Remarks by Senator Robert Torricelli, Member of the U.S. Senate from 1997 to 2003; served 14 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, in a panel on “Policy on Iran” in Paris, 29 June 2018, organized jointly by FEMO and APA.
Before I get to Iran, I have to deal with a very important subject, and that is Italy. I am heartened to know that you think that the new government is going to lead to good American-Italian cooperation, because obviously there’s very much a fear of the opposite, and we’re all very concerned about it. Italy, obviously, does need new leadership, new policies. It obviously has some fundamental problems for all of its strength, and we all wish it well. I just hope that is done in a cooperative spirit with the United States and I was heartened by your remarks.
Having now said positive things, let me run the risk of uniting everyone in the room who’s not an American against me. But by being as frank as I can. I am an unlikely proponent of Trump policy is having been in the Democratic leadership in the Congress for many years, but it appears to me that by and large, the Trump policy on Iran, what we are doing is what everybody else in a quiet moment is thinking. No one can genuinely believe that there is a long-term future the family of nations, if our goal is international reconciliation, the spreading of markets and prosperity, the strengthening of international institutions with the Iranian regime at the table. There could not be more evidence that that simply is not possible. And we all recognize that getting from here to there, changing the regime is dangerous, messy, a lot of people and a lot of interests will get hurts, but no one can genuinely believe at this point after Syria, after what’s happened in Iraq, after the use of… these horrendous weapons that there’s really an alternative.
So we can all differ on Donald Trump. We can all have our views about him and his unusual personality and some of his policies, but has he not just done with Iran what we all really hate to admit really has to happen? We have a brief and probably fleeting moment in history where the democratic nations are in strong economic position, have the prevailing political philosophy of our time, control most major international organizations, and are as close to military hegemony as they will ever get. That may not last.
There are many new players rising on the horizon that are not necessarily democratic, who’ll have military and economic strengths of their own, different ideas that may not include democratic ideal. If we’re going to deal with the mullahs and outlaw regimes like it, it’s only now. Now critics can say that the United States with its (shrill points) and Secretary Pompeo has set a not high, but an impossible bar to meet, therefore the goal really isn’t reconciliation. Exactly right. I think that’s true. And there’s no reason why we should be compromising on those standards.
An Iran that wants to join the family of nations shouldn’t be given a separate deal. Here’s the deal—how you have to behave and act like every other leading nation. This is not the most disparaging term in American diplomacy, some banana republic. This is a nation of 80 million people that if it were functioning properly with a normal economy, normal government, normal trade, normal leadership would be a great regional, if not international economic power. There should be no separate deal. How it governs itself, how it treats its people, how it behaves in the family of nations, how it arms itself, how it conducts itself with its neighbors should be to the highest standards. That’s what Pompeo’s 12 Points are about—no separate deal. Does that mean that we’ll never really reconcile with the mullahs? To be fair, to be honest, yes, it does. It means that we are in a state, even if unacknowledged, of attempting regime change.
I am heartened, although, (to be) fair, I don’t think other nations in the Western alliance are being honest about the future as we are publicly. The cooperation that appears to be coming from Europe on the economic side with the new American standards against Iran are at least begrudgingly cooperative. They can all lead to the same place.
The regime has to go. And there’s only two ways to get there. We do this through economic pressure, which leads to internal political change or it happens militarily. No one should want it to happen militarily. And those who are against a military answer with the regime…well, you can’t also be against the economic. Or how do you intend to get there, unless you think this is a permanent state of affairs for the Iranian people.
Is it going to succeed? Inevitably. Tomorrow? I wish it would. Maybe not. Thought it would. Under the normal state of affairs, the economic pressure, political pressure on the Iranian people is so intense one would think this would happen almost immediately. But there’s a lot of experience in the human condition of being willing and able to accept far more punishment than you would think possible. People endure more than you think they could ever endure before they revolt. Iran is one more test case to that, as is North Korea, as was Mao’s China, as was Stalin, as was Nazi Germany. There are a lot of cases where people endure more than you’d ever believe, but in the end it still only leads to one place. So while delayed, it will happen.
We all wish that many nations would come forward and take the lead. They have not. We all have our roles in history. Our European allies may choose other fights that we don’t choose. We can be supportive from the sides. In this case, it appears to be something the United States is going to lead, but lead it well. And those nations who want to avoid conflict realize, again, there’s only two ways out—this road or the military road. This is the path better taken.