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Free Iran 2023—The Iranian People’s Struggle for a Democratic Republic

The Iranian People's Struggle for a Democratic Republic

Prominent politicians and national security experts from both sides of the Atlantic are gathering at a significant conference in Paris on June 30th. The conference focuses on the urgent matter of the popular uprising in Iran and the need for a viable Western policy alternative towards the regime.

Against the backdrop of nationwide uprisings that have disrupted the power dynamics between the Iranian people and the state, these demonstrations have provided valuable insights into the aspirations of the majority of Iranians. As a result, the international community now has a better understanding of their desires. However, in response to this perceived threat to its survival, the clerical regime has launched an intricate and multifaceted disinformation campaign, aiming to create the illusion of successfully suppressing dissent both domestically and internationally.

The conference comprises four distinct panels, each shedding light on different aspects of the truth regarding the clerical regime, its alternative, and the necessary approach for the free world. The panel titled “Disinformation and its Impact on Western Policy on Iran” features esteemed participants such as former FBI director Louie Freeh, former leader of the Canadian Conservative Party Candice Bergen, former US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Ambassador Lincoln Bloomfield Jr., British MP Steve McCabe, and former MEP Struan Stevenson.

In another panel, notable figures including US Senators Joseph Lieberman and Robert Torricelli, former Canadian Minister Tony Clement, former US Vice President’s Chief of Staff Marc Short, and former White House Director for Public Liaison Linda Chavez will discuss the topic of “the alternative.” They will explore the necessary qualities and strategies for a viable option that can effectively address the situation in Iran.

Additionally, former US Attorney General Judge Michael Mukasey, former US Policy Planning Director Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, former US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ambassador Robert Joseph, and former Deputy US European Command General Chuck Wald will convene to discuss the right US policy on Iran.

The conference also dedicates a panel to examine European policy on the same topic. Renowned figures including former German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier, former Finnish Minister Kimmo Sasi, Member of Parliament and former Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Audronius Ažubalis, British MP Bob Blackman, and former Vice President of the European Parliament Dr. Alejo Vidal Quadras will share their perspectives and insights.

This conference serves as a platform for in-depth discussions, enabling experts to analyze and address the complex issues surrounding the Iranian regime and its alternative. By exploring various policy approaches and understanding the impact of disinformation, the conference aims to foster informed decision-making and effective strategies in dealing with Iran.


Panel 1—Disinformation and its Impact on Western Policy on Iran

Ms. Azadeh Zabeti, the Moderator of Panel 1

Ms. Azadeh Zabeti, the Moderator of Panel 1
Ms. Azadeh Zabeti, the Moderator of Panel 1

Struan Stevenson, Coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change (CIC), President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA), former MEP

Struan Stevenson, Coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change (CIC)
Struan Stevenson, Coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change (CIC)

I’ve written quite a few books and my most recent one was entitled “dictatorship and revolution; a contemporary history of Iran” and one of the chapters I entitled “the demonization of the opposition.” Having supported the NCRI the MEK for the past two decades, I’ve come across that on many occasions and many people in this room and many people in this panel have had similar experiences. 

This kind of demonization has been going on for years. When we finally managed to rescue 3,000 refugees from Iraq where there were under constant attack and being regularly killed by missile attacks and bomb attacks, and we got them over to Albania, the regime’s embassy in Tirana, which was a very small affair with an ambassador and a couple of diplomats suddenly found great new interests in Albania and suddenly there were 25 new diplomats, most of them agents from the ministry of intelligence. 

We should be aware that this demonization campaign is based on [nonsense]. But because all of us have been affected by it, we should ignore it. This is not worth the paper it’s written on. It is typical of the propaganda that emanates from this regime. 

But I can tell you, last week, we published the fact that 117 ex-world leaders have signed a statement backing the right of the Iranian people to rise up and overthrow their tyrannical regime and backing the NCRI, backing the MEK and Mrs. Mariam Rajavi, the charismatic leader [of the NCRI]. 

So forget the demonization, ladies and gentlemen. We are going to win. We’re going to make Iran free again. And the MEK and Mrs. Rajavi and the NCRI are at the forefront of this campaign. Thank you.

Candice Bergen, former Leader of the Canadian Conservative Party

Candice Bergen, former Leader of the Canadian Conservative Party
Candice Bergen, former Leader of the Canadian Conservative Party

My colleague Judy Sgro is a parliamentarian from Canada, and Wayne Easter is also a former parliamentarian from Canada. I am now a retired Member of Parliament from Canada and although Wayne, Judy and myself are on different sides of the aisle politically, we are all in agreement of our support for freedom in Iran. We also are in agreement of how we’ve been targeted ourselves with disinformation and misinformation.

I was honored to be part of the women’s Conference in Brussels in March and the NCRI Women’s Committee had organized this incredible, massive rally in support of women. It was a wonderful conference. I then posted a number of photos on my Instagram account. I also posted photos of a number of women I met on Women’s Day on March 8th.

I was shocked that I received so many comments from people that I had never heard of before. And I was attacked, not for saying anything about the Iranian regime, not for exposing what they have been doing to women, but for being part of the conference. And that became for me a big red flag. What is really the agenda here? The agenda here is to discredit the opponents of the regime, to divide, to stigmatize, to cause disunity, to cause fear in me as an elected representative.

Which caused me to say, oh dear, am I part of a good organization or not? Well, thankfully, I know I’m supporting an incredible organization that is working with so many others for freedom and democracy in the beautiful country of Iran.

Let us make sure that in countries where we have democracy, where we have freedom, where we have accountability, that we all use the brain that God gave us and that we reject lies, and we don’t accept half-truths. And that we stand up and speak truth to power. Because I believe that as we do that in our own countries and in our own institutions, we will then send the message to regimes like the one in Iran that is trying to discredit, demonize, and cause division. We will send a message to them that no, we will not believe your lies, and we will stand up to your lies.

Louis Freeh, former Director of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

Louis Freeh, former Director of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Louis Freeh, former Director of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

When we were working with the State Department years ago to remove the NCRI and the MEK from the terrorist list, you know, we ran smack into embedded propaganda that people, I think of goodwill in the State Department, had just automatically incorporated into official government files and findings. So, we had a very, very difficult time doing that. For instance, we made the point that everybody in Ashraf 1 was interviewed by the FBI to see whether they had pro terrorism links or intentions, and nobody was found to be in that category. So even though the information was transmitted several times, the State Department kept getting played back to us in a number of different ways.

We have to encourage opposition media, we have to encourage free speech, the kind of work that this great organization does to get the truth out, to open up the dialogue with the 10-point-program that invites honesty and integrity in communications as opposed to controlling the media and that has to be done.

There’s a lot of work to do, but I think the organization here has done enormous good work and made progress in that. But we have to be very, very careful about what our facts are. As a lawyer or somebody who was in a government agency for many years, we have to be very, very careful about the facts.

Ambassador Lincoln Bloomfield Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, 2001 – 2005

Amb. Lincoln Bloomfield Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, 2001 – 2005
Amb. Lincoln Bloomfield Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, 2001 – 2005

A dozen years ago, I started looking at this issue, just looking at allegations independently, because everything I saw on the web, I was the chairman of a think tank and I looked at all the other think tanks. And they said the exact same thing, almost word for word: Don’t go near them. They’re terrorists. They killed Americans. They’re Marxists. They’re strange. Stay away from them. Don’t trust them. And then I looked into the source documents from the time frames involved in 1979, 1980-81, even going back to the early 70s and the 60s.

And I would find differences and said, wait a minute, this, this isn’t what really happened, and these few early moments turned into one chapter after another of a different story, an untold story, and to the point where I would say two things: one, there’s an entirely wrong narrative about the resistance and about the regime, and two, it’s still believed by many people in Washington, and it’s still repeated by most of the major media.

When it comes to Iran, we don’t have a narrative, we don’t have a unified story of what happened. We missed a whole lot of formative things that happened. We didn’t understand in Washington who the MEK was? We didn’t know it was a student movement. They’re still called Marxists.

And in fact, the Shah was a very good propagandist. When they saw left wing non-Islamic violent student radicals, and they may not even have been students, they lumped them all together. They’re all Mojahedin. These are all crazy and they scared the population against the young radicals. And so, everyone was lumped into this this business that they are Marxist, they’re extremists, they killed the Americans. Well, folks, they didn’t kill the Americans. Masoud Rajavi’s MEK never killed the Americans.

The Americans missed this story, of course. If you are, if you see that you’ve gotten away with all of this, then you can propagate all sorts of narratives that can be believed. I studied terrorism reports for 19 years out of the State Department. For the first part, they weren’t so bad. But then along came the time when they put the MEK on the terrorism list in 1997. As director Freeh just explained, the FBI wasn’t consulted. It had nothing to do with a dossier of terrorism. The terrorism reports changed overnight.

I thought that our research was a little bit risky. You know, we’re trying to say that we have different facts than the governments of the West are repeating. We can sit here now in 2023 and say we have been right all along. All of you have been right all along. The narrative that we uncovered, the narrative that I got by asking questions, and others have gotten that strong. Stevenson’s books have described so well what was all true. And so, I think I want to finish by saying disinformation won’t work so well if the media keeps repeating it. So, my appeal to you and to all the journalists here is that you must stop repeating things that you now know are untrue. You must stop. And we will keep telling you to stop.

Steve McCabe, MP, United Kingdom

I think we have to start by acknowledging that it’s almost in the DNA of this regime that exists through falsehood and propaganda. That’s the starting point where it subverted the Iranian revolution and that’s the practice it’s continued ever since.

And it kind of essentially oscillates between brutality and violence and misinformation and covert activities, sometimes extending the blatant terrorism, as in the case of Assadi.

I think that’s the fundamental thing that Western negotiators, Western politicians, Western diplomats need to understand we are not negotiating with normal political beings. We’re not negotiating with people who observe any rules of diplomacy. We’re essentially interacting with a bunch of gangsters who will stop at nothing.

And of course they do spend thousands and thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars on different types of misinformation. Over the years I’ve had a number of experiences like this.

And it’s not just the left in the UK that they’ve penetrated, there’s also the right wing and the right-wing media. There’s a newspaper some of you will be familiar with called the Mail on Sunday, which is certainly a very pro Tory party right wing newspaper. I remember them describing me as a terrorist sympathizer and describing the NCRI as a bunch of terrorists, again, based on information they’ve received from so-called ordinary Iranians who have had given them stories.

They are still able to keep the one person who’s offering a deal for a secular, democratic Iran not asking for weapons, not asking for money, not asking for anything, offering a 10-point plan for democracy and have kept her at arm’s length because of the insidious influence of these people.

These are not normal politicians or diplomats; these are gangsters, and we should respect the cross-party views of the British Parliament and banning the IRGC.

Panel 2—The Alternative 

Dr. Ramesh Sepehrrad, the Moderator of Panel 2

Dr. Ramesh Sepehrrad, the Moderator of Panel 2
Dr. Ramesh Sepehrrad, the Moderator of Panel 2

Senator Robert Torricelli 

Former US Senator Robert Torricelli
Former US Senator Robert Torricelli 

There’s been an international effort to keep you from being here. They have only done that for one reason. Your being here has meaning. It is part of the change. The overthrow of the regime begins with you, and being here every year is the best contribution any free citizen can make to freeing Iran. So thank you for being here.

