NCRI-US Staff writer, February 5, 2021
Full transcript of Ambassador Lincoln Bloomfield’s remarks at NCRI-US briefing to discus the implications of Iran diplomat’s terrorism conviction, February 4, 2021
I am honored to be joined by these distinguished panelists. Greetings to all who are watching in the United States, fellow Americans of Iranian heritage and/or not, to the journalists who are watching, to those in Europe, and to the Iranian people who may be tuning in.
I won’t repeat what we’ve heard. I think this is a seminal event. What we have seen is that the law enforcement and criminal justice authorities in several European countries have had to deal with Iranian terrorist activity from Albania to Austria to Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, possibly other countries. That is a lot of activity, and it’s recent activity. As Bob Joseph just said, the booming threats in both France and Albania were done before President Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA. We were in full compliance. The agreement was in full effect, and yet they were still planning and conducting terror activities. So, that pattern has been well established.
I second everything we’ve heard from our distinguished fellow panelists. The other aspect is the deception involved. What did Foreign Minister Zarif say? What is he still saying? Oh, this was a false flag operation. It couldn’t possibly have been the Tehran regime. Of course, that’s been proven to be false, but this is what he said. He said the MEK was going to blow up its own people and its own supporters around the world.
By the way, that sounds familiar because in June of 2019, when Japan’s Foreign Minister Abe showed enough respect to go to Tehran and meet with the Supreme Leader, hoping to defuse tensions. A Japanese tanker in Abu Dhabi was bombed by the Revolutionary Guards, and what did Zarif say? “Oh, it’s got to be a false flag operation. I mean what kind of regime would possibly do such a thing?” Indeed.
Now, having done these acts of terror, by the end of 2019, he had the audacity to show up at the G7 meeting in Biarritz, expecting to have a private meeting with the President of the United States, after all that we now know he was involved in. And now, if you read Foreign Affairs Journal or Distinguished Journal of Foreign Affairs, he’s lecturing America on the need to abide by international law.
So, let’s take account of this. Iran has been engaged in an unending pattern of terrorism, as your panelists have said, for 35 straight years. Not once has their umber one status been challenged by any other state in the world. At some point, United States has to realize that it has tried very hard to make gesture after gesture to Iran. We have a foreign service that wants to go back into Iran and establish a Persian culture and the full embassy diplomatic relations after the hostage crisis. We have nonproliferation experts who want to deal with the nuclear threat. These are understandable impulses, and I respect those, but let’s look back.
In the 1980s, we gave them arms for hostages. What good did it do us?
In the 1990s, the State Department put the MEK and the NCRI on the terrorism list to try to send a gesture to the new President Khatami, not realizing that terror at home and the nuclear program were proceeding behind the scenes. The FBI was never even consulted on putting the NCRI and the MEK on the terrorism list, so it was not about terrorism.
In the 2000s, the US military deposed unfriendly regimes to Tehran in both Baghdad and in Kabul, and we tried to negotiate in good faith on the newly discovered secret nuclear weapons program, by the way, revealed by the NCRI. Iran deceived us, and they bragged about Rouhani, saying that he deceived us and bought more time, which led to some strong UN sanctions at the end of that decade.
In the past decade, the 2010s, what did we do? We sat for two years with the Iranians, with the rest of our European [allies] with Russia, the P5+1, to try to come in good faith to some terms on these issues. The Iranians compelled us to throw in the end of the arms embargo and to end the UN restriction, the prohibition on ballistic missile development which the previous administration did, the Obama administration. They wanted cash. They wanted all of their frozen funds with interest. All of these things were given to them.
What did we see after the JCPOA? We saw an increase in repression at home and terror abroad. The conclusion is inescapable. That for 41 years, this regime has always acted in bad faith. They’re still attacking us through proxies around the world. They’re undermining UN mediation efforts in Yemen and Syria. They’re funding terror against Israel. And now, once again, they’re aiming the nuclear gun at the rest of the world, saying, “Drop everything. We’re—the breakout time is closing fast.” They are trying to sort of hold us hostage, to forget about everything we’ve been talking about today.
So, what can the US do? I have three suggestions. Number one, we can, and we should launch a comprehensive counterintelligence investigation in the United States aimed at Iranian agents of influence. If you were following the news in January, an academic Iranian exile was arrested in Boston. He’s published op-eds in the New York Times, but for 14 years he’s been on the payroll of the Iran regime, undeclared. Do you really think he’s the only one in the United States? We need to do that, and I’ve been calling for that for years.NCRI-US Briefing: Policy Veterans Urge a Firm Policy following Iran Diplomat’s Terrorism Conviction
Secondly, an initiative that has no relation to the nuclear talks, so the US, Europe, Canada, and others should be able to join together to conduct a comprehensive human rights investigation of major crimes tied to leading regime figures. The 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners; we now have evidence, we have proof, we have witnesses, all of this is now available, and the UN is starting to take note. We should press for justice on this. The Argentina bombings in the 1990s, a long time ago, but the investigator in Argentina, Alberto Nisman, was murdered in 2015, the night before he was going to reveal his findings. Does anyone think Iran had nothing to do with that? We should pursue it. Even the bombings of the US embassy and the embassy annex and the US Marine barracks in the early 1980s, where I was the country director for Lebanon in the Pentagon, were done by an individual who is now still a high-ranking official of the Iran regime. So, the guilty are still there. The witnesses and evidence are available. Does anyone think that the Iran regime has less blood on its hands than the leaders of the former Yugoslavia who sit in jail at the Hague, convicted by the International Court of Justice? We’ve got to start working now collectively with other like-minded nations, starting in Europe, to prepare those dossiers. This has no connection to nuclear talks.
And third, we need, as my fellow panelists have said, a comprehensive strategy to end 41 years of terrorism. We need to think out of the box. We need new tools and new strategies. You know, we haven’t talked to the Europeans, the Gulf states, Israel, about their experiences, their concerns. I think this is the time for a multi-national conversation. We’re now hearing that the Biden administration will step up efforts to mediate an end to the Yemen conflict. How about a higher-level effort to support the good efforts of my friend Jim Jeffrey, though it’s not backed very much in Washington, to try to implement Resolution 2254. This is a resolution that was unanimously passed by the UN Security Council after the JCPOA was agreed in 2025, mandating a credible, inclusive governance, a transition to a new constitutional government in Syria.
The clerics of Iran have told each other, and we know this, that if Assad regime were no longer there, the Tehran regime would be severely weakened. Let’s have a new strategy, let’s have some new tools, let’s root out the information operations in our midst. Let’s bring the guilty to justice for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Let’s start to look at what keeps this terror regime thriving in the Middle East and around the world. And let’s remember that what they did and what they almost did, and I was in the hall as well, is no difference than what ISIS is doing in Europe—exploding massive bombs, mass casualty events. Look at the policy on ISIS and ask yourself, “What can we do with Iran?” And this, again, has nothing to do with the JCPOA.
So, I commend these ideas and others to my fellow panelists and to those who are listening. Thank you.