Thursday, December 14, 2017 – U.S. House of Representatives
Organization of Iranian American Communities – US
Congressman Elliot Engel (D-NY)
Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
Message to OIAC Briefing at the House
December 14, 2017
Engel: I’m happy to be here in Washington, DC with a group of friends from Iran who are very unhappy, as I am, with what’s going on in Iran today. The Iranian government is the major supporter of terrorism around the world. In fact, Iran is, unfortunately, the number one state sponsor of terrorism. And the money they have gotten from the agreements that were signed, gives them even more money, in my opinion, to add to the list of terrorist activities.
The people of Iran deserve better. Moneys in Iran should be spent for the betterment of the Iranian people, not to be given to proxy terrorist groups all around the Middle East, whether its Hezbollah, or Hamas or any of these other groups. The Iranian people will obviously want to know why their government is spending money on so many different things but not on making the life of Iranian people better.
In Syria, Assad is a brutal dictator who has murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people. Several times during the course of the war, the many years of war, it looked as if Assad was beginning to lose the war. That time the Iranian government leashed, let go of Hezbollah go and fight on the side of Assad, basically keeping Assad in power at the expense of the misery of the Syrian people.
So we have no quarrels with the Iranian people. The Iranian people and the American people should be good friends. We have many wonderful Iranian Americans in the United States who care about their two countries. They care about the United States because they are living in the United States but they care about Iran, because they have relatives and friends in Iran. And they see that the people of Iran are really suffering under this regime.
So I’m here to tell everybody that the United States Congress is watching very carefully and closely and we are not going to stop until the Iranian people are absolutely free. The Iranian people deserve a free country, deserve to be able to choose their own leaders and deserve not to be strangled by oppressive dictatorship which only makes their lives worse.
My estimation, the Iranian people today are asking why money isn’t spent in Iran to help create jobs, to help make a lot of people better, to help so many young people who can’t get jobs. Why is money being used to fund terrorist groups in other countries? So I want the Iranian people to know that the American people stand with them and support them in their quest for freedom and justice.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Foreign Affairs Committee Senior Member
Chair of subcommittee on Middle East
ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you so much, thank you. Well thank you, it is always difficult to follow a wonderful speaker like Judge Ted Poe. Like Congressman Poe, I will also be retiring after this term, but we’ve got good dynamic leaders following in our footsteps and even improving in our footsteps. So you will be hearing from one of the bright voices right after me.
But Judge Poe talked about how wonderful it is to once-again have an Iran that is free, that is secular, that is democratic, and that is not involved in nefarious activities across the world. And that is why I have always identified so much with the Iranian-American community, because like you I also lost my native homeland—I was born in Cuba—to these nefarious actors who have done nothing but foment revolution around the world and have been responsible for the killing of freedom loving people throughout the globe. And so your fight for a free and independent Iran is like my fight for a free and independent and democratic Cuba. But I want to thank you so much because you have these events and they remind us of how important this dream is. A dream that will become a reality for Iran and for Cuba as well.
And in this time of year, we all get reflective and we think back about people want to give thanks to, to spread joy and hope. But it’s also a moment of reflection because we are the fortunate ones. I know I’m here as a Cuban-American, you’re here as an Iranian-American, but you have loved ones in your homeland. I have loved ones, I have family in Cuba, and they have they’re in a difficult situation. And as someone who had to flee Communist aggression in my native homeland of Cuba when I was only eight years old, I know that these ideals that you and I talk about all the time, freedom, democracy, the rule of law, separation of powers, all of that, there’s something, they’re values to be cherished. And we as part of the United States of America, we have a moral obligation to defend and promote these values. They can’t just be taken lightly and taken for granted. And that is why we are calling for a free Iran. And that is why we are calling for a free Cuba.
Because what we’ve seen in Iran, since we signed this weak nuclear deal, this dangerous nuclear deal, the situation in Iran has actually gotten worse. When you look at the human rights situation it has deteriorated under the so-called reformer Rouhani. Executions have increased at a staggering rate. Political activists they are rounded up, they are detained. Ethnic and religious minorities are persecuted. They’re arrested, they’re tortured, or worse. And of course Iran continues to spread its malign activities all across the region, disrupting the fragile stability in the Middle East. Iran’s support for terror has increased, and it has spread across the globe.
But we are ever hopeful that the president has signaled that the old policies, as they are called, they are old and they’re outdated and they are out. And he is ready to take Iran head-on. Congress passed a series of sanctions bill, I’m sure that you’ve been looking at it. Last night we passed one. Just this morning, not even half an hour ago, we passed another sanctions legislation. [applause] And it’s thanks to each and every one of you. And the United States has shown time and time again that we are standing firm on the side of the Iranian people and not of the regime, just like this new administration has said we are siding with the people of Cuba, we’re no longer doing the wave with Raul Castro in that baseball game that we saw that sad spectacle.
