2 August 2002
Senior U.S. Official Spells Out Dual-Track U.S. Policy Toward Iran
Confronting Iran's destructive behavior while supporting freedom, democracyThe Bush administration pursues a dual-track policy of opposing Iran's destructive and unacceptable behavior while laying out a positive vision of partnership and support for the Iranian people who are pressing for greater freedom and democracy, Zalmay Khalilzad said in Washington August 2.
"It's a dual track policy based on moral clarity: tell the world specifically what is destructive and unacceptable about Iran's behavior: sponsorship of terror, pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and repression of the clearly expressed desires of the Iranian people for freedom and democracy, while laying out a positive vision of partnership and support for the Iranian people," Khalilzad said in a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Khalilzad is the special U.S. presidential envoy to Afghanistan, special assistant to the president and senior director for Southwest Asia, Near East and North Africa on the National Security Council in the White House.
Following up on President Bush's July 12 speech in which he said the United States supports the aspirations of the Iranian people for greater freedom, Khalilzad said, "U.S. policy is not to impose change on Iran but to support the Iranian people in their quest to decide their own destiny. Our policy is not about Khatami or Khameni, reform or hardline; it is about supporting those who want freedom, human rights, democracy, and economic and educational opportunity for themselves and their fellow countrymen and women."
"The United States wants to see a democratic and prosperous Iran, integrated into the global economy," Khalilzad said.
Khalilzad said Iranian voters have voted for economic and political reform and against hardline rule in two presidential elections and nearly a dozen parliamentary and local elections, but the unelected hardliners have consistently been able to thwart reformists and maintain hardline rule.
Khalilzad said the Iranian regime continues to support terrorism and pursue the development of weapons of mass destruction. "These unelected few have also stood in the way of an authoritative dialogue with the United States," Khalilzad said.
Khalilzad said Iran has played both positive and negative roles in Afghanistan.
"Notwithstanding our criticisms of Iranian policy, the U.S. remains open to continuing discussions in the U.N.-sponsored talks on Afghanistan. Future discussions could include other issues such as Iraq. We seek an Iraq which is unified, stable, representative, protective of the rights of minorities, and no longer a threat to its neighbors. This should be in Iran's interests as well," Khalilzad said.
Following is the transcript of Khalilzad's speech August 2:
Speech Delivered by Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad
Special Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan,
Special Assistant to the President and
Senior Director for Southwest Asia,
Near East and North Africa to the
August 2, 2002
Thank you Patrick. Ladies and gentlemen. This is an audience fence that I know follows Iran closely.
Therefore, I will go directly to the point of interest: President Bush's policy towards Iran.
On January 29, the President in his State of the Union address laid the foundation for the policy we are pursuing today for Iran. It's a dual track policy based on moral clarity: tell the world specifically what is destructive and unacceptable about Iran's behavior: sponsorship of terror, pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and repression of the clearly expressed desires of the Iranian people for freedom and democracy while laying out a positive vision of partnership and support for the Iranian people.
This dual track approach reflects two fundamental principles and beliefs of the President more broadly: first, that September 11 taught us that we need to deal with threats before they manifest, and, second, that there is an essential truth that must be emphasized: When given the choice, people will choose freedom. Freedom, democracy, human rights and economic and educational opportunity are universal aspirations. They transcend differences of culture and religion. These fundamental human values are not inherent in some peoples and not others; they are as fundamental to Iranians, Muslims, as will as to Westerners.
Americans sympathize with the clearly expressed desire of the Iranian people to live in a society that is free, open, and prosperous; one in which their government adheres to the rule of law, respects human rights and plays a constructive role in the world.
On July 12, President Bush followed through with his support for the Iranian people by endorsing — again with specificity and moral clarity — their clearly and repeated expressed desires for freedom and democracy. He did so at a time when students were commemorating the regime's violent repression of their demonstrations for change and when Nowruz — Iran's now banned key reformist newspaper — published an open letter of resignation from a senior cleric, Ayatollah Taheri, condemning the regime for its "deception, unemployment, inflation, diabolical gap between rich and poor, bribery, cheating, growing drug consumption, incompetence and failure of political structure."
We will continue to speak out in support of the Iranian people. It is not only the right thing to do; but also the right time. The Iranian people — teachers, students, journalists, intellectuals and even members of parliament — are now pushing for a more open, free, prosperous, independent Iran, which is accountable to its people.