We live in a time when we talk about believing that people are genuinely equal. And the prior notions of colonialism and racism are behind us. Are they? Is there some reason why the Iranian people are living in this medieval circumstance of a despotic government that abuses its people in absolute, desperate poverty? Why? This is seen by some quarters in Washington or London or Paris as acceptable part of the norm.

No people should have to live under these circumstances. The home of my ancestors in Italy, a country that has no natural resources, nothing but the ingenuity of its people has a per capita income 10 times of Iran, a nation of great wealth and resource, with a rich culture and energetic people. How is it that being born in Iran equates to living in complete poverty and with children with no future? We all know what has to change, but it begins with accepting that what we want for ourselves, and our children and the nations of Europe and North America, is the same for all other peoples. Then dealing with Iran becomes unacceptable. Compromise becomes unacceptable. There is no compromise with absolute evil, and that’s what we’re dealing with.

At some point. You have to accept reality. There is no goodness beating in the heart of the mullahs in Tehran.

There are a variety of groups fighting for change in Tehran. I understand that. Some well-intentioned, some not. Some are just props for the regime. If you start on the issue of change in Tehran with believing you can reform the government, you’re not part of this movement. You’re not part of the answer. And frankly, I don’t want anything to do with you. There is no reforming Tehran.

Second, we don’t need to go back. Sometime the greatest wisdom comes from the streets. And those kids on the streets of cities of Iran who are yelling “No to the mullahs, no to the Shah,” have it exactly right. We’re not taking the mullahs, but we’re not going back either.

Where does this leave us? Well, you’ve already answered that, you voted with your bodies being here today. What does a revolutionary movement require? Dogged determination, incredible focus, the willingness to pay any price to bring change. It requires people who are completely committed to a cause. I just defined the MEK.

It requires resources because it takes time and it takes money. It takes depth. It takes people who are willing to sacrifice with their own resources. I just defined the MEK.

It takes a leadership that will pay any price and has a vision for the future, not only what they want to destroy but what they want to create. I just defined Mrs. Rajavi and the 10-point plan.

And it takes an international coalition. With people on the streets, the revolutionary cells that are now throughout Iran, helping to lead and direct this movement. That’s the MEK you are part of that change.

Freedom is the inevitable circumstance of man. It doesn’t come free, and it doesn’t come easy. It doesn’t come fast. But it comes, and we are on our path. I believe it as much as I believe in anything in my life. But what is that alternative? You are the alternative. We have built it. We just have to get over the line.

Linda Chavez, former White House Director for Public Liaison

Linda Chavez, former White House Director for Public Liaison
Linda Chavez, former White House Director for Public Liaison

I think it was 2012 when I was first invited to come to an event in Paris for the NCRI. It was my first opportunity to meet the leader of this movement, Maryam Rajavi. My first reaction was how charismatic she was. Here was a woman who had firmly held beliefs, who believed in all of the things that I believe in. A belief that people should be free to choose their own leaders. A belief that religion is important, but every individual has the right to choose to believe how he or she wishes or not to believe if they don’t. The freedom to have access to a free press where you can actually find out what’s going on in the world. The right to have free judiciary. An independent judiciary. And all of these things made sense to me.

So having watched the NCRI, having watched over the years as this great movement pulls people together both inside and outside Iran, the diaspora, as well as people who are still living in Iran and are fighting the regime from within, it seems to me that Madam Rajavi and the movement she leads offers an alternative I don’t see elsewhere. I certainly don’t see it in the former Shah’s family. I don’t see it in those who believe that it’s possible to compromise with the mullahs, who every time there is an election are somehow looking for this new moderate leader who’s going to change everything in Iran, and then the only thing that changed is how many people are hung from the cranes in Tehran. I don’t see it in those who criticize the NCRI and its movement. I see it from the people who want to see regime change. And sadly, I haven’t seen as much as I would like from my own government in the United States.

I don’t see it in the kind of overtures that are being made to try to reinstate the JCPOA. Why on earth would we want an agreement with a regime that has lied to us, that has killed our people, that lies to its own people and that subjects them to inhumane conditions? So I look to the MEK. And the National Council of Resistance, as the group that offers an alternative now, is that alternative perfect? I don’t know. But I will tell you this if Madam Rajavi is successful and if regime change comes to Iran, it’s going to come from the people of Iran and they are going to be the ones who are going to choose the new leaders.

So I believe that the disinformation campaign we heard about in the last panel is very much directed to try to undercut what we’re seeing happening in the streets of Iran. Because we’ve seen it since last fall. This uprising of the people, they’re rising up not just because they can’t afford bread, because they can’t get jobs, because they don’t have the kind of life that they want to lead. They are rising up because they realize that they will never have those things as long as the mullahs’ rule in Iran.

So that’s the leadership that I’m looking forward to. That’s the leadership that I think the people of Iran want. And the proof is going to be is the English and the pudding. It’s going to be when the people of Iran are able to choose their own leaders. It will not come from the outside. It will not come from an agreement with the United States or any group of countries to make bargains with the mullahs. And it is less likely to come if such an agreement ends up in a nuclear armed Iran. Then it will not just be the people of Iran who will suffer. All of us will be in peril and in imminent danger. So, I believe that the NCRI offers the way forward, that Madam Rajavi’s 10-point plan is a plan that, I believe, will be embraced by the people of Iran.

Tony Clement, former Member of Parliament from Canada; former Minister of Industry, Minister of Health and President of the Treasury Board of Canada 

Tony Clement, former Member of Parliament from Canada; former Minister of Industry
Tony Clement, former Member of Parliament from Canada; former Minister of Industry

The pace of change that affects Iran has only accelerated in the last few months by not only factors within Iran but also certain geopolitical factors outside the country. I think first about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A stout ally of the Iranian regime. And of course, that in itself created an opportunity for the regime to supply these drones, these killer drones, to terrorize the Ukrainian population. And in fact, now the the regime in Iran is building a new factory in Russia to actually accelerate the manufacture of these killer drones, this this is another example of a terrorist regime at work.

And, of course, what’s happened since the last gathering here is the uprising in Iran itself, a huge event which illustrates the reaction of the regime, how important regime change is, that people are standing up for their rights, standing up to the mullahs, standing up to the internal terrorism and of course the reaction of the regime with the support of Russia and China and other autocratic states. They are deliberately killing and arresting people who just want their freedoms.

The Iranian regime, as we heard from the first session today, would like others to believe that there really is no alternative, that the alternative is bad, that the alternative is in some way defective. But of course, that’s not the case.

And when I got to meet with Madame Rajavi, it was clear to me how sincere she is and we have this 10- point plan that is coming before various legislatures and parliaments around the world, I understand. And the legislature of Connecticut was the latest to endorse the 10-point plan.

This is a democratic, pluralistic alternative. They do not want a theocratic state. They do not want a nuclear state. They want a separation of faith from the state. And they want pluralistic, democratic values. And what more can you ask from an opposition than that?

I feel that the disinformation campaign is illustrative of how important this movement is. If they didn’t care so much about the NCRI and MEK, they wouldn’t be going through all the effort of this disinformation campaign.

Joseph Lieberman, United States Senator, 1989 – 2013

Joseph Lieberman, United States Senator, 1989 – 2013
Joseph Lieberman, United States Senator, 1989 – 2013

Let me talk a little bit about the allegation which comes mostly from the government in Tehran, that there is no alternative to the government. So, the US, the West, everyone else has to compromise with them. Incidentally, that is exactly the message that Adolf Hitler gave out in the 1930s that brought Chamberlain to Munich to make that a weak pact that really led to World War II. History cries out to us not to repeat that again.

But I want to say that beyond the question of if there is an alternative out there, there is the question that the regime raises, which is: Do we need an alternative? The fact is that, as they would allege and try to get people to believe there, this regime is forever. Well, history tells us that no totalitarian regime can last forever. It’s not in the nature of history, and that’s for sure.

And I will tell you this as an American whose founding values call on us to support freedom wherever we can in the world. It’s right there in the Declaration of Independence. We can never acknowledge that there is no alternative to a totalitarian government, certainly not in Iran, and we know there is an alternative. It is the people of Iran. It is a Democratic Republic. A government of the people, by the people and for the people. And Iran is closer to that today than ever before, because the regime is weaker than it’s ever been before. So, they’re at their weakest and there will be a need for an alternative. And there’s a need for an organization to lead the way to that alternative. And of course, it is the NCRI and the MEK.

I don’t think that there has ever been a group of rebels to tyranny that has ever been as prepared to lead the transition to freedom as people in this movement are. The NCRI and MEK have earned the right to lead the transition to a Democratic Republic because they have fought consistently for a singular principle and that whether it was against the Shah or against the mullahs, and that is freedom for the people. It has been the priority focus of their lives. Many thousands have given their lives for this cause.

They have earned the right to lead this transition. But that’s not enough. Often in life we don’t get what we have earned. The MEK and the NCRI are ready. There is a transition plan. The plan calls for elections by the people within a limited period of time to elect a constituent Assembly, which will then adopt the constitution and elect leaders of the country.

The other demonization that the regime employs against their opposition is that there’s no unity. But the first thing is the NCRI is itself a constituent assembly. It’s a unified organization of opponents of the regime and Mrs. Rajavi, the leadership has been very clear that they will welcome anyone else to this cause, to this fight for freedom, who accepts the basic goal, which is to liberate the people of Iran and move to a democratic, free Republic in the country that you are calling homeland.

Now, there’s one other element that entitles or qualifies the NCRI for leadership. No movement can succeed without a leader. And this movement has an extraordinary leader. Maryam Rajavi is a woman of principal. She’s a woman of courage. She’s a woman who was a strong and strategic leader. She actually created the role model that I think is now playing itself out across Iran with this extraordinary movement led by women. Well, the NCRI has been led by a woman for a long time, and that woman is more ready than anyone else to lead the transition to freedom in Iran.

Marc Short, Chief of Staff, Vice President Mike Pence

Marc Short, Chief of Staff, Vice President Mike Pence
Marc Short, Chief of Staff, Vice President Mike Pence

We had witnessed an Obama-Biden administration that I think in their effort to appease the Ayatollah and the mullahs, had reached an Iranian nuclear deal that, despite its name, basically created a path for Iran to have nuclear weapons. We sent billions of dollars to the mullahs in Iran. It emboldened the Ayatollah.

And I’m really proud that our administration pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal. I’m proud that our administration levied enormous sanctions against Iran that I think crippled the despotic regime there. I’m incredibly proud of the decisive decision that the President and the Vice President took to take out Qassem Soleimani on the battlefield.

I’m saddened to see some of the steps backward. I think the Biden administration was quick to want to re-enter into an Iranian nuclear deal. I think the first steps that they took of taking the Houthis off the terrorist watch list was another bad decision.

When America’s weak and when the West is weak and we are not standing for the principles of freedom, it undermines those who are fighting like the MEK. And so I look forward to the day that we again return to America having a strong role in foreign policy and America having a strong role against Iran and one that enforces sanctions and enforces discipline that actually creates and continues to create a condition for an alternative like MEK to continue to thrive.

I think there’s obviously much hope and there’s hope in the numbers. There’s hope in your victories here this week. There’s hope in Rajavi being invited to testify from the United States Congress and people recognizing your movement. The winds of change are blowing. And it’s essential that your voice continue to be heard.