So let us rejoice in this holiday season that we have a renewed hope for change in Iran. Let us be joyful that perhaps this is when freedom comes to Iran, when democracy comes to Iran, and thanks to your efforts, I know that together we can and we will, we will make that change that we need that we will make progress toward a free Iran, free of ruthless dictators, free of supreme leaders who want to dictate to the people of Iran what they want. We want a real democracy. [Spanish] Gracias. [applause]
Congressman Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA)
Foreign Affairs Committee Senior Member
Chair of subcommittee on Europe
ROHRBACHER: There you go. And we were freedom fighters. And the reason why he’s here and the reason I’m here is we haven’t given up in the struggle for freedom. And if there’s any country in the world where the forces of evil are coming up against positive forces of people around the world who believe in freedom, it’s in Iran. And we are on the side of those people in Iran who would ask for democracy and freedom and we are asking all the world to join them in getting rid of the mullah regime, which is a travesty to any kind of person that believes in individual freedom and in a more peaceful world.
It’s been my honor to work with the various—how about the National Council of Resistance of Iran. And I’ll just say that those people who are struggling to get rid of the mullahs are doing a great service for all of humankind and doing a great service to the people of Iran, because what we have now is a small group of people who are condemning the people of Iran to a destiny they do not deserve. And they’re doing it by brute force. And how we need to make sure that we strike a blow for freedom, strike a blow for peace in the Middle East, is that to make sure we support those people inside Iran and the Iranians who are outside of the country who now have kept up the right and are supporting those people on the inside. We must ally ourselves with each and every one of those groups. And everybody can talk about the imperfections of this group or that group, but I will say the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And we do have some wonderful people, but even if people were flawed, if they were still trying to oppose this evil mullah regime we should be on their side. So what’s—there is no argument against it, so thus that should be American policy, working with the groups that want to oppose the mullah regime in Iran.
And what about the groups inside Iran that are part of this mullah gangster regime? We have to make sure that once we have designated these different units that are at work now. The Revolutionary Guard, now that we’ve got some of them designated as terrorist organizations, they need to be sanctioned and they need to be singled out, and those people involved in those organizations that have been designated as a terrorist organization, they should pay a penalty personally for being involved. The sanctions must go directly to those people involved in these type of acts that are crimes against humanity. So it’s not just crimes against the people of Iran, it’s crimes against humanity.
And so today I’m very happy to join all of you in this recommitment. Here we have a holiday season, it’s Christmas season, and we have to think of those people around the world who are suffering and know that especially in Iran, where how needless that suffering is, how needless the repression is. And so I’m here, thank you all very much. We’re going to make sure that in the years ahead we recognize—because people keep singling Iran as the source of evil and terrorism, what they really mean is the mullah regime in Iran. And we should be supporting the real Iran, which is the Iranian people who they themselves are the oppressed. So with that said, God bless us all. Let us hope that next year will be the year when the mullah regime will collapse of its own evil and disappear. [applause]
Congressman Ted Poe
Foreign Affairs Committee Senior Member
Chair of subcommittee on Terrorism and Trade
JUDGE POE: Thank y’all. Thank y’all for letting me come by and say a few words. I want to thank you first of all for being here in the United States capital. I want to thank you for continuing to be here on numerous occasions at events where it’s important that your presence is shown so that members of Congress, so that our government, and so that other governments understand the importance of this fact: that Iran is under siege, the people of Iran are under siege by their own government, and that you, you folks that are here, are determined to make sure that very soon that the folks, the mullahs, will be held accountable for what they have done and that there will be, there will be a free Iran where the people of Iran will be able to determine their own destiny. And that’s why it is important that you are here, and I want to thank you for being here.
I also want to tell you this, that myself and other members of Congress are in this struggle for freedom of Iran indefinitely, that we are in this together, that we are not going to waver, even though the Iranian government, the IRGC, a terrorist organization, want us to give up. We’re not going to give up. We’re not going to quit in the support of a free and secular Iran. We will not give up even though the mullahs want us to give up, even though the government of Iran continues to murder its own people. Thousands and thousands of people are arrested because they disagree with the government on political matters or religious matters, and they’re off to jail or they’re hung in the public square.
