WASHINGTON, DC – Former Sen. Joseph Lieberman and retired General Charles Wall laid out their visions for the “the way forward” regarding the United States’ policy on Iran during a panel discussion at the National Press Club on Tuesday.
The event was the second in a series of discussions on the matter.
“We find ourselves in a time of great promise and of great peril,” Ivan Sheehan—an associate professor at School of Public and International Affairs, University of Baltimore, Maryland—who moderated the event, told those gathered.
He said “a Persian spring is possible” and noted that, while the formal designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization was “valuable,” there is a need for increased action to cripple the regime so it can no longer engage in its terrorist activities.
Lieberman, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1989 to 2013 and was the Vice Presidential nominee in the 2000 election, said he does not see the Middle East conflict as a Sunni versus Shiite battle as much as a face-off between extreme radical dictatorial terrorists versus modernizers who believe in the rule of law and human rights. “And throughout the Middle East now, we see a response growing to the Iranian support for terrorism … and the subjugation of the new democracy in Iraq by Tehran.”
He noted that this “is part of a clear desire, a plan by the government in Tehran, to attain hegemonic power over the region. To rise again and pose its own extremist version of Islam, its dictatorial governmental form on as many of the nations in the region as possible. … So much of the instability in the region is now being centered on Tehran,” he said, adding that the U.S. State Department has stated over and again that the Islamic Republic of Iran remains the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East and beyond.
Lieberman noted that Iran has committed tens of thousands of troops — both its own militia and Hezbollah — to “the disaster known as Syria.” He said that this is the crux of instability in the country and also in the region.
“The conflict in Yemen is primarily the result of a decision by the government in Tehran to stimulate this conflict,” he said. “And of course, its true in Lebanon where the government of Iran plays a central role.”
However, one of the main obstacles to seeing a free Iran, he said, remains the mainstream media.
“One of the big stories of our time that the mainstream media doesn’t cover is the broad public protests by the people of Iran to the government of Iran and it has two main elements to it,” Lieberman said. “The first part is corruption,” he added, stating that, similarly, the uprising in Tunisia and Egypt were also a cry for freedom and human rights.
The media, he claimed, said these uprisings were “an expression of the anger of the people of Tunisia and Egypt towards the corruption of the governments.” The wealth of these countries was being exploited and stolen by their leaders. He said this is the same situation in Iran today. “It’s very clear that the ayatollahs and the IRGC are dominating the economies and are swallowing up, with a greed that is disgusting, the wealth of this great country, and leaving a lot of gifted people without opportunity. So, naturally, they take to the streets. And honestly, this has got to be one of the most frightening developments for the ayatollahs and the leaders of the IRGC.”
Lieberman said, when looking at the movement on the ground, it is clear to see that “this is the moment” for a free Iran. “Let’s go back to history. Nobody believed that this ragtag group of American colonists could break free of the great power of the time, England. And bring it a little more close to today, who could imagine that the Soviet Union could collapse. It did! So, too, will the Islamic Republic of Iran collapse.”
General Charles F. Wall, a retired four-star general who is an expert in counterterrorism, weapons procurement, and energy policy, noted the flaws in the nuclear Iran deal including the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cannot access military sites where Iran is believed to be cheating.
“We and our allied partners are in this fight against extremism for the rest of our lives frankly. It’s not going to go away as soon as ISIS is defeated,” Wall said. “It’s going to stay with us forever unless we take action as a joint community.”
He noted, “The reality is, there are some bad people out there who want to do bad things to good people.”
Wall also suggested that some of the ways in which Iran’s dominance in the region can be overcome are through the United Staes partnering up with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Jordan and Egypt on a robust theater missile defense capability. He noted Israel’s partnership with Arab nations just last year and said, “it is true that the world is changing rapidly.”
He said if adjusting the JCPOA prompts Iran to return to the negotiating table, then “the United States should push for an improved agreement that includes anytime, anywhere inspections, addresses ballistic missiles, prohibits research and development on advanced centrifuges, and close the underground facilities at Fordow, and eliminates the sunset clause on the agreement.”
Wall said such a scenario would put the Middle East on the path to peace.
Speaking with Breitbart News after the event, Professor Raymond Tanter, who has authored several books on Iran, said, “the designation by Treasury and State is very important. But unless you see the link between these two regimes—Pyongyang and Tehran—you don’t get the point that to pressure one is to pressure the other.”
“My take is that the only way you can put real pressure on the Iranian regime is to have the North Korean regime outed as a proliferation partner with Iran,” Tanter said. “They share nuclear weapons tests, ballistic missile tests, one is strong on Uranium enrichment, the other is strong on Plutonium. They are linked together.”
Asked if he sees the Iranian regime unraveling in the near future, he said this scenario could take place if three conditions are in place. “First, the opposition has to be stronger than it is now. Secondly, the opposition has to be taken seriously by the western countries. Thirdly, the western countries have to provide support for the opposition—not in terms of military equipment but in terms of legitimacy.”
Tanter suggested the three ways in which the opposition could be taken seriously is “to invite Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council for Iranian Resistance to Washington.” Rajavi and the NCRI—which includes the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI)—are an exiled group whose leadership resides in France and Albania.
He added that “they must invite all her members that want to come here. And the third condition is for the press to follow what the Iranian opposition is doing. Right now the mainstream press doesn’t, but it’s because of great institutions like Breitbart News and Newsmax with Christopher Ruddy that the press can come on board. And then, the mainstream press will come on. CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABC, voila!” Tanter closed by saying, “Who leads the way? Breitbart leads the way. Steve Bannon leads the way.”