Panel 3—The Right US Policy on Iran

Ambassador Lincoln Bloomfield Jr., Moderator of Panel 3

Ambassador Lincoln Bloomfield, Moderator of Panel 3
Ambassador Lincoln Bloomfield, Moderator of Panel 3

Michael Mukasey, United States Attorney General; 2007 – 2009

Michael Mukasey, United States Attorney General; 2007 – 2009
Michael Mukasey, United States Attorney General; 2007 – 2009

[The terrorist designation of the MEK] happened in 1997. And it didn’t happen because somebody at the State Department did research into the activities of MEK or NCRI or anybody or any other entity in the United States government. With no cable from the CIA or other evidence. It happened kind of the way the demonstration got banned here. The administration was approached by Iran and asked if they would put the MEK on the list of foreign terrorist organizations. It was done regrettably by President Clinton as an accommodation to Iran because he thought it would help improve relations and would kind of smooth things over. Of course, that that went brilliantly, right?

And I still couldn’t get over the fact that this organization that I was speaking up for that espoused democracy, a nuclear free country, rights for women, everything the United States stood for was on the list of Foreign Terrorist organizations.

Finally in 2012, we got the ban lifted. I guess the arc of history does occasionally bend toward justice, and that was poetic justice if ever there was any.

I think the lesson to be learned is that if you keep at it the way you did here in Paris, the way we did in getting the MEK off the list, you can prevail. Sometimes things look bleak. We have a bill passed in Congress barring any agreement, basically any repeat of the JCPOA.

I suggest to you that when Congress gets going on this, they will not take it lightly, and hell hath no fury like a Congress made fools of, and they will not suffer it.

Ambassador Robert Joseph, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

Ambassador Robert Joseph, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
Ambassador Robert Joseph, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

My first occasion to learn of the NCRI and the MEK was in August of 2002, when I was working at the White House. I was an assistant to the president. I was in charge of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear non proliferation, working very hard on Iran, North Korea, with the other challenges that we had. And I was informed by my staff that there was someone giving a briefing on the Iranian nuclear program. And I got feedback on what that briefing is all about.

Since then, I’ve learned a great deal about the MEK and the NCRI. I’ve learned of the personal sacrifices of every single member that I’ve met and talked with. Members who have lost brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers. But in a way that has not at all lessened their dedication, lessened their intention to work toward a free and democratic Iran.

It truly is inspiring when you talk to the residents at Ashraf. And you talk to the leadership, particularly Mrs. Rajavi, who has provided us with a 10-point plan that provides a vision for the future. And with the MEK and NCRI we have the alternative to the current regime.

The crimes against humanity that [the regime] has committed, the fault, the blame, lies solely with a regime with the mullahs who have hijacked the great nation of Iran and Islam itself. With that, let me say that I have been a long-term critic and constructive critic of U.S. policy.

I was working as the Defense Department representative to the arms control in the negotiations, both at the ministerial and then at the at the summit level. And I learned about the biases and the bad instincts of the institutions that were involved. All of them trying to push human rights out of the room. So that we could get down to the real business of national security and negotiate arms control treaties. They had one principal obstacle to that, and that was President Reagan. And President Reagan insisted that we continue to have a four-part agenda with the Soviet Union, which included human rights.

And it was his policies, including the promotion of human rights, that got us there. And human rights was far from an obstacle to achieving arms control. We achieved the best arms control agreements under the Reagan and then into the first Bush administration. Because of human rights, in large part.

I would say that an effective US national security policy toward Iran would be grounded in four propositions. The first proposition is that for 44 years U.S. policy has failed. It has failed to stop Iran’s support of international terrorism. We have failed to stop Iranian support of aggression in the region. And in fact, the regime has achieved successes in the region through its aggression.

With the nuclear program, Iran today is a virtual nuclear weapons state. We’re told that they have enough enriched uranium at 60% enrichment to have three weapons. They could have enriched uranium at that weapons grade within days, at most within a couple of weeks.

And I think most of all, we have failed in promoting and consistently applying the principle of human rights and democracy that every administration talks about. If you go back through all of the national security strategies, one foundational principle of American policy is the promotion of human rights and democracy. And in the case of Iran, we have sacrificed that principle in order to seek other benefits, other agreements, which have never really turned out well for us because as I said, we have failed. We have failed on regional aggression, we’ve failed on the international terrorism, and we have failed on stopping Iran from moving forward on its nuclear program.

The second principle that I would apply in any national strategy toward Iran is that as long as the mullahs rule, they will never abandon their nuclear weapons program. They simply will not abandon that, and they have proven that over and over. Yes, they will negotiate at times. But the agreements are not worth the paper that they’re written on. Maybe that’s why we’re going to a paperless agreement in the future.

Third, this is a regime that can’t reform. This is a regime that cannot be as much as we want it to be, a moderate, sort of a ruled by moderate leaders.

The fourth proposition is that It is the people of Iran that are the greatest vulnerability of the regime. The regime has alienated its people through brutality, through repression over four decades, through mass murder of tens of thousands of their own citizens. This is a regime that cannot reform. It will continue the brutality until it is ended.

Let me just say what this alternative approach is not. It is not the advocacy of force by the US or the West to overthrow the government of Iran. It’s not regime change like we saw in Iraq. I think we’ve learned our lesson from that. This is regime change, as I said, from within, led by the Iranian people, but supported from the outside, hopefully with the United States as the leader of that support. This is not a silver bullet. What we need is the application of a comprehensive strategy over time, with patience, with strength and of course, with leadership. Leadership that understands the four propositions that I put forward.

I think we’re at that point where further appeasement will truly meet Einstein’s definition of insanity. Trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is clearly doomed to failure. The alternative that I’m talking about is to support the opposition, the democratic opposition. It is to contain and to deter the regime from further expansion, from further success along the four lines that I have mentioned. The regime needs to be pressured. I think we’re at a critical point. I think we’re near the breaking point and the last thing we need to do is throw the regime a lifeline as we have in the past.

