Joseph Lieberman, former US Senator and Vice Presidential candidate, addressing the panel on “Policy review on Iran” in Paris on June 30, 2017. Moderator was Ambassador Lincoln Bloomfield, distinguished fellow and Chairman Emeritus at the Stimson Center, former Assistant Secretary of State for Military Affairs.
Remarks by Senator Lieberman follow:
Thanks, it’s great to be back here. As we gather here for this annual coming together of what I would call the forces of fighting for freedom for the people of Iran, I think we can have some sense of optimism that events are moving in the direction of our moral cause.
And I say that both because of events external to Iran and also what’s happening in Iran. The first but I think very significant change is the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.
I supported Hillary Clinton so understand that I’m speaking about the policy toward Iran and the Middle East. Because for the last eight years, we had an administration in Washington whose policy toward the east was to have a kind of benign, a friendly relationship with our traditional allies, Israel, and the Arab world, but to be focused on Iran. To be focused and trying to improve our relations with Iran, frankly, almost regardless of what Iran was doing.
And it was targeted at the Iran nuclear agreement, which of course most of it, I speak for myself, was a bad agreement, based on all that we had all put into sanctions and the rest. It didn’t end the Iranian nuclear program; it gave it an enormous amount of cash. And it was, as somebody else has said, transactional. It was a kind of a deal, it wasn’t transformational.
In fact, nothing about Iran’s behavior has changed in a couple of years since the Iran nuclear agreement was signed, it continues to be, by a judgment of the US State Department, the government in the world that most supports terrorism.
It continues to feed and fuel warfare and terrible human suffering throughout the region. All of which is aimed at extending its own power. I’m speaking about obviously Syria, from Syria to Yemen and a lot of places in between and beyond that.
So from this administration of the previous eight years which was, if I might say, Iran centered, nothing has ended up being changed, we’ve come to administration where President Trump has quite clearly said two things. One is, essentially we know who our friends are in the Middle East and we know who our enemies are. And our enemies are Iran. We’re not making that up, all you have to do is to listen to the Supreme Leader and others, “death to America”. The Islamic state that is our second enemy.
And we have friends in the Middle East and those are the Gulf Arab countries and Israel.
And I hope as a policy review that the administration is doing all of its policy on Iran, we also acknowledge more explicitly that we have another group of friends, and allies in the Middle East and that is the people of Iran. And that is their resistance to the regime in Iran which is represented by the organizations that come together for this weekend. Inside Iran, there are changes occurring. And the fact is the economy is still terrible. One thing that has not changed is that the Supreme Leader and the IRGC are still in ultimate control.
But when the Supreme Leader decides who runs for president, and approves Rouhani before he could run, you have to ask how independent he will be.
And yet now as you may have seen if you’ve been following recent days and weeks in Iran, Rouhani has actually begun to say some independent things and the Supreme Leader recently warned Rouhani and said that he should keep in mind that he could be sent into exile the way previous leaders presumably, thinking of Bani Sadr, were.
So I take this to be a sign of instability in Iran and the other part of it, is, of course, the more open expression of support for the resistance including for the MEK, specifically around the unprecedented public discussion in the last year or so of the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran. Most of whom were MEK members in 1988. It’s a remarkable bold thing to be talking about publicly. Obviously, it requires using the South African example: a Truth Commission.
Don’t expect it from this government but the very fact that people are demanding it now says that there is the kind of unrest that can lead to the ultimate answer to this problem, which is the end of the regime in Iran.