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General George Casey: MEK Must Be Protected

General George Casey  –Convention for Democracy in Iran, Villepinte, Paris, France 

Convention for Democracy in Iran, Paris, June 22, 2013 - Well, good afternoon everyone.  It is a pleasure to be back here with you for the second year in a row. 

And I've been asked to speak about my personal experiences in Iraq with both the MEK and with the Iranian regime.  But first, congratulations, Madame Rajavi, and to all of you for succeeding in the removal of the MEK from the U.S. terrorist list. 

It's a tribute to the perseverance and the persistence of this organization, but candidly, based on my experience it should have been done a long time ago.  I was in Iraq in 2004 when the MEK were granted protected status.  I closely monitored their activities for the almost three years that I was in Iraq.  I received weekly reports from my generals, my generals who are familiar to some of you:  Generals Miller, Brandenburg, and Gardner. 

I can tell you that the MEK never posed a problem for the multinational force and that Camp Ashraf was always uneventful.  Therefore I watched with grave concern the events of 2009, 2011, and the recent mortar attacks. 

And it's clear to me that our work with the MEK is long from finished.  The men and women at Camp Liberty are still at risk.  The United Nations, the U.S. government and the Iraqi government have all agreed that the MEK must be protected.  They must see that this is done.  More must be done and more must be done quickly, particularly by the Maliki government in Iraq.  They have to improve protection at Camp Liberty. 

Now while I fully believe that processing by the United Nations is still the best opportunity for the safe removal of the MEK from Iraqi soil, we must ensure protection for the entire time that they are there.  The MEK has continuously lived up to their end of the bargain.  We owe them their security and we owe them their future. 

Now let me just take these last few minutes here to talk about the role that the Iranian regime played in destabilizing Iraq.  And while it was six years ago, I believe it is a harbinger of things to come for the region. 

I've seen firsthand the brutality and the destructive nature of Iran's role inside Iraq.  And as I thought about this, four things from my time there about the Iranian regime are crystal clear to me. 

First of all, the regime actively used terror to accomplish its political objectives.  Secondly, the training and equiping of Iraqi militias was a major factor in sustaining the sectarian violence that wrecked Iraq in 2006 and 2009.  Third, this regime is directly responsible for the killing of hundreds of coalition forces and thousands of Iraqis.  And lastly, because of those things, they richly deserve their designation as a state sponsor of terror. 

Now going into Iraq, we believe that Iran's goals were to see a friendly regime seated in Iraq.  And they also wanted the U.S. government to fail in our efforts to build a stable democracy in Iraq.  It took us some time, but we saw that they utilize a three-pronged approach to accomplish this.  They gain political influence by financially supporting Iraqi political parties and Iraqi political leaders.  They gain pubic support by providing economic assistance to Iraqis primarily in the southern part of the country.  And they fostered instability in Iraq through the training and equiping of terrorist organizations. 

We saw from the beