PARIS — Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean told Breitbart News that “Iran is the farthest thing from an Islamic Republic” and that Iran is not “a Muslim country.”
Instead, Dean said, Iran is “a republic that’s been hijacked by thugs and murderers.” He explained that he does not know Muslims whom he respects and who behave the way the regime does.
Dean was speaking exclusively to Breitbart News from Paris last month during a conference hosted by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). The PMOI (also referred to as MEK) is an opposition movement that played an active role in overthrowing Iran’s last Shah while President Jimmy Carter was in power, and which was de-listed as a terrorist organization under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
During the interview, Dean also pointed out his belief that the term “radical Islamic terrorism” is a manufactured phrase “for political, domestic consumption in America.”
The transcript of the interview follows (emphasis added):
Breitbart News: You don’t think [the Iran deal] was a good deal?
Howard Dean: Look, I respect the president and I certainly didn’t oppose the deal but I don’t think it was “a good deal.” That is, I think we did give away a lot more than we needed to. And I think the Iranians are the largest sponsor of state terrorism in the world. And they are making lives very difficult for a lot of our allies. So I didn’t oppose the deal. I think it had its pluses and minuses, and I think we’re not going to know, for a few years, whether the deal makes any sense or not. And interestingly, I think the president’s reputation — as a good or not-so-good president — will depend on what happens with that deal.
Breitbart News: So — Saudi Arabia. Do you really think they are our allies, if I may ask… ?
Howard Dean: Yeah, I do think we are allies. I have my problems with [the] Saudis. One of the reasons I got involved with the resistance here is because I feel very strongly about human rights and the Saudis don’t respect human rights. So I’ve never personally thought that the alliance with Saudi Arabia was anything more than an alliance of convenience. But they are a key partner and they’re certainly not our enemy. So I don’t feel as strongly as some of the panel did.
Breitbart News: One more question regarding rhetoric on an international scale, do you find issue with the fact that our commander-in-chief and people within the administration (like Josh Earnest, and so forth) don’t actually use the term “radical Islamic terrorism'”?
Howard Dean: Well, That is actually something that I agree with … I think that most Muslims are not terrorists. In fact, I teach a foreign policy course at Yale. I had three Muslims sit in from other countries. And they pointed out to the class that their families were at greater risk from Daesh [ISIS] than ours because they live with them every day, around the corner.
So I think it’s important for us not to crank up a religious war. That, of course, falls into the hands of Daesh. So I think to call it Islamic terrorism is really just more for political, domestic consumption in America rather than something that you’d want to do in the world. I think these people are thugs, and they’re murderers. I don’t give them a cause. I don’t believe — I think they’re crazy, I think they’re lunatics, pathetic lunatics.
Breitbart News: There’s definitely a psychological aspect to it.
Howard Dean: Yes. I think they are deeply, psychologically disturbed, including the people who send them out there. So I wouldn’t want to give them any legitimacy by saying they have something to do with an organized religion. There is no organized religion which is a legitimate religion which condones this kind of behavior.
Breitbart News: I understand exactly where you’re coming from. But on the reverse side of that, you have the Islamic Republic of Iran which does use religion as a means to execute its citizens.
Howard Dean: I agree. And that’s exactly why I don’t want to do it. I think Iran is the farthest thing from an Islamic Republic, with some of the highest rates of execution in the world, torturing political prisoners, one of the worst human rights records in the world, a destructive force in the world. There’s nothing good about the Islamic Republic of Iran. And it’s not an Islamic republic; it’s a republic that’s been hijacked by thugs and murderers. And I think the legitimacy and the real government of Iran would be a secular government, which treated women equally with men.
Breitbart News: And just a follow up on that, do you think there is a nation that is governed by Islamic principles, or that considers itself to be majority Muslim, and that is truly an embodiment of what a Muslim nation should be like?
Howard Dean:I think Indonesia is close. There are terrorists in Indonesia but they’re not being embraced or being played footsie with by the government. I think there are other countries: Tunisia is one; Morocco has a better human rights record than most; it’s not a complete democracy. But there are nations where the people are overwhelmingly Muslims that don’t behave the way Iran does. I don’t consider Iran to be a Muslim country, because I don’t know Muslims who behave like that who I respect. And I think the vast majority of the billion Muslims in the world have no desire to live in Iran whatsoever because of the way their regime behaves.
Breitbart News: Or Saudi Arabia.
Howard Dean: Or Saudi Arabia. Although, I would say that Iran is far worse than Saudi Arabia … Although Saudi Arabia — I’m deeply disturbed by the financing of authoritarianism by the Saudis in countries where we didn’t have a problem, when now we do, in a place like Kosovo and the Balkans. So I’m not a big fan of Saudi Arabia. I think that was a marriage of convenience and that the Saudis have to clean up their act. The Saudis are, in part, responsible for terrorism, under the name of Islamic terrorism. And again, I don’t consider that — I think if you’re financing it elsewhere and it comes back into your own home, you bear some responsibility for that.
During the same conference, Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, declared his support for regime change in Iran, which quickly led to a response from the Iranian regime blasting Saudi Arabia for backing terrorism.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz