Thursday, December 16, 2004

Congressional Record Links Ackerman, Ros-Lehtinen,Traficant, Menendez and Towns to Terrorism

: "U.S. POLICY TOWARDS IRAN: A ONE-YEAR REVIEW -- HON. GARY L. ACKERMAN (Extension of Remarks - June 03, 1998)


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in the House of Representatives


Mr. ACKERMAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise to bring to the attention of my colleagues a very important matter. The last week of May marked the first anniversary of the election of the so-called `moderate' president of Iran. I think it is very important after one year of President Mohammed Khatami's rule to look closely at the facts in evaluating his administration's true colors. Some of you may have seen the press reports from the `Briefing on U.S. Policy Options and Prospects for Change in Iran' that I co-hosted on May 21 along with my colleagues Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen, Mr. Traficant, Mr. Menendez and Mr. Towns. Our effort was aimed at advocating an Iran policy of firmness and resolve, which allies the United States with the Iranian people and their resistance movement, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

The impressive turnout for the event, especially among members of the diplomatic corps, indicated to me that the call to scrutinize our Iran policy was timely. Just this past week, Khatami underscored the role of the Revolutionary Guards Corps in maintaining the regime in its totality and said it represented the regime's most pious and dedicated forces. `With our body and soul, we are all proud of the Guards Corps,' Khatami said in praising the regimes' main organ of suppression, rendering hollow his claims of `freedom and civil society.' This further proves the assessment of the speakers during our briefing that Khatami has neither the interest nor the influence to initiate any change in this theocratic regime.

Mr. Speaker, in light of the importance of this discussion, I submit my remarks entitled `One Year of Khatami,' as well as the remarks of Ms. Soona Samsami, a representative of the National Council of Resistance in Washington, to be printed herewith in the Congressional Record.
I would like to first welcome all the members of the diplomatic corps and the press for joining us here today to mark the one year anniversary of President Mohammad Khatami's election. We have a very interesting forum scheduled, and once everyone completes their statements, we will open up for questions and answers. First, I'd like to introduce my colleague Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Florida, with whom I've worked on this issue long and hard. Unfortunately, she must leave early so she will get this briefing started with her remarks.

After her we will hear from Congressmen Bob Menendez, Jim Traficant and Ed Towns, as well as former Ambassador James Akins, and lastly from Soona Samsami who will be representing the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

Representative Ros-Lehtinen.

When Mohammad Khatami was elected president a year ago, many in the West insisted that he was a genuine reformer who would, while upholding the clerics' reign, would begin halting state terrorism, would begin an end to enmity to the Middle East peace process, a lessening of flagrant abuses of human rights and the stoppage of the stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction.

I'm sorry to say that some in our administration bought into that view. Travel restrictions to Iran by American citizens have been relaxed a bit, and most recently, the administration has just waived punitive action, as required by law, against 3 foreign oil corporations who plan to invest more than $2 billion dollars in the Iranian oil industry.

Unfortunately, it is clear that some policy-makers have learned little about the brutal thug mentality of those who rule in Iran. When this year's State Department report on terrorism named Tehran the number-one state sponsor of terrorism, Iran's ruling mullahs openly and celebriously acknowledged responsibility for the terrorist attacks listed in the report, declaring that they not only pursued and attacked the Iranian Resistance, on foreign soil, but that they expected to be rewarded for what they called `combating terrorism.'

Let me make it very clear we are hard pressed to find any moderates with whom we can reach out to in the Iranian government, and contrary to the hopes of many in the West, Mr. Khatami's election a year ago has not resulted in any positive changes in Iran's domestic or foreign policies. It has, however, gravely aggravated the infighting among rivals. In fact, we all read recently about the arrest of Tehran's mayor, a close affiliate of Khatami, just this past month. It is no secret that the conflicts among the rival camps are intensifying with each passing day.

You may have also noticed news reports just this past weekend that the Government of Argentina arrested 8 Iranian residents and ordered the expulsion of 7 of the Iranian embassy's staff of 8 and required them to leave by yesterday. The 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, as well as the 1994 bombing of the AMIA, the city's main Jewish community center, has been investigated by the Argentineans, aided by the F.B.I., and has found the trail leads to Tehran. 114 people lost their lives in these horrific terrorist attacks.

Many of you however do not know that one of the key sources for the evidence that linked Tehran's government to the community center bombing was the National Council of Resistance, which learned from its sources in Iran that the bombing had reportedly been ordered by Iran's Supreme National Security Council. The NCR reported its findings to a congressional subcommittee, which then forwarded the information to the State Department. Last month, I personally brought this information to Argentina.

Ironically enough, the Iranian Resistance is the very same movement that the Department has added to its list of terrorists, virtually turning the intent of the law upon it on its head. This same list contains unquestionably terrorist groups such as Hizbollah and Hamas. This ill-advised `goodwill gesture,' as it was thus quoted by a senior administration official in the L.A. Times last October, has profound implications. By mis-labeling the main resistance force against the ayatollahs, we are not helping the Iranian people in their legitimate cause. Goodwill gestures will achieve little, and will only serve to embolden the Iranian mullahs to continue their non-stop campaign of terror and repression--both inside and outside of Iran. Under the current circumstances, Tango-ing with Tehran's tyrants will lead nowhere. I think it's interesting to note however that the idea behind the State Department's publishing a list of terrorists was to isolate the exact brand of terrorism that the Tehran regime actually supports and provokes! Even more importantly, and contrary to some expectations, the regime's opposition to the Middle East peace process has not slackened one bit. In fact, just a few weeks ago, the founder of Hamas, Sheikh Yassin, was in Iran on an official visit. President Khatami met with him, and expressed his support for the terrorist group. Prior to that, senior Hizbollah officials also traveled to Iran, for meetings with the top leaders. Officials, including Khatami, have emphasized that they will continue their active opposition to the peace process, and will not rest until the complete destruction of the State of Israel. Nor will the mullahs ever be satisfied with our gestures. The old adage of `give em and inch, they'll take a mile' certainly applies here.

I think what we have seen in the past year since Khatami's election has been the absolute inability of the mullocracy to reform. Khatami has been part of this system, and understands full well that any move towards liberalization contradicts the regime in its entirety. Fortunately, there are signs that this is the end of an era.

Infighting has engulfed both the military structure, meaning the Revolutionary Guards, as well as the clerical hierarchy. These are all promising signs that the mullahs' repression and dictatorship may be nearing an end. Nonetheless, we need to continue a sound policy of isolating Iran. We certainly can not begin to ease up now, just as the sanctions are beginning to bite and Iran's rulers are desperate for economic relief. That would be a travesty and undermine all of the good we have striven to accomplish. We need to realize that this new president is no more moderate than his predecessors. We must retreat from this illusion before it is too late.

And for that very reason, we in Congress shall continue to advocate an Iran policy of firmness and resolve. The realities of Iran dictate that the United States must recognize the right of the Iranian people to resist, and its own moral obligation to keep a distance from this medieval and utterly oppressive regime. A proper policy must take stock of the continuing realities in Iran, with the realization that the Iranian Resistance presents some new prospects for a change in government. Instead of trying to shore up a sinking ship, we must quickly ally ourselves with the Iranian people and Resistance, whose democratic, pluralistic and secular platform makes for a far better lasting solution with the retrogressive and brutal ruling regime.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would now like to introduce our next speaker, Ambassador James Akins. Ambassador Akins served our Nation's Foreign Service with great distinction for over 20 years, until his retirement in 1976. He spent much of his career in the Middle Ease--in postings such as Damascus, Beirut, Kuwait, Baghdad and Saudia Arabia--and has written numerous articles about the subject. He is now an international and economic consultant and still maintains very close ties to the region he knows so very well. Ambassador Akins.


