Friday, October 21, 2005

U.S. Congress meeting vows support for Iran opposition

Iran Focus:

Washington, DC, Oct. 21 – A bipartisan meeting on Capitol Hill heard speeches by several members of the United States Congress calling on the administration of President George W. Bush to back democratic change in Iran by supporting the Iranian opposition and by removing the terror tag on the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MeK) opposition group.

“Iran's ongoing efforts to secure nuclear-weapons capability present a unique and troublesome challenge to the civilised world”, said the group of three Democrats and three Republicans who organised the meeting, titled “Growing Strategic Threat from Iran; Support for Democratic Change”.

They included Republican Reps. John Boozman of Arkansas, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Tom Tancredo of Colorado; and Democratic Reps. William Lacy Clay of Missouri, Bob Filner of California and Ed Towns of New York.

The speakers, who included members of Congress, Iran experts, and women activists, took turns to denounce the radical Islamist rulers of Iran for their violation of human rights and sponsorship of terrorism.

“In Iran today, we have a regime that threatens the United States and threatens the interests of world peace and freedom in a number of ways”, Missouri’s Senator Jim Talent, a prominent Republican, told the meeting.

“It is a regime that supports terror throughout the Middle East and around the world. It is a regime that is actively seeking a nuclear weapon and it is a regime that is oppressing its own people”, Talent said, adding that the United States had an obligation to support the Iranian people as they seek freedom and democracy.

Rep. John Boozman, an Arkansas Republican who sits on the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives, noted that he and 323 of his congressional colleagues had co-sponsored the Iran Freedom and Support Act.

“I am concerned that under the new President, the country’s nuclear program is under the control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps”, Rep. Boozman said.

“Iran has a terrible human rights record. A recent report said their human rights record is even worse than it was before, which is hard to imagine”.

Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi addressed the meeting via a live satellite link-up from her home north of Paris. “Any firm policy against the mullahs’ regime must have three components”, she said. These included referral of Iran’s nuclear program to the Security Council; putting an end to Tehran’s meddling in Iraq; and removing the MeK from the list of terrorist groups.

Rep. William Lacy Clay, who chaired the meeting, said Iran’s sponsorship of Islamist terrorism posed a serious challenge to the international community, particularly as it was targeting Iraq.

“We have reached the point where the fate of Iraq has become inextricably linked with the future of Iran and democracy in that country”, he said.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas agreed, and underlined the need to support the Iranian people in their efforts to achieve democracy, while praising the role of Maryam Rajavi.

“We in the U.S. Congress have widely differing, and sometimes contradictory, views on many things, but we all agree on the need to support the Iranian Resistance”, she said.

Raymond Tanter, a former National Security Council staff member who co-chairs the Washington-based Iran Policy Committee, noted that an IPC study showed that Iran’s government-owned media devoted by far more attention to the MeK than any other opposition group. He said it was necessary to remove the MeK from the list of terrorist groups, if the U.S. wanted to adopt a firm, forward-leaning policy on Iran.

Professor Donna Hughes, a recognised authority on women’s studies, said the Iranian regime’s misogynous policies have spread to other countries in the region. Another academic, Carol Fontaine, praised the role that women play in the opposition movement to Iran’s theocratic regime.

The congressional meeting came at a time when there are growing calls in the United States for a more proactive policy on Iran. Earlier in the week, experts on foreign affairs told a meeting organised by the U.S. Congress Sub-committee on Middle East and Central Asia that time was of the essence if the international community were to prevent the Iranian regime from arming itself with nuclear weapons.

Ilan Berman, vice president for policy at the Washington-based American Foreign Policy Council and the author of “Tehran Rising, Iran’s Challenge to the United States,” told the committee that Iran was spending huge sums of money in Iraq to turn the country into another Islamic Republic under its domination.


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