The world is watching what takes place in Iran. And what is taking place is not good, except the spirit of the people of Iran who want to be free and the spirit of you folks from all over the world who want to make sure that your homeland is a free and secular nation and that the mullahs be held accountable for all of the crimes that they have committed, not only in Iran but all over the world. Any time you see something bad going on in the world, somewhere in that situation is the IRGC or the Iranian government tor their terrorist proxies causing that mischief, whether it’s in the Middle East or other places. We are watching. The Mullahs will be held accountable.
But I want to thank you, I want to thank you personally for your spirit that you will not quit, you will not give up, you will not surrender, and we are in this for the long haul. And I want to assure you that we will, together, someday, hopefully very soon, march through the streets of Tehran arm in arm, congratulating Iran on being a free and independent democracy where the people rule rather than the mullahs rule. And that’s just the way it is. Thank you very much. Thank you. [applause]
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX)
Member of Judiciary Committee
JACKSON-LEE: Okay. Well, thank you for allowing me to come and thank you for my brothers and sisters. My words will be brief, but they will be out of respect for Iran and for Iranian-Americans.
In the spirit of this wonderful season of peace, I cannot speak enough about the collective family of Iranian-Americans who have stood in the gap for peace and humility and demanding a change in Iran. And I think if we have anything to unify us around, it is to have us stand shoulder to shoulder on a free Iran and to join the people to demand a free Iran and to demand that all of those who may be subjected to unfair punishment be freed.
And so today, I come for the democratic force that is in this room to stand alongside of those who believe that we cannot tolerate human rights abuses. We cannot discriminate against from Sunnis to Baha’ists and Christians and Jews that we must, in fact, follow leadership that is free.
And so I did not want this day to end. I wanted to have the opportunity to extend the hand of friendship and to continue my journey with you, and we’ve had many journeys, and to continue that journey for a free Iran. And to the Iranian-Americans, I want to give you the solace that you’re not alone. And that I know that the day of freedom will come when no matter what our views are, we may have different views amongst us in this country, but that we will link arms, and those arms will be such a way that we can go back to a free Iran and that we will condemn massacres as I have done and that we will acknowledge the wonderment of the Persian culture as I’ve done, and that I will be able to travel to meet family members—yours—to meet young people clinging for freedom and for their ability to use their intellectual genius and we know that you have such a strong history of brilliance and business, science and medicine. Just this past week, I met doctors from Iran serving in this nation.
So let me finish my remarks in a calm manner as I am speaking today. I thought in this season I wanted to have the tone of peace and to ask you to never give up on this journey and this fight, for no one will ever be punished for fighting, for freedom, democracy, and those who have been oppressed. Thank you for letting me be here and blessings upon you all. [applause]
Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO)
Member of Armed Services Committee
COFFMAN: Such an honor to be here at this great celebration for the Association of Iranian American Communities to celebrate this season and also to celebrate the passage of legislation in the financial services committee to be able to sanction and identify the assets of Iranian leaders who in terms of their corruption have been able to amass wealth outside their country and to identify those assets [applause] and to potentially seize those assets. So bless you on this extraordinary occasion and thank you so much for all you do to help restore freedom and democracy for the Iranian people.
Congressman Tom Garrett
Member of Foreign Affairs Committee
GARRETT: Thank you. Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen’s remarks got me thinking about the 5th District of Virginia, about the Persian people in the nation of Iran, about Cuba. And I thought, you know, the Iranian people, as you all know better than I do, are no strangers to revolution. Neither is the 5th District of Virginia, as the home to the author of the Declaration of Independence and the drafter of the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. But there are two types of revolution. One type of revolution seeks to destroy and oppress and ensure that one particular ideology gains dominance over another. We saw that in Russia in the beginning of the 20th century and we saw that in Tehran in 1979. The other type of revolution seeks to ensure the benefits of prosperity and freedom to all people. We saw that in the United States in 1776, and we will see that in Tehran, hopefully very soon.
Thirty-eight years, going into the 39th year of oppression. Two generations of brilliant young people stymied and a room full of amazing, accomplished professional people, not just here but in Paris where we broke 100,000 on site with millions watching worldwide, and that sort of human capital should never be squandered. The loss of freedom for people such as yourselves is a tragedy not for the Persian people, not for the Iranian people, but for the world. And I won’t tolerate it. To the extent that I have any control as one member of one chamber, one in 435, I’ll not stand silent. Too many Americans don’t understand that the death toll of the regime in Iran, adjusted for population, would mirror that of the death toll of the United States during the entire Second World War. That the number of Iranians imprisoned for things like simply speaking their mind would mirror the population of entire United States states being whisked away in the dark of night.
