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Iran policy group outlines new approach in dealing with Tehran


Iran Focus: Washington, Feb. 13 – In a conference on Thursday, coinciding with the 26th anniversary of the revolution that toppled the Shah, a leading Iran-policy group in Washington discussed U.S. policy options towards the clerical state. The Iran Policy Committee, comprised of former officials from the White House, State Department, Pentagon, … Iran Focus

Washington, Feb. 13 – In a conference on Thursday, coinciding with the 26th anniversary of the revolution that toppled the Shah, a leading Iran-policy group in Washington discussed U.S. policy options towards the clerical state.

The Iran Policy Committee, comprised of former officials from the White House, State Department, Pentagon, intelligence agencies, the Congress, and experts from think tanks and universities, set out a policy paper, during a press conference in the National Press Club, outlining an approach that called on Washington to “Keep open diplomatic and military options, while providing a central role for the Iranian opposition to facilitate regime change”.

Prof. Raymond Tanter, former staff member of the U.S. National Security Council under President Ronald Reagan, said that despite years of engagement policy, presently spearheaded by the Europeans, Iran continues to be the leading state-sponsor of international terrorism, has a terrible human rights record, and is now bent on spreading Islamic fundamentalism to neighbouring Iraq to destabilise that country. Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons and other WMD to guarantee its survival, Tanter added.

Tanter along with the other panellists explained that the solution to the Iran conundrum was to support the Iranian people and their organised resistance movement.

The IPC called on the U.S. State Department to remove the terror-tag on Iran’s main opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), so as to send a clear message to Tehran that Washington was serious about its support for the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people.

The State Department designated the PMOI as a terrorist organisation in 1997 in what many analysts believe was part of the Clinton administration’s policy of rapprochement towards Tehran.

But the advocacy group believed that engagement, pursued by the Europeans and consecutive U.S. administrations, had produced little tangible results over the past quarter century.

The IPC report said, “Iran is emerging as the primary threat against the United States and its allies: Iran’s drive to acquire nuclear weapons, continuing support for and involvement with terrorist networks, publicly-stated opposition to the Arab-Israel peace process, disruptive role in Iraq, expansionist radical ideology, and its denial of basic human rights to its own population are challenges confronting U.S. policymakers”.

James Akins, former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Paul Leventhal, founder and President Emeritus, Nuclear Control Institute, Lt. General Edward Rowny (ret.), former Ambassador to Strategic Arms Reduction Talks, Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, former assistant vice-Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, Major General (ret.) Paul Vallely, Military Committee Chairman, Centre for Security Policy, Bruce McColm, of the Institute for Democratic strategies, and Clare Lopez, strategic policy and intelligence analyst, were among the other IPC panellists who joined the conference.

IPC recommended backing the PMOI, whom they said was “indisputably the largest and most organised Iranian opposition group”.

The PMOI’s military wing, as part of the National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA), has nearly 3,800 members in Camp Ashraf, some 60 miles northeast of Baghdad.

The IPC noted that a review of U.S. policy concerning the MEK [PMOI”> and the overall Iranian opposition was in order. It wrote, “The designation of the MEK as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department has served, since 1997, as an assurance to the Iranian regime that the United States has removed the regime change option from the table. Removing the terrorist designation from the MEK could serve as the most tangible signal to the Iranian regime, as well as to the Iranian people, that a new option is now on the table. Removal might also have the effect of supporting President Bush’s assertion that America stands with the people of Iran in their struggle to liberate themselves.”

The policy group added, “In the same way that the United States was receptive to South African anti-apartheid leaders and the Soviet Union’s anti-communist activists, Washington should invite prominent opposition figures both in Iran and in exile to the United States. They might meet with U.S. officials, Members of Congress, academics, think tanks, and the media. The European Parliament offered such an example in December 2004, when it invited Maryam Rajavi, the president of the NCRI to its headquarters in Strasburg, where she offered an alternative view to that of the Iranian regime. Tehran’s angry reaction to this invitation served to highlight the effectiveness of such measures”.

The IPC also argued, “As an additional step, the United States might encourage the new Iraqi government to extend formal recognition to the MEK, based in Ashraf, as a legitimate political organization. Such recognition would send yet another signal from neighbouring Iraq that the noose is tightening around Iran’s unelected rulers”.

The policy paper suggested, “In light of the MEK’s status as protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention and the continued protection that the U.S. military provides the group in Iraq, Washington has an opportunity to decide whether to return to the MEK its weapons, which would relieve responsibility from the American military for the protection of its camps and personnel. Such a move also would send an unambiguous signal to the Iranian regime that it faces an enabled and determined opposition on its borders”.

Dr. Neil Livingstone, another IPC member, called on the Bush administration to develop a firm policy against the Iranian regime, adding that it was the West’s appeasement policy which emboldened Iran’s rulers to secretly acquire nuclear weapons.

The IPC argued that if a war was to break out in Iran to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear warheads, the West’s soft-line policies would be to blame for having bought time for the Iranian regime to develop such technology, adding that it was the Iranian opposition, not the Iranian regime, that had revealed every major nuclear site that was being kept secret from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, over the past 18 years.

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