July 5, 2021

Democratic Unity Against a Terrorist Government

We, as members of a bipartisan group of Americans, including former senior government officials, Members of Congress, judges, and retired senior military leaders, offer our greetings to all who are participating or following this year’s Free Iran Summit, including our many friends in the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) led by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the residents of Ashraf 3, the worldwide Iranian diaspora, and above all, the courageous people of Iran who continue to endure the challenging and often brutal conditions of life under a corrupt and illegitimate regime.

The 2021 Summit will, no doubt, focus on Ebrahim Raisi, newly designated as Iran’s next President, the front man for Iran’s clerical dictatorship. His office cannot shield him from the consequences of his central role in the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, a crime against humanity that one prominent human rights attorney has equated to the Srebrenica massacre and the Bataan Death March. Although Iran lied to the UN at the time, proof has now come to light, and there is no statute of limitations on this historic crime. Justice must now be served for Raisi and other guilty individuals, many of whom still exercise authority within the Tehran regime.

The Summit will also talk about Iran’s deceptive pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, which to this day it uses to threaten the international community, hoping to secure impunity for its many lawless acts of hostility against countries near and far. By now it is clear that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is not connected to legitimate self-defense concerns; arguably it has made Iran less secure. The transaction Tehran seeks is to gain more latitude and resources to arm non-state actors, commit sectarian aggression, and pursue unwanted hegemony over its neighbors. Earlier hopes that nuclear negotiations might lead to more peaceful relations with Iran were, unfortunately, illusory.

Some commentators now lament that Raisi and his fellow “ultra-hard-line” regime allies will turn Iran’s behavior in a worse direction. We doubt that our Canadian friends will wish that they could still deal with a Rouhani-led government that shot down a passenger jet, killing 63 of its citizens, and lied about it. We cannot see how Saudi Arabia will feel nostalgic for the Rouhani years during which hundreds of ballistic missiles have been launched against its airports, population centers, and critical energy infrastructure. We seriously question whether our European friends will feel less safe with the passing of a Rouhani government that built and tested a sophisticated bomb, violated diplomatic privileges by using a commercial airline flight to bring it to Europe, and tried to execute a mass-casualty terrorist attack on French soil targeting a gathering of NCRI supporters that could well have killed many of us. We are here today thanks to the vigilant efforts of authorities in several European countries. The fact is that France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg, and Albania have all interdicted Iranian terror activities on their soil in recent years.

Above all, it is the Iranian people whose opinion counts most. Let us not forget that the people – not the regime – are sovereign, and no election in over forty years has permitted an open choice of candidates whose victory or defeat at the polls would represent a legitimate expression of consent of the governed. With no means of participating in their own governance, Iranians today have taken to the streets, as they did in 1981, 1999, and 2009. Notably, those protests have not targeted the United States, whose sanctions have weakened the Iranian economy, but rather have condemned the regime whose malign conduct has precipitated those sanctions. Public rejection of brutal fundamentalist dictatorship continues to grow. In every instance, the clerics have had but one response.

Since December 2017, when Iran’s most recent protests began, the regime has answered calls for change with bloody crackdowns. At least 1,500 people were reportedly killed during the November 2019 protests. An estimated 7,000 were arrested, with many tortured and executed, according to Amnesty International. During the eight years of Hassan Rouhani’s presidency, Iran executed more people per capita than any country in the world. Ebrahim Raisi helped carry out this grim task as a top Ministry of Justice official.

The facts can no longer be distorted or ignored. US policy interests with Iran are not complicated. We want Tehran to stop threatening and destabilizing the Middle East, stop arming extremist non-state actors, stop trafficking in weapons, drugs, and persons, stop taking hostages, stop sending terror teams around the world, stop violating international diplomatic norms, stop threatening shipping and carrying bombs on commercial airlines, and stop brutalizing the Iranian people.

Americans understand who has been the aggressor in this relationship. We may have exercised restraint, but have not forgotten the 1979 seizure of our Embassy and holding our diplomats hostage for over a year; the terror bombings that destroyed our Embassy twice in Lebanon and killed 241 US service members in Beirut as well as many French peacekeepers there; the bombing of Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 US airmen who were protecting Iran, among others, from Saddam Hussein’s military; and now the attempted bombing of the Free Iran rally in Paris in 2018. To this day, US and allied military forces defending the world against the ISIS threat in Syria and helping train Iraq’s sovereign security forces face a steady pattern of deadly militia attacks directed by Iran.