General Chuck Wald, Former Deputy Commander, U.S. European Command

General Chuck Wald-Former Deputy Commander, U.S. European Command
General Chuck Wald-Former Deputy Commander, U.S. European Command

I’ve spent most of my time in the Middle East, actually in the military. I think a seminal moment was when the Secretary of State Under President Obama said “We’re going to pivot from the Middle East to China.” When you pivot, you turn your back on something. When you turn your back on something, you evidently don’t think it’s important enough to pay attention to, or don’t feel like it’s a threat or anything else. And our partners in the Middle East didn’t think that was a very good idea.

When that decision was made, it was frustrating to me to turn our back on the Middle East, for example. And the reason is that you can’t wish foreign policy.

In the Middle East, the biggest issue we still have obviously is Iran. The Middle East hasn’t gone away. This thing about having a non-paper agreement just makes me angry. It’s cynical, it’s phony. It’s a way to get out of I don’t want to bother with Iran anymore.

We have the capacity to pay attention to the Middle East. We have the capacity to build partnerships continue with that. I’ve spent like I said a lot of time there.

The beauty of the MEK is that what happens if the Iranians go away? From a governmental standpoint, you have a backup. They’re called the MEK and NCRI. You have a viable option. The good news is there’s an alternative to it, if the Iranian regime were to go away, which I hope it does, the current one, and a good alternative, which would be in our interest.

And so, we as a country should not be at this point acquiescing to the Iranians on some kind of nuclear agreement that is actually going to arm up the Iranians.

Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, former Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department

Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, former Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department
Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, former Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department

I think that we can all agree on three big things, not just among us here, everybody in the audience and hopefully everybody who’s watching this around the world. The first thing is that the current regime in Iran presents a clear and present danger. It is an ongoing threat not only domestically, but also to the United States and to friends and allies around the world.

The second thing is that the regime is illegitimate. It clearly doesn’t have the support of its people. We see that every day by the brave protests led by the women in Iran and the people who have made incredible sacrifices opposing this regime.

And the third big thing that I think we can all agree upon is that it’s unwilling and unable to change. Hope springs eternal in the hearts of some people, that it’s going to moderate itself, that it’s going to evolve, that over time, it will be more reasonable. There’s no indication that that’s true. In fact, there’s an argument that the reverse is happening. They are becoming more oppressive as they become more fragile with their domestic support eroding.

So then that leads to what’s the key policy question. And I think the key policy question is this: What can we do to accelerate the end of this regime? And I think that we can do quite a few things actually, some of which we’re doing perhaps not as effectively as we could be, some things that are perhaps a little bit new.

Governments can [expose the regime’s human rights violations], parliamentarians can do this. The UN Human Rights Commission should do this. Not just Amnesty International, everybody should know the true nature of this repressive regime. The value that we share is the dignity of the individual. This regime doesn’t care about that. We need to expose that.

The second thing we can do is exposing the corruption of the mullahs, of the IRGC, of the Basij. They’ve all taken millions of dollars from the Iranian people, and they’ve deposited in overseas bank accounts. We have a pretty good idea of who’s done that and where it’s deposited. Let’s expose them and feed that information back to the Iranian people.

The third thing is increasing the sanctions. Clearly sanctions have not had the effect of toppling the regime, but they do inflict some pain. If they’re going to expire, then they need to be renewed and strengthened.

Another thing we need to do is to increase the amount of news that gets into Iran. We all have a role to play in that, but there are also governments that can program more radio programs, streaming services into Iran so the people of Iran understand what’s happening around the world and that people like us and elsewhere around the world stand with them as they are fighting this courageous fight.

We also need to do something to restore the US relationship in the region, both diplomatically and militarily. We need to restore our credibility with these countries. I think that there’s been a series of American actions and declarations that have had people question America’s credibility. And they do what humans would normally do. They start hedging their bets, so they start reaching out to Iran, to China and to Russia. Because they can’t count on the United States anymore. That can be corrected. It needs to be corrected as soon as possible.

And again, what can we do to accelerate the end of this regime? I have to say at the very top, is to support the opposition, especially the NCRI and the MEK. There’s more than we can all do to support them. There’s much more that our governments can do.

Panel 4—European Policy on Iran

Dr. Hanifeh Khayyeri, Moderator of Panel 4

Dr. Hanifeh Khayyeri, the Moderator of Panel 4
Dr. Hanifeh Khayyeri, the Moderator of Panel 4

Dr. Alejo Vidal Quadras, Vice President of European Parliament (2004 -2014)

Dr. Alejo Vidal Quadras, Vice President of European Parliament (2004 -2014)
Dr. Alejo Vidal Quadras, Vice President of European Parliament (2004 -2014)

When we refer to the EU policy toward the Iranian regime, we must be careful because the institutional framework of the EU is complex and not all institutions have the same policies. The EU has three powers: executive, legislative, and judiciary. Not all three behave equally in relation to the Iranian regime.

Who is the executive power in EU? It is the commission, but in the Council, heads of state and government and ministers. So they are executive in their own countries but legislative in the Council.

What has been the policy of the executive power of the EU for decades toward Iran’s regime? It has been dominated by two mirages. One is that there are moderates in the regime. We must engage with them and help them. The second illusion is that let’s try to appease the regime and negotiate to calm them down and live with them. These two illusions have been proven completely false. They have failed miserably.

There are no moderates. There are different factions who compete for power, but they are all the same. Appeasement has come to no result. If this policy has failed for decades, the question is, why do they keep doing the same thing year after year if it does not work? I have known and dealt with different commissions and different high representatives of EU for foreign policy as VP of European Parliament. I’ve been dealing with four of them. I and other members of parliament have discussed with all of them about the policy toward the Iranian regime. I must say that they are deaf and blind to evidence. It’s very strange. The four of them have kept the same policy in spite of their absolute failure.

