Belgian Court Terrorism Ruling, a Watershed Moment for Iran Policy

NCRI-US Staff writer, February 5, 2021

Full transcript of Ambassador Marc Ginsberg’s remarks at the NCRI-US briefing to discus the implications of Iran diplomat’s terrorism conviction, February 4, 2021

This decision by the Belgian court should be a watershed moment here in the United States, particularly at this time. And my respect and admiration for those who helped bring the prosecution, and of course those, including (Farzeen) who participated in ensuring this verdict. But since I’m the last, I do not want to take too much time because I know there’s some questions.

I particularly wanted to focus on Senator Torricelli’s important recommendations because this is where we are, and I want to speak as honestly as I can with respect to my friends in the Biden administration. The JCPOA under the Obama administration was viewed by both sides as almost a get out of jail card for the Iranian regime. Money flowed, there was hopes and expectations of engagement. Mr. Zarif became sort of a celebrity here in the United States. And we saw what that resulted in.

For all of the great expectations and hopes of the Obama administration involving secret negotiations, hopes that the regime would moderate as we entered this JCPOA, well, the facts basically are very clear. The JCPOA provided more time to the Iranian regime to be able to find ways to violate sanctions, to gain more currency—I’m talking about hard currency and diplomatic currency—to engage in more terrorism, to increase its ability to harm our allies abroad, to plot more terrorist attacks in the United States, as well as to in effect begin and continue to plan its own Iran nuclear weapons program under the very eyes of inspectors. So, for all of the hype of the JCPOA by all of the people who’ve rejoined the Biden administration, from Secretary Kerry to Wendy Sherman and to others, and from the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign, which maybe have been as noble an enterprise as it possibly could have been but actually did not succeed because Iran has once again proven that it is not going to be in any way, shape or form undermined in its mission to promote and export terrorism and to continue its nuclear weapons program.

So, here’s some words of advice basically taken from the president and his advisor’s own words. Just a few days ago, the president appointed Robert Malley to be his senior point man on Iran. Now, Mr. Malley was involved in helping to shepherd what essentially was the efforts to engage this Iranian regime under the Obama administration. The Secretary of State Tony Blinken, a close friend of mine, has made it very clear that he does not want whatever may represent a new strategy to Iran to be another choir of appeased audiences that wish to basically somehow create an Iron Curtain between a reentry into a JCPOA and all of the terrorist activities and malign activities that Iran engaged in.

I recall that when Mr. Kerry and his team were forced to confront the arguments made by the Israelis and others, “How could you enter into this agreement given Iran’s adverse and maligned behavior elsewhere?” And his response was, “We’ll get to that. We’ll get to their ballistic missile program. We’ll get to their terrorism. This is an important first step to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear program.” Well, that strategy and that reasoning can no longer apply. I’m not sure that I understand what we have to gain by entering into a new nuclear agreement that isn’t substantially changed from a prior agreement with respect to sunset provisions, with respect to the ballistic missile programs, with respect to its acts of terrorism, with respect to not permitting it to gain more financial support as a result of reentry. The real problem in the last negotiation is that Iran set the terms of our willingness to negotiate with it. That can no longer be the Biden administration strategy.

And so, I do recommend that all of these proposals that have been tabled here need to be sent front and center, and hold Mr. Malley and Secretary of State Blinken to their own word that this administration wants to hear from those who are not necessarily prepared to agree to this approach, that he wants to hear from all voices. So, we have a responsibility to take all of these recommendations and most importantly to ensure that Congress, as well as our allies, as well as those within the Biden administration that are very skeptical about reentry to a JCPOA on our prior terms, need to have all the ammunition and all the evidence they need to ensure that this does not happen again. Thank you very much. I’m glad to be with everybody.

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