U.S. policy is not to impose change on Iran but to support the Iranian people in their quest to decide their own destiny. Our policy is not about Khatami or Khameni, reform or hardline; it is about supporting those who want freedom, human rights, democracy, and economic and educational opportunity for themselves and their fellow countrymen and women.
In two presidential elections and nearly a dozen parliamentary and local elections, the vast majority of the Iranian people have voted overwhelmingly in favor of the most progressive platform for economic and political reform on the ballot, and against hard-line rule. Yet, President Khatami has been ineffective in challenging the regime and therefore made only marginal gains. The unelected hardliners have consistently been able to checkmate reformists and maintain hard-line rule.
Nearly 65% of Iran's population is under 25. This group has been the driving force for change. But the voices and protests of Iran's young people have been repressed — at times violently. Young student leaders, like Ali Afshari, Akbar Mohammadi, Manouchehr Mohammad, and Ahmad Batebi have been arrested. Young Iranians of the Bahai faith are banned from attending government schools; two weeks ago the Revolutionary Guard also disrupted Bahai attempts to qualify students from their own, separate schools.
Iranian writers have tried to establish a more independent and pro-reform media, only to be shut down — like Nowruz last week — but the hardline judiciary. Journalists like Akbar Ganji and Emadedine Baghi have been arrested. Nowruz editor and parliamentarian Mirdamadi was also sentence last week. Seventy-three year old Iranian journalist Siamak Pourzand was paraded before TV last week to "confess" to his crimes after having spent more than two months incommunicado in Iranian jail.
Iranian intellectuals and parliamentarians have tried to speak out on issues of concern to them. But many have been arrested, and some have been killed, perhaps in complicity with the un-elected elements of the Iranian regime. The former designated successor to the Ayatollah Khomeini, Ayatollah Montazaeri, remains under house arrest, primarily for his questioning of the institution of velayat-a faqih (rule of the supreme jurist).
Iranian women, another important force for change, are making significant contributions to Iran's economy and development. Last year, at least nine Iranian women registered to run for President in Iran but not one of them was allowed to do so. The courts and criminal codes continue to prohibit women from exercising the rights of full citizenship, including not to be married off at the age of 13.
Iranian professionals and laborers have also worked and studied hard for a more prosperous, better life but their economy has been plagued by mismanagement, corruption, and a diversion of resources to support international terrorist groups and pursue weapons of mass destruction. Observers in Iran estimate that nearly 30% of Iranians are unemployed today, and inflation is near 30%. Even though Iran is one of the world's largest oil producing countries, it spends hundreds of millions of dollars to import refined oil products. Per capita GDP has been stagnant for years — in fact, average Iranians probably take home 30% less today than they would have 25 years ago. Today, on the economy, the only sector where Iran leads is in the amount of "brain drain". One out of every four Iranians with a college degree works outside the country.
I want to emphasize this point: the United States wants to see a democratic and prosperous Iran, integrated into the global economy.
However, the policies of the current Iranian regime — both at home and abroad — are responsible for the poor state of the country's economy and hostile relations with the United States. This Administration looks forward to the day when Iranian policies change, when Iran fully rejoins the community of nations. And, we look forward to the day when the United States will be able to support Iran's entry into the World Trade Organization.
I want to spend a few minutes on Iranian foreign policy.
After September 11, the American people received many expressions of support from the Iranian people. Our nation was moved by the candlelight vigil held in Tehran in the wake of the attacks. We had hoped that after the September 11 attacks, the Iranian regime would end its support for terrorists. Initially, we heard some encouraging words from parts of the Iranian government. President Khatami and many parliamentarians condemned al-Qaida's terrorist acts.
But the Iranian government did not stop its support for terror. Hard-line, unaccountable elements in Iran facilitated the movement of al-Qaida terrorists — escaping from Afghanistan — perhaps without the knowledge of elected members of government. For months, the government did not arrest and extradite al-Qaida members crossing the Afghan border into Iran. At first, it denied that any al-Qaida members were even crossing from Afghanistan to Iran or that many were transiting Iran to other countries. Only after repeated criticism by the President and other U.S. officials did the government begin to admit that al-Qaida members were in custody in Iran. It finally extradited some to the countries of their citizenship and to the Afghan Interim Authority. This was a welcome step. However, it is not sufficient. The Iranian government should follow up with its own people and the international community on how many al-Qaida members are in Iran and who and how many have transited out of Iran.
