Louis Freeh, former Director of the FBI, addressed a panel discussion on the subject of “Protests in Iran and the Role of the Opposition” in a Paris suburb on June 29, 2018. The event was jointly organized by FEMO and APA. His remarks follow:
It’s a pleasure to be here with you, and thank you for your commitment and particularly I think all the members of the panel want to thank the young men and women in Iran who are once again coming to the battlefronts of liberty and leading the cause that’s been supported so well here by the MEK. But I agree with Mitch that this is really a historic moment. I think there are a set of circumstances existing now that have never existed before and it presents a very unique opportunity to break through the resistance to change and to democracy. And the MEK has been the catalyst for this.
Monday past, this week, as you probably know was the 22nd anniversary of the Khobar Tower bombings. Nineteen Americans and dozens of Saudis were murdered by that attack, which was an IRGC attack which funded the Hezbollah in the eastern province to launch that attack against the United States, which ironically was enforcing the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. So what has changed and what has not changed? The regime and the IRGC continues to export terrorism, whether it’s in Syria or Yemen or Iraq or the Gaza. That has not changed. All of the pressure that’s being put on the regime both internally and externally by the resumption of the U.S. sanctions has not changed or deterred the primary goal of exporting terrorism. However, the command and control of the regime has begun to deteriorate very seriously. It’s not just the students and academics who are upset, and expatriates. As the attorney general said, the anger and the activity and the courage being shown in the bazaar in Tehran, the capital city, is absolutely amazing. These are the shopkeepers, the backbone and the spine of the Iranian economy. And they are angry. Why are they angry? Well, it costs 64,000 (rials) now to catch a dollar transaction. That’s deteriorated from 40% just over the last few months, and continues to get worse. The resumption of sanctions is a key change and a key catalyst.
We’re finding out more and more about the deficiency and really the impropriety of the agreement that was struck by the last administration with respect to Iran. We found out just this week in the Washington Post that there was a secret arrangement where the Secretary of the Treasury got (Ofac) to grant a license, and tried to coerce two American banks into doing dollar transactions with the regime. Very wisely, the two banks refused. And of course the administration lied to the Congress about whether there was a side deal with respect to that. So the sanctions are back and the impact is immediate. Not only won’t Nike give cleats to the national team, but Total has pulled out of the South Pars project, despite what their government would like them to do. Daimler, Siemens, all the other companies will not take the risk of violating the secondary sanctions. In Total’s case, Total is a great test case. Total is a huge multinational French company, but 90% of its transactions are financed by U.S. banks, and 30% of its shareholders are Americans. So that board, despite what the Paris government would encourage them to do, is not going to violate those sanctions.
I think the combination of all these things at the same time is a very, very unique opportunity, and like any struggle, but particularly a struggle where people’s lives have been lost and are at risk, it’s really the time to push forward with confidence with persistence, and with a vision.
So that’s my elevator speech. We’re going to talk about that this weekend. But it’s an exciting time. It’s a dangerous time, as the attorney general said, but the people who are here this weekend have not shown any fear of danger or any reluctance to act. And I think now is the time to act and act boldly.