No longer can we appease those who would stifle basic fundamental human rights. It is time to stand strong. One of the most shameful moments in my adult life as an American not elected to any office at the time was to watch the Green Revolution as the United States stood silently, not even lending moral support as young and old Iranians took to the streets to assert their basic human rights of self-determination. That should never happen again. Under this administration I don’t think that will happen, but I promise it won’t happen with me.
It is time to speak clearly, time to speak succinctly. We do not seek war, we seek basic human rights. We do not have a duty to foist upon others an American government, but we do have a duty as a nation that seeks to be a leader in the world to stand up where people seeking simply to live as they choose with respect to others assert that most fundamental birthright. And so I will say it again, and I will say it to any nation in the world with whom there is business conducted between themselves and the IRGC, the long pole in the tent that holds up this murderous regime, it is time to make a decision. You can do business with the IRGC and undergird the regime. You can fund the bloodshed that literally spreads in the form of the Quds and the IRGC and Hezbollah, from Australia to Argentina, from Lebanon to Germany, and from Tehran to New York city. You can do business, but if you do and I can find out about it, you will not, if I can control it, do business with the United States. It is that simple. It is that hard a commitment that I have that I call on my colleagues to have, that I commend you for having.
This is a basic fundamental question. I tell my children, it’s not who you are that matters, it’s who you aspire to be. The Iranian people have a history of pride and strength and revolution. In 1906, in the 1950s, in 1979, and I say this to the regime today, the next revolution will be one where the people of Iran seek to assert control. And this time the United States will have their backs. I thank you for what you do, I wish you a Merry Christmas, and thank you all. Keep up the fight. [applause]
Hon. Irvin Cotler
Former Member of Parliament, Attorney General, and Minister of Justice in Canada
COTLER: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here because it actually was accidental. I was testifying before the U.S. Helsinki Commission this morning. I’d been invited to be here, but said I couldn’t because of that, but it just turned out that it worked out that I could be here, and in particular, because if there was one single issue that was the most compelling concern for me when I was a member of Parliament was the whole issue of moving towards a free and democratic and human rights protecting Iran.
And I want to say that as we meet, we are addressing really a five-fold Iranian threat. And when I speak of a five-fold Iranian threat, both the negotiation and the outcome of the nuclear agreement tended to both obscure, marginalize, and sanitize the other four threats after the nuclear. These other four threats, which we must always bear in mind, are one, the Iranian terrorist threat, where year after year Iran is identified as a leading global sponsor of international terrorism. The hegemonic threat where increasingly Iran represents a threat to the entire mid-East region. I don’t have to go into the details. You know them better than I do. The incitement threat where Iran is engaged in state-sanctioned incitement to hate a genocide—a standing threat and a standing violation under the genocide convention. But the worst is the massive domestic repression which continues to find more and more expression every day, which includes where Iran executes more people per capita than any other country in the world, where Iran is engaged in wanton and systematic detention and torture, not only of dissidents, but the leaders of all part of civil society in Iran, whether we are speaking of opposition leadership or students or artisan or academics or journalists or trade unionists, or religious or ethnic minority—every single expression of civil society in Khamenei’s Iran, and I use that term to distinguish it from the people and publics of Iran who are understanding threat and repression from the leadership of Iran.
And so I always say that when we meet in Canada and we speak of Iran, we are speaking on behalf of the Iranian people. We seek to show solidarity with the Iranian people and with the struggle for human rights and freedom in Iran.
And I want to close just by making reference in effect that recently we adopted—we have an Iran accountability week. I would suggest it here maybe to take place in the American Congress. Every year, and it’s for two weeks, our Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights sponsors an Iran accountability week. We have witness testimony from former political prisoners, from human rights advocates, from the Iranian leadership and Parliamentarians from different countries and like the whole purpose of it is to say that the struggle for human rights in Iran must be a priority in Canadian foreign policy as a whole as a matter of principle and policy.
And that we must mainstream the question of human rights in Iran throughout our governance and throughout our foreign policy and that the issue in particular of the massacre 1988 of the 30,000 dissidents represents an ongoing culture of impunity, because none of those who engaged in it have been held to account. Worse, they’ve actually been rewarded as Mostafa Pourmohammadi becomes a Minister of Justice in Iran, even though he participated in the 1988 massacre [0:47:19], so we have to combat that ongoing culture of impunity, sanction the major human rights violators and, in fact, there’s a connection between what I did earlier today and this, and that is the global justice for Sergei Magnitsky legislation adopted here in the United States, adopted in October by unanimous vote in the Canadian Parliament, is intended to sanction major human rights violators from whatever country. We’re not sanctioning countries, we’re sanctioning major human rights violators who are engaged in extrajudicial executions, engaged in torture, engaged in massive domestic [0:48:04]—exactly the kinds of things where the leadership in Iran have been engaged in and where the culture of impunity continues.