The conclusion is that this policy is the result of conception of policy which refuses to take any risk. The commissioners and the governments that sit in the council and the higher representatives and the staff in the Union, all of them hate risks. They do not realize that to defeat tyranny and dictatorships in this world, you cannot do it without risks.

The MEK and NCRI take risks every day. They risk their lives every day. But in the European Commission, they refuse absolutely to take any risks. And they don’t realize that by refusing to take risks, they in fact increase risks every year.

The policy of the European Parliament, since many years, there has been an inter-group of Friends of Free Iran. This inter-group has been working in parliament for more than 20 years. It organizes events, has invited Mrs. Rajavi more than 12 times to have hearings with different groups. Always these visits have been a great success in big rooms with dozens of members supporting Mrs. Rajavi with resolutions and statements condemning the regime and asking for the respect of human rights. A majority of the parliament has been extremely active in supporting the Iranian Resistance and the NCRI and the MEK. The attitude has nothing to do with the Council and Commission. The Council and Commission make the life of the mullahs easy.

The judiciary is a cold and serene power. But when it has acted, it has been in good direction. In the case of blacklisting the MEK and NCRI, it ruled that the label must be lifted.

In all these parliaments and across Europe, there are very active committees that work for democracy and freedom in Iran. And Mrs. Rajavi has visited many of these parliaments with great welcome and success. The position of the legislative powers in Europe for the MEK is quite general.

The governments of member states in the Commission, they are not only cowards, they are incompetent. After the assassination of Mahsa Amini, there have been waves of protests in Iran, thousands in the streets, 750 killed in the streets, 30,000 arrested. In many European televisions, there was prime time coverage of the protests. The regime was on the verge of being defeated. It was an opportunity for western democracies to take decisive action and take combined pressure from inside and pressure from outside with closing embassies, political pressure, and blacklisting the Revolutionary guards. The combination of this pressure would have probably been the end of the regime. But the Western governments did nothing. And the struggle continued for months, but the repression machine of the regime was efficient.

Peter Altmaier, Former Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy of Germany

Peter Altmaier, Former Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy of Germany
Peter Altmaier, Former Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy of Germany

The Iranian people have suffered 50-60 years of repression. Many people in the region have suffered. So many times their hopes were disappointed. So many times their efforts did not have positive effect. Why are Europeans reluctant? We do take risks, as we are doing in Ukraine.

This is one of the reasons I believe something has changed for the Iranian democratic opposition. I believe a few things will change in the next months. One is the protests of youth in Tehran and other cities. It was so impressive to many people. The second is the war of Russia against Ukraine. It is certainly the worst aggression in Europe after World War II. The regime in Tehran has decided to side with Putin and is part of the coalition of evil. We will be ready to support you to make sure this coalition of evil will not win. If one partner collapses in this coalition, all others will collapse.

We have to be prepared, the Europeans and all of you. The 10-Point Plan of your president is a document that is not just a political document. It is a summary of the universal values of mankind. I’m a lawyer by profession and I’ve studied it carefully. I’ve never seen a better summary by politicians. Let’s rally around that declaration. It is not about choosing sides for one or another organization. It’s about having a basis for joint action.

This is a document that can be signed by all democratic people in the world. We Europeans have to think about a new agenda. As nuclear weapons fall into the hands of authoritarian regimes, we will all be less secure.

The first thing I recommend is to recruit more civil servants and experts for the intelligence services and ministries dealing with Iran. If we want you to prevail, we have to collect more expertise. Let’s establish contacts beyond the traditional environment. Let’s involve all the human rights activists and let’s say this is not a power struggle in Iran. This is a struggle for human dignity and democracy against a regime that has never been a legitimate power.

Let us try to support all the young people in Iran who have demonstrated and protested. Let’s establish help teams and invite young people to universities in our countries as well. They are not alone.

Kimmo Sasi, former Minister of Foreign Trade and Minister of Transport and Communications of Finland, former President of the Nordic Council

Kimmo Sasi, former Minister of Foreign Trade
Kimmo Sasi, former Minister of Foreign Trade

We say that the European Union is the moral superpower in the world, and I think that’s quite right. And we have very high agenda for human rights. But sometimes we give too much declarations. We should be more effective in implementing those human rights, especially there where they are most infringed.

In European Union foreign policy, there’s a lot of goodwill, but also wishful thinking. And sometimes it’s difficult to make difficult decisions in the European Union. And I think after Ukraine, we should take more real politic in the European Union and we should have the ability to change circumstances around us.

We know that Iran is an essential threat for the European countries. First, they export military power to Middle East in Syria, Lebanon. And that causes problems to the European area.

Iran supports terrorism and a lot of terrorism by Iranians takes place on the European soil. For five years in this conference they tried to attack us. They tried to kill individual people in Europe a couple of days ago. In Cyprus, they tried to attack an Israeli target. And they attacked a couple of days ago an NCRI headquarters here in Paris. And it cannot be tolerated that something like this happens on European soil.

Iran is a nuclear threat. Soon we can maybe see missiles that can be fired to European Union area. And today, Russians use mainly Iranian drones in Ukraine to kill Ukrainian innocent people and destroy infrastructure that people would suffer and at the end, they try to destroy Ukrainian democracy. This means that we have to do something that has a role, that leads to some consequences.

It’s not good that one day we are soft, one day we are hard. We have to be constantly firm. And what it means is we have to ask, is there hope of change in Iran? In 40 years, we have seen there is no hope. There’s a worse government today than ever. During these 40 years, they are crueller than any government before.

