, Michael Mukasey and I and a group of other prominent Americans, republicans and democrats; Ed Rendell the former mayor of Philadelphia and head of the democratic party and Louis Freeh the former head of the FBI and senator Torricelli is a democrat, I am a republican, Michael is a republican. This isn’t about republican or democrat; this is about the right thing. First thing that Martin Kobler said to me- he came up to me very very angry and he put his finger in my face and he said to me "you called it a concentration camp. You said it was a concentration camp it’s not a concentration camp." Well not only did I turn out to be right that it was a concentration camp, but it’s now become a killing field.
I don’t know how Martin Kobler defines a concentration camp but if you take a look at those disgusting, ratty, little places where these people are being required to live, if that’s not a concentration camp, I don’t know what a concentration camp is, and on February 9th, it turned out to be a place in which people can just be slaughtered without any protection at all from Iraq, from UN, or from the US.
In-and-of-itself, this is an act of tremendous inhumanity but it’s worse than that. As I said, all these people or most of them had been at camp Ashraf. In 2003 I believe it was when we invaded Iraq and attacked Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein, all these people in camp Ashraf voluntarily surrendered all their arms, their ability to defend themselves. They surrendered it to the US military; to the US government. And they surrendered the ability to defend themselves because they were promised protection by the US government. The US government gave them a promise when they surrendered their own weapons that they would act as protection for these people.
To me that’s a solemn promise on my country. That’s a solemn promise that we have now broken time and time again. The US should be ashamed of itself for having broken that promise because the US was instrumental in requiring these people to leave Ashraf, put on tremendous pressure to go to concentration camp living, put on tremendous pressure for 2 years to move. Basically threatened them, including the then Secretary of state Hillary Clinton basically threatened them that they wouldn’t be delisted unless they moved.
What could that possibly have to do with listing or delisting? The group is either a terrorist group or it’s not a terrorist group. There's either proof that they have taken part in terrorist activity in either the last five or ten years or there is no proof that they took part in terrorist activity. If they move or don’t move, how does that indicate if they are or aren’t a terrorist group? So the pressure was enormous, because the MEK had been delisted in the EU, it had been delisted in the UK. In fact the only two places left that considered the MEK to be a terrorist group was Iran and the US.
The simple fact that Iran considered them to be a terrorist group should have been the best indication that they weren’t a terrorist group. That was apparent 5, 6, 7, 8, years ago. This decision dragged on and it dragged on and it dragged on and it dragged on long after as I said, the UK, the EU, had delisted them. And then this final pressure was asserted. If you don’t move, from Ashraf to concentration camp Liberty, we may not remove that designation. and you’re going to be considered as very difficult to move, to find places to live, it was important to get that designation removed because one of the things that was theoretically blocking being able to move these people to other countries as you would talk to other countries they would say 'no no no, we know this group has been delisted by the EU and UK but this group is still listed as a terrorist group by the US.
So in negotiations to countries to accept some of these people that would become a stumbling block so it was really important to have that removed so that pressure was exerted. In June of last year the delegation that I was a part of with judge Mukasey went to Paris and met with Martin Kobler and his designees and we worked out a ten point agreement that had to be met so that the people would move and Martin Kobler assured us that they would be safer at concentration camp liberty then at Ashraf because it would be right near Baghdad, it would be right near the airport. I put up a picture before if you can put it up again- I want you to look at where this is. This concentration camp Liberty is a small part of what used to be a much bigger camp Liberty when we were there. It’s in the middle of that area you see outlined in red. It’s a small little part. The rest of that area is a military encampment made up of the Iraqi military. Then right beyond it, right below where that water is the airport. So Martin Kobler made the point that this is a very secure place to be; you’re basically on a military base. You’re in a military base surrounded by the Iraqi military. And you’re in an area that the Iraqis keep very secure because the airport and military is there and there are cameras all over the place so this will be a safe place for them to go, safer than in Ashraf.
He assured us of that. He assured us of that even though the facilities looked horrible, they looked awful. He promised us those facilities would be fixed, he promised us they would be water, he promised us there would be electricity, he promised us many many things. And the most important thing he promised us is that they would be moved out of there very very quickly; that they would expedite the process of finding countries for all these people to go.
Every single thing I said to you Martin Kobler has a reason. I believe every single thing he said to us in June was a lie. Because he has proven himself to be a professional liar, which is unfortunate. I believe there is no choice with Martin Kobler, if the UN wants to do the right thing he should be removed immediately. He is doing the dirty work of the Iraqi and Iranian governments. He is not doing the work of the UN. He is not doing the work of trying to protect people who are in a vulnerable status.