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Ladies and gentlemen, I am very pleased to have this opportunity today to address this gathering. The situation in Iran is changing rapidly, as the dark era of suppression, execution, stoning, fundamentalism and terrorism comes to an end. But these changes are not originating from within the regime or the administration of Mohammad Khatami, in whom some in the West have great hopes. The source of these changes is the Iranian people and their Resistance.

Two weeks ago, one of the southern neighborhoods of the capital city of Tehran erupted, as 10,000 people protested against the killing of 16 year-old street vendor at the hands of the Revolutionary Guards. The unrest continued for four hours. Chanting `death to Khamenei, death to Khatami,' the crowds clashed with state security forces. A number of government buildings were damaged.

Protests and unrest are spreading throughout the country. Late last week thousands of people in western Iran, in Kermanshah, staged a similar demonstration. Fighting broke out among the public and Revolutionary Guards.

The turmoil in Tehran had not yet subsided when unrest, strikes and student protests broke out in Gilan Province in the north, the cities of Yassouj and Dezful in the southwest, Tabass in eastern Iran, and Isfahan in the central part of the country. A major labor strike has been going on for the past several weeks in the provincial capital of Rasht. Dozens of workers have been arrested, but the strikes are continuing. The regime's leaders are very uneasy about the implications of this unrest for the future. Let me give you a couple of examples:

On May 14, Khamenei was speaking about the recent demonstrations in Isfahan Province, when he directly pointed to the Mojahedin as the source of the unrest.

In remarks he delivered in Sistan-Baluchistan Province in the south, Khatami explained, `We are threatened by the Mojahedin and Zionists.'

The Parliament Speaker, Nateq Nourri, reiterated Khamenei's warnings on May 17, telling the assembly: `In Isfahan, what's left of the Mojahedin are active. . . We must all stay alert, and stay away from matters that have to do with groups and factions, which would allow a third party to come in and grab the Revolution itself and run off with it.'

The Parliament Speaker continued: `These conspiracies are not just taking place in Isfahan; these are unpatriotic actions, threatening national security. The security apparatus needs to get in there and deal with this in a serious manner. We should stop worrying about what the foreigners are going to say to us. . . America, the Monafequin [Mojahedin] . . . they have essentially invested in the universities, where they can use the pro-western intellectuals, and take advantage of the open atmosphere to hatch some plots.'

In a meeting on May 16 with the Bassij forces, Rafsanjani urged them to `neutralize the plots of the agents of the Arrogance and the Monafequin [Mojahedin].'

Khamenei said on April 16: `The enemies sending out propaganda from abroad. . . are pursing a policy of divisiveness. . . We must beware, we must beware.'

Tehran's Friday prayer leader said on April 10: `These disorders are like a tank full of gasoline. . . All the enemy has to do is to strike a match.'

Mokaram Shirazi, another of the regime's mullahs, said on April 12: `In the not too distant future, we shall witness a major crisis. . . or a painful scandal.'

The executive director of the regime's Supreme National Security Council said on April 13: `There will be no winner in this crisis, but there will be a big loser--the Islamic system.'

On May 23, 1997, when Khatami was elected president, there were many in the West claiming that from now on, the regime would follow the path of moderation. But from the very first, the Iranian Resistance was convinced that the new developments would weaken and further divide the regime internally. Moderation and reform would never happen. A year later, this has become an indisputable fact.

Crisis after crisis, without any prospect of a solution, pretty much sums up the past year. The arrest and then release of Tehran's mayor created an unprecedented emergency, which was only brought under temporary control through the intervention of Khamenei. The underlying crisis has not been resolved, however.

Agence France Presse wrote in its analysis that `there is still a long way to go before the war ends between the two sides. . . The conflict between the
two warring factions subsided only after shaking the foundations of the regime as a whole.' The news report adds that everyone was afraid that `the whole regime would be harmed.'

A diplomat in Tehran had this to say: `Throughout this nation's history, it has been shown that spontaneous street demonstrations in Iran can overthrow a government or regime.'