And the appeasement policy that has taken place has been quite problematic for the opposition because it undermines the possibilities for the opposition to work. So, we have to show that we want to have regime change in Iran.

We should have three categories of sanctions. They are fairly weak at the moment. So, we should have harder sanctions against Iran. And I say all the time that Revolutionary Guards should be sanctioned as well. That’s one of the most corrupt organizations not only in Iran, but in the world. And we should not surrender to the blackmail of the Iranian government.

And I believe and trust in regime change because people want to have a better future. And they see how things are in Western countries, the level of living. And the truth is that if Mrs. Rajavi’s 10-point plan will be implemented, Iran will change to a developed democracy. A country that indeed can have good standards of living for people.

We want to have a good life and Madam Rajavi’s 10-point plan is the way to give a good life for the Iranian people.

Audronius Ažubalis, Member of the Lithuanian Parliament, former Foreign Minister of Lithuania

Audronius Ažubalis, Member of the Lithuanian Parliament, former Foreign Minister of Lithuania
Audronius Ažubalis, Member of the Lithuanian Parliament, former Foreign Minister of Lithuania

You are keeping the Iranian cause alive. Tragic events become abhorring to politicians when new ones happen. In 60 years, we had different organizations across the world. They had disputes but they stood united on freedom. 

During 60 years of occupation, the major support wasn’t in Europe. Europe had very good trade and benefits with the Soviet Union. You should double or triple your efforts in working with the U.S. Congress.  

The greed in European countries is not diminishing because trade prevails over values sometimes. On the violations of human rights, the sanctions on the regime includes 26 individuals and 11 entities. It’s a small thing. Now, Lithuania is pushing for more sanctions on Iran on UAV experts and UAV factories, which are vital to Russia’s war on Ukraine.  

The last year, Iran supplied 1,700 UAVs. This year, they opened a line to produce UAVs in Russia. Why are we not sanctioning them? I don’t know. It’s a question of who rules Europe.  

When we are talking about EU institutions, the most free is European Parliament. But their power is mostly political pressure. When the talks are coming about concrete measures, the corporate power of European business prevails. Despite our unity, the biggest part of Europeans are keen to do business and turn a blind eye.  

The agreement with Iran’s regime was for 15 years. It allowed the regime to build its economic power. The JCPOA was a good attempt but with weak results. 

The most difficult job lies on your nation’s shoulders. This is the reality. If you want to win freedom, you should deal with reality as it is. 

Bob Blackman, MP, United Kingdom

Bob Blackman, MP, United Kingdom
Bob Blackman, MP, United Kingdom

I think if we put the history over the last 40 years of European and American policy into a series of phases, since the Shah was deposed and the theocratic regime came into operation in Iran, in the 1980s, we all said Iran and Iraq can fight each other and that balances each other out. Then we invaded Iraq and destroyed the Iraqi regime, and then Iran became the dominant force in the region. Then we got fear. They became the dominant force, and they would acquire nuclear weapons, so sanctions were employed. When the sanctions were employed, they were at the point of breaking the regime. But what did we do? We set up the JCPOA, and we took away the sanctions, and we allowed breathing space for the mullahs to continue. Now the problem with that is that all it did, as was quite rightly said by others, is delay the production of nuclear weapons.

Iran now has ballistic weapons that can literally launch missiles accurately 3000 miles. And if they get nuclear weapons, they are a threat to the entirety of the West as well as the rest of the region. We also know that the theocratic regime will do everything to suppress their people. And unfortunately, we have followed a policy of appeasement against these people for far too long. And if you deal with these people, they will just say just give, give, give. They will take more and more and more.

So one policy must now be one of saying no to a further JCPOA. Absolute sanctions against the regime to force them to give up their threat of nuclear weapons and against the oppression of their own people.

Then we look at the brave people of Iran who have stood up in the face of dictation, dictatorship, brutal dictatorship. When they demonstrate, when they ask and demand the right to democracy, the right to wear the clothes that they wish to wear, to operate as we do in the West, they are brutally oppressed. So we must be saluting those brave people. We can speak freely here, but those people are under threat every single day of their lives. We must remember that the president there is a brutal man that sent 30,000 people to their deaths back in 1988.

We should also remember that in 2018, when we gathered for our rally here, a terrorist plot that was launched in order to blow up Madame Rajavi and all the members of the conference. We must remember this was an Iranian diplomat who smuggled the bomb in a diplomatic pouch. So, can we trust the Iranian diplomats in what they’re carrying in their diplomatic party pouches any longer?

So we must now think of what the alternatives are. So the first alternative has to be that we must prescribe the IRGC in its entirety, seize their assets and use them for the benefit of the Iranian people.

I’m very proud to say that I proposed the motion in the British House of Commons, which was passed unanimously jointly by every single political party, calling for this to happen. I’m afraid I can’t yet convince the government of the United Kingdom to do what we need to do, but we must continue to do that because what that does is send the strongest possible signal to the people of Iran and the theocratic regime that we are behind you. This would be a big shake-up, but I think we all have to understand that we need to do it jointly. We need Western governments to do the same thing across the face so that it becomes a sanctions regime that really does bite. And I don’t mean biting the Iranian people. What I do mean is biting the theocratic regime that is oppressing them right now.

Then after that, we must not be deflected by the concept of the son of the Shah and other people coming around suddenly, thinking they can go back to the reign of the Shah again. We cannot go back there because that failed in the first place. What we must do, as it’s quite rightly been pointed out, is implement the 10-point democratic plan of Madam Rajavi and the NCRI.

But you know the most important point about that. I agree with every one of the ten points. I think we all would. The most important point is that there needs to be an interim government and that after six months, there will be free and fair elections. And the people of Iran then will choose who they want as their leadership. That is what we all have in democracies.

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