These people should all be declared immediately refugees. They should be all given refugee status. If they are not refugees than what exactly is a refugee? And I believe that my government that promised them protection back in 2003, that my government that promised them that they would be safe; when they were exerting great pressure to move from Ashraf to concentration camp liberty I believe my government owes a great debt to these people and there is only one way to vindicate that debt and that is and I said this a week and a half ago and I’ll say it again; it just takes a couple of airplanes; you send them there and you bring them to the USA and here in the USA we shouldn’t do this just for them. We should do this to keep our word. We should do this to keep our word that we would protect them if they gave up their arms. We should do this because we should keep our word that they would be safer in camp liberty than in camp Ashraf.
The Iraqi government has now announced by the way, that they can’t keep people safe at camp liberty. It’s not possible. They can’t assure their safety. Well if we had any other indication that we have to remove them in order to fulfill our promise to protect them, the Iraqi government has now told us they can’t protect them at camp liberty. What does that tell you? The Iraqi government knows there are going to be more attacks and before there are more attacks, these people should be removed to the US.
And if for some reason we can’t find it in our hearts and we don’t believe that our honor and our word is worth it to redeem it, then at least they should be immediately moved to camp Ashraf where they can do a better job of taking care of themselves. if we aren’t going to keep our word and take care of them, then at least give them the opportunity to protect themselves in a place that they built- in a place that will at least be harder to get mortars in from the outside. A place that you have to invade in order to harm them and this attack could not have taken place w/o the cooperation of the Iraqi military.
I showed you that camp to show you that the small place that they are in is surrounded by the Iraqi military. This would be like attacking the middle of camp Pendleton in California, the marine base in California. And the marines not knowing about it. this was a short distance away in highly secure area in an area that’s kept highly secure by the Iraqi army so the Iraqi government had to know about this, had to have tolerated it, maybe even have participated in it as they participated in the prior slaughter of these people. So they should be moved to Ashraf at a minimum.
And second it would be really really important to change our dynamics with Iran. We all know Iran is on its way if it isn’t already a nuclear power. At best it’s months away. We have tried everything through two administrations to stop it. The bush administration and now the Obama administration.
over the last year or two the sanctions have grown, the sanctions have become more intense yet just a week ago there was an article in the NYT that pointed out that although the sanctions were having a big impact on the economy of Iran, they were having no impact at all on the government, on the ayatollah, no discernible change in position. No real sense that even if we increased those sanctions by several fold they would have much of an impact. But not only that, but as long as China, which is exempt from the sanctions, and Russia which is exempt from the sanctions, they can trade with Iran and Iran can get by. There are so many exceptions to even these harsh sanctions, yes it has an impact. On the other hand, this is a government that is operating on suppression, oppression; they aren’t going to be moved by our sanctions. So we can have more sanctions if we want, they are just going to move ahead and become a nuclear power.
The sanctions haven’t worked, they are not going to work, and you have to be a fool to think the sanctions will work. Second possibility is maybe we can negotiate with them. Well frankly, the president of the US has been begging them to negotiate with him for four years now. The answer has been no, no, no, no, no, no! Just recently the president asked to have bilateral negotiations with Iran and Iran turned him down.
I don’t know how often you have to be told no, to understand the answer is NO! They are not going to negotiate with us. They want to have multilateral negotiations. Not bilateral negotiations. And why do they want multilateral negotiations? So that Russia and china can help to delay things, to obfuscate to avoid having to make an agreement because all the while they are buying time. They are buying time so that they can develop their nuclear weapons. And we are foolish enough to allow them to do that. The third option of course is, if worse comes to worse, the administration has said all options are on the table.
I don’t know if that is true or not, because the administration says that, then I see actions that the administration takes, and I wonder if all options are really all on the table, like their selection for the candidate for secretary of defense. So I don’t know. But at least I’ll take the administration at its word that all options are on the table if Iran does become a nuclear power, which they are months away from becoming. All options on the table means we would take military action against Iran, that of course would be very very severe and very difficult. I believe if it has to be done it should be done, but I also believe that if it could be avoided, it should be avoided.