So I join with you in common cause in the hope that in the pursuit of justice we will combat the injustice and in combating the injustice in Iran, we will be pursuing justice on behalf of not only the Iranian people, but humanity as a whole. Thank you. [applause]
Prof. Raymond Tanter
TANTER: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here today. And what I want to do is to take on some of the things that were stated earlier. One of the things that the speakers mentioned is Judge Poe talked about accountability. I’ve written three articles on this accountability issue recently. And Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen mentioned Albania. I had the privilege, the honor of giving two talks to the Albanians, to the Iranian dissidents in Albania. And the theme of one of my talks was that it’s very important to know who your friends are. It’s easy to be your friend in good times. But in harsh times, it’s very difficult to find a friend. And at that point I had the privilege of learning enough Farsi to say that, I memorized it. [laughs]
So one of the things that Judge Poe mentioned was the word accountability. And I have written about accountability in an article on Newsmax. Who’s going to be accountable? Well, the regime, those responsible, the ayatollahs responsible for helping to slaughter the 30,000 political prisoners have to be brought before the UN HCHR they have to be brought by the—in fact that’s exactly what this book, as you all know, is about.
Now, there was mention of President Rouhani. And I’ve had the privilege of reviewing presidential elections in Iran, and I’ve reviewed those books, all the NCRI U.S. books, for Books a Million, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. And that’s one of the things we found is that the so-called moderate Rouhani is not a moderate after all.
Now, Ros-Lehtinen also mentioned the President’s review, the review. There was a review. There was a review scheduled for mid-December, the 90 day review is certified into law. And in that review is very important to note that the Iranian dissidents should be a part of that review. And in that respect, I wrote another piece in which we talked about the particular resolution that has been voted on, House Resolution 188 condemning the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the 1988 massacre of political prisoners. That article will come out today in The Hill. I’ve just e-mailed the article from here after it had been fact-checked. Now one of the things also that I mentioned in that article was that last Sunday was Human Rights Day, December 10th. And several speakers, at least one, referred to Human Rights Day. What happened on Human Rights Day? Was it a day in which people would be celebrating? Well, it’s very difficult to celebrate Human Rights Day when the Iranian regime, when the Ayatollahs, are suppressing human rights. So it’s very important that we understand that the Ayatollahs are behind the particular events culminating in the human rights record.
I had the privilege of giving a presentation—not a presentation but an interview to Voice of America Persia Service in New York City when President Rouhani was speaking. And I found out that President Rouhani was the one who—I didn’t find out, I emphasized the fact that Rouhani was behind a series of the assassinations. Thank you very much.
TANTER: Congressman Rohrabacher was a speechwriter for President Reagan and I was the National Security Council staff and so I had to clear some of his wording and he had to clear some of my wording, so we had a wonderful opportunity to work together. And one of the things that Rohrabacher mentioned is again, the need for accountability, the need to hold the Ayatollahs responsible for their actions and there’s no question that that’s the case.
I want to refer back to Albania. When I was there, I said I had the privilege of speaking to the 2,500 and I reminded them, and they knew it, that I visited them in Ashraf, in Camp Ashraf. I would’ve visited them in Camp Liberty, but at that time no one could get into Camp Liberty and that’s why the idea of you know who your friends are in harsh times, even though I’m a mere professor, not an activist, [laughs] Mr. [0:38:17] said, “No, you’re really an activist, because the regime says you are.” I was a friend who took the risk of going through 16 checkpoints to see the people in Camp Ashraf.
So what I want to do is to stop right here and ask anyone do they have any comments to make, questions to make. I see distinguished attorney (Allan Gerson) just walked in.
Well, what do I see as the future? First of all, let me remind Attorney (Gerson) that we wrote the book Appeasing the Ayatollahs and Suppressing Democracy and he was the one who came up with that title. What do I see as the future? I see that President Trump will continue to impose sanctions on groups like the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. He will eventually probably move against certain elements of the Muslim brotherhood in, [0:40:14] certain elements, the ones that are in Egypt are in fact terrorist groups. I see his review cracking down on a series of terrorist groups around the world, and in particular, looking at the North Korean-Iran nexus. I consider North Korea and Iran partners in proliferation. The partner Iran excels in uranium enrichment. The partner North Korea excels in plutonium extraction from spent fuel cells, so you can’t put pressure on North Korea unless you break the link with Iran.
So I’ll close with one of my favorite chants that I gave in Albania. In that case I said, “(Ma hame Tehrani hastim. Ma hame Tehrani hastim.)” So thank you very much for having me. [applause] Thank you.