The Iranian regime also supports Hezbollah — a terrorist group with global reach — and other terrorist groups dedicated to violently opposing any peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Its support includes hiding those who have conducted terrorist attacks; training, funding and equipping these groups, and glorifying their killings of civilians. And, there are still unresolved issues relating to the 1996 bombing of our barracks in al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia. The Iranian regime's support for terrorist activities — which have killed at least hundreds of innocent civilians, including Americans — is inconsistent with the desire of the Iranian people for Iran to fully join the community of nations.
On Israel, while support for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians is understandable, we ask Iranians to ask of themselves, are your interests served by an implacable opposition to the very existence of Israel? In the 21st century, should Iran be the only one aside from Saddam Hussein's regime and Palestinian terrorists to demand the destruction of another people? Support for the Saudi initiative for a two state solution remains solid throughout the region — even through the continuing surges of violence — and, Iran should join with this basic consensus for a two state solution.
The Iranian government is also aggressively pursuing weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including nuclear weapons, and the missiles to deliver them. Although Iran is a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the government is developing the capability to produce chemical weapons; for example, it has manufactured and stockpiled blister, blood and choking agents and grown its pesticide production capability. Iran's Minister of Defense has repeatedly spoken of his determination to increase the range of Iran's ballistic missiles. Such statements, made against the backdrop of sustained cooperation with Russian, North Korean and Chinese entities, clearly show that Iran intends to develop longer-range ballistic missile capabilities in the near future.
The Iranian regime's continuing support for terrorists heightens our concern about Iran's weapons programs. It is a particularly dangerous prospect for a regime — not accountable to the Iranian people and supporting terrorists — to acquire nuclear weapons. Issues of proliferation aside, this is a threatening mix.
In Iran, critical decisions on national security issues are made by an un-elected few who have used terrorism as an instrument of policy — against other countries and against Iran's own citizens. These un-elected few make the critical national security decisions without the authorization of Iran's elected government and often without their knowledge. There is no accountability. Their impunity applies not just to "national security," but senior un-elected officials and their family members go unquestioned for their accumulation of millions of dollars, earned only by their connections.
These un-elected few have also stood in the way of an authoritative dialogue with the United States. Iran's record on Afghanistan is mixed. It opposed the Taliban and played a positive role in the discussions in Bonn which led to the establishment of the Afghan Interim Authority and the Loya Jirgah, which led to the current Afghan Transitional Administration. It supports President Karzai's government. But the regime has sent some Quds forces associated with its revolutionary guards to parts of Afghanistan. Iranian officials have provided support to regional parties without the knowledge and consent of the Afghan Interim Authority. Why are they doing this? Elements in Iran feel threatened by the emergence of a moderate and western-oriented Afghanistan.
Iran has a long border and a long history with Afghanistan. We respect Iran's historic cultural links to Afghanistan. We recognize the burden Iran shouldered in hosting over 2 million Afghan refugees over the years and its efforts to help rid Afghanistan of the Taliban. There are many reasons why Iran should have an interest in a stable Afghanistan. A stable Afghanistan should be a shared U.S.-Iranian interest. Stopping drug trafficking is another one of our common interests.
Notwithstanding our criticisms of Iranian policy, the U.S. remains open to continuing discussions in the U.N.-sponsored talks on Afghanistan. Future discussions could include other issues such as Iraq. We seek an Iraq which is unified, stable, representative, protective of the rights of minorities, and no longer a threat to its neighbors. This should be in Iran's interests as well.
However, at this point our common interests are clouded by Iran's failure — so far, to make the fundamental strategic decision — to make combating terrorism a priority. Terrorist networks of global reach have created a fundamental fault line in international relations. The vast majority of the world now sees itself standing on the same side of a great divide. It is time for Iran to give up terror as instrument of policy.
Iran is an ancient land, home to a proud culture with a rich heritage of learning and progress. We understand that the Iranian people are struggling with difficult questions about how to build a modern 21st century society that is at once Muslim, prosperous, and free. We believe that the Iranian people have the ability to make great contributions in this new era, and that the future of Iran will be decided by the people of Iran.
And "as the Iranian people move towards a future defined by greater freedom, greater tolerance," as President Bush said on July 12, "they will have no greater friend than the United States of America."