We’ve tried sanctions, it hasn’t worked. We begged for negotiations, - Not working. So how can we possibly avoid military action, what’s the last thing that’s left? And maybe the most important thing that we should have been doing all along in the first place, and that is to support the legitimate opposition to this regime, that is one of the worst in the world. We supported the people who overthrew Mubarak, we supported the people who overthrew Qaddafi, they were all Time’s persons of the year last year, and they were all heroes. We are supporting, I think, the people who are attempting to overthrow Assad, at least we’re supporting them verbally, now these people who overthrew Mubarak, Qaddafi and Assad, are doing the right thing, then why wouldn’t the people who are attempting or should be attempting the Mullah’s, why aren’t they part of that same moral cause of freedom, who should be listed as Time person of the year?
The Ayatollah’s and Ahmadinejad are far worse certainly than Mubarak; Mubarak was pretty bad, but not nearly as bad as the regime in Tehran. Kaddafi was pretty bad, but he had given up his weapons of mass destruction, he had been kind of neutered, bad to his own people. Assad is terrible, but none of them compare to what Iran has done under this regime for the last 30 years. The number of people they’ve killed, the number of people they’ve killed who are part of this organization. There’s a book this big that is full of pictures if you care to look at it, that’s just a small fraction of the number of people they’ve slaughtered.
The number of American soldiers that were killed in Iraq, with the cooperation of the Quds force and the Iranian government. This is a horrible regime, we should be supporting the people who have a chance to overthrow this regime, and not doing what we did several years ago, turning our back on them and leaving them in the street unsupported.
Now if we want to support a group that has a chance of being an alternative than this group is exactly the right group to support. Our trouble in Egypt and our trouble in Libya and Syria has been that we didn’t know who to support. Are we arming people who are decent people who are trying to create a free and decent government? Or were we supporting terrorists who were going to be worst. Looks like in Libya we made some big mistakes, looks like in Egypt we made some big mistakes. Here we have a group that has been on record for over a decade for supporting all of the things that are most important to us. This group supports a democratic Iran, they support a non-nuclear Iran, and they support an Iran that will be based on law. They support an Iran that will be protective of people’s rights. That respects the rights of women, this is a group, the president elect of this group- Madam Rajavi is a woman. Every Time I’ve gone to a meeting Judge Mukasey can support this, half the audience, including in Europe, are women. This is a group that believes in equality of for men and women, in separation of church and state. This is a group that believes in all of the things that we believe in. And we don’t have to fear that in supporting this group we’re supporting a group that has a whole lot of hostile intentions. So I say if you want to gain leverage in your negotiations with Iran, if they ever take place, the best thing to do is to support the MEK as an alternative to the regime in Tehran.
Finally, I just have to return to where we started, because I’m so afraid, and have been afraid since February 9th that another attack is going to take place, because I believe that the purpose here of the Iranian government that is calling the shots and the Iraq government and Maliki who are their puppets is to wear these people down. The reason you move them from a well-constructed camp to a concentration camp that is ratty and rat infested and horrible is to break them down. To get people who will defect to get people who will leave, to get people who will turn over other people that they’re seeking to harm or hurt.
The Iranian regime is insanely afraid of the MEK, those people who tell you that the MEK cannot offer an alternative to the Iranian regime, just have to look at how frightened the Iranian regime is of the MEK. There just 3,400 people why do they make such a difference? Because their act of strength their willingness actually to move from Ashraf to liberty and put their lives in jeopardy, their willingness to stay together and not defect, and not break apart, do you realize how frightening that is to horrible dictators when they see that kind of strength? And they realize that type of strength is supported by hundreds of thousands if not millions of people all over the world? They want to eradicate them, they want to destroy them, they want to break them apart, they want to break their will, that’s what concentration camps are for isn’t it? To break peoples will. That’s why they have them in horrible deplorable conditions, that’s why they allow mortars to be fired into the middle of them and to kill innocent people, to destroy their will. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen. Because they are our only hope.
They are our only hope that within our generation we can see an Iran that lives up to the wonderful Persian culture that is and was Iran. And lives up the incredible accomplishments that people who were thrown out of Iran- as they’ve had to do over the last 30 years, the incredible accomplishments they’ve had here in the United States. These are enormously talented, cultured, civilized and educated people.
They are entitled to a government that is as good as they are. They are entitled to a government that respects rights, dignity, human dignity, and the United States of America is entitled to have at least one more reliable ally in the Middle East, because right now we’re down to one. Wouldn’t be a bad idea if we could have two reliable allies in the Middle East. It could sure change geopolitical politics; maybe for once we could be on the right side at the right time and be in the right place. And in doing that we could fulfill an obligation we have to these people, the solemn promise that we made, and we could fulfill the obligation we have as American to spread the promise of liberty to the entire world. Thank you very much.