The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards threatened recently to crack down on a wave of internal dissent and criticism, saying it jeopardized the country's security. `The universities are in the hands of the opposition, and young people are chanting `death to despots.' We have to behead some and cut off the tongues of others,' he said.

Within the clerical hierarchy, there is increasing opposition to the ruling clique, which has failed to eliminate Montazeri, the former successor to Khomeini, from the picture. In terms of religious credentials, Montazeri outranks all of the ruling regime's officials. He was shelved in 1988 by Khomeini after he protested the massacres of Mojahedin. In his correspondence with Khomeini at the time, he had written: `You cannot annihilate the Mojahedin with executions. They are an idea. Killing them will only spread their ideas.'

Despair and apathy have taken their toll on the Revolutionary Guards, the regime's principal military force. Three of the corps top 6 commanders, and at least 150 other officers have resigned. If we consider the Revolutionary Guards' unique role in safeguarding and prolonging the regime, the gravity of this crisis becomes clear. Tehran's rulers are in dire need of a foreign crisis they can use to shore up their eroding forces.

At the same time, the regime is facing a profusion of economic problems. Projections for oil revenues in the mullahs' budget exceed 16 billion dollars, but the actual figure is hardly 10 billion dollars. Inflation is increasing with each passing day, and with it the pressure on the public. 80% of the populace is living below the poverty line. Meanwhile, corruption and embezzlement scandals involving billions of toumans are rampant throughout the regime.

Policy Options: Here in Washington, there have been a number of discussions over the past year about various approaches to Iran. Some people in this city are saying that Khatami is different than other mullahs, and America should officially recognize these differences. Of course, this is a coy way of promoting the sort of appeasement policy that ended in the Irangate scandal a decade ago. Appeasement was at the heart of the administration's Iran policy over the past year.

But if you will permit me, let's be realistic. Contrary to America's expectations, Tehran did not make any changes in its policies of terrorism and fundamentalism. In fact, after the State Department published its annual report on terrorism, naming Tehran the world's most active state sponsor, the mullahs took responsibility for the entire list of their terrorist acts, especially their attacks on the Mojahedin.

The distinguishing characteristic of this theocratic regime, which sets it apart from all other dictatorships of the twentieth century, is its export of terrorism and fundamentalism. If the mullahs take a step back in this direction, they will lose their ability to enforce the domestic suppression as well. Before they can transform themselves into a modern, twentieth-century dictatorship, they will be swept aside by the Iranian people.

The inability of certain circles in America to comprehend this stubborn reality is behind the notion that you can turn the anti-human rulers of Iran into moderates. The events taking place in Iran today signal the weakness and disarray of the regime and the prospects of its overthrow, not some sort of trend toward liberalism. Goodwill gestures by the U.S. government, such as the inclusion of the Mojahedin on its list of terrorist organizations, will only serve to goad the regime on, and to give the Iranian people the negative impression that once again, the U.S. government is on the wrong side.

This is the same mistake made almost twenty years ago, during the last year of the Shah's reign. President Carter referred to the Shah's Iran as an `island of stability,' and the British Foreign Secretary at the time stressed Britain's full support for the monarchy up until the final months. At that same time, western intelligence agencies said that Iran was not in the revolutionary stage, or even the pre-revolutionary stage. I don't think I need to remind you of what happened next. Today, the circumstances are similar. Events are happening very quickly in Iran, and it seems that the U.S. is not keeping up with them. As the leader of the Iranian Resistance has stated, the Iranian people will not recognize any contracts signed to find and drill Iranian oil.

The conflicts and clashes between various bands in the regime are a reality that will not go away. The most fundamental and essential conflict in Iran, however, is between the people--who desire freedom and democracy--and the religious, terrorist dictatorship ruling over them, whose survival depends on denying the people's demands. Despite an absolute repression, these demands have been embodied in a nationwide resistance movement. It is no accident that the regime's most viscous forms of repression are practiced on the resistance at home. Even abroad, beyond its terrorist attacks, the regime's primary demand from its international trading partners is that they adopt an anti-resistance, and specifically anti-Mojahedin policy."