It is long past time for the international community to mobilize and support change in Iran. Many American supporters of the NCRI advocate “change from within”, sidestepping the acute sensitivity in Washington to any policy appearing to suggest the goal of “regime change”, which fell into disfavor in recent years. We point with approval to the Caesar Act, the US law imposing sanctions on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for its own grave human rights abuses, including torture of dissidents. We further cite United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254, mandating a transition to legitimate government in Syria under a new constitution.

Such measures would be fully appropriate to the regime in Iran. A multilateral human rights investigation of top regime figures should be initiated, with the guilty referred to international tribunals to face accountability. The international community should demand, and mandate, a transition to legitimate constitutional governance in Iran, just as it has in Syria. The Security Council did not label “transition” as “regime change”, and there is no reason to do so in Iran, so long as the world finally determines that change is required.

Nor should there be any confusion over the principles that await expression in Iran once the people’s aspirations for an end to dictatorship are fulfilled. We support House Resolution 118, endorsed by 225 members, “Expressing support for the Iranian people’s desire for a democratic, secular, and non-nuclear Republic of Iran and condemning violations of human rights and state-sponsored terrorism by the Iranian Government.” For years, the NCRI has promoted Mrs. Rajavi’s 10-point plan for Iran’s future, advocating these very principles along with equal rights for women, separation of church and state, and the rule of law with due process and an independent judiciary.

The NCRI, which embodies gender equality, has been maligned in the past, and this too should end now, permanently. Courts have verified that the 20-year period of armed resistance by the Mujahedin-e Khalq did not constitute terrorism, and while the regime in Tehran has continuously engaged in deadly hostilities and terrorism, the NCRI’s activities have been entirely political for two decades now. Governments made serious misjudgments in the past about the resistance; they should now sustain a proper dialogue with the NCRI as Iran’s largest and best organized resistance.

The hour has arrived for the world to say no to this regime, to resist its many offenses against the rules-based international order, and to stand as one with the people of Iran. We do so today, knowing that the long era of regime illusions, misinformation, coercion, and false promises has finally run its course. Neither the privileges of sovereignty nor the cynical veneer of religious purpose can any longer shield the embattled circle of men in Tehran from the coming day of accountability for their decades of transgressions. We stand ready to do our part to promote international peace and respect for universal norms by advocating for a Free Iran.

Amb. J. Kenneth Blackwell – Former U.S. Representative, United Nations Human Rights Commission

Hon. Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr. – Former Special Envoy and Asst Sec State

Hon. Linda Chavez – Former Assistant to the President for Public Liaison; Chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity

Colonel (Ret.) John Cirafici – Former Defense Attaché, Algiers

Gen. (Ret.) James Conway – Former Commandant U.S. Marine Corps

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) David Deptula – Former Deputy Chief of Staff for Intel, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, U.S. Air Force

Hon. Louis J. Freeh – Former Director FBI

Hon. Marc Ginsberg – Former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco

Hon. Porter Goss – Former Director of CIA, Former Chairman of House Intel Committee

General (Ret.) James L. Jones – Former USMC Commandant, NATO Commander, National Security Advisor to the President

Hon. Robert Joseph – Former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

Hon. Patrick Kennedy – Former Rhode Island Congressman

Hon. Joseph I. Lieberman – Former Connecticut Senator

Colonel (Ret.), U.S. Army Wesley M. Martin – Former Senior Antiterrorism Officer, Coalition Forces – Iraq

Hon. R. Bruce McColm – President, Institute for Democratic Strategies

Colonel (Ret.) Gary Morsch – Former Senior Medical Officer at Ashraf

Hon. Michael B. Mukasey – Former US Attorney General

Brig. Gen. (Ret.) David D. Phillips – Former US Military Commander for Camp Ashraf

Hon. Ted Poe – Former Texas Congressman

Hon. Mitchell B. Reiss – Former Ambassador, Special Envoy to the Northern Ireland Peace Process

Hon. Tom Ridge – Former PA Governor, Secretary Homeland Security

Hon. John Sano - Former Deputy Director CIA National Clandestine Service

Professor Ivan Sascha Sheehan, Ph.D. – Executive Director School of Public and International Affairs, Univ of Baltimore

Hon. Eugene R. Sullivan – Retired Federal Judge

Hon. Robert Torricelli – Former NJ Senator

©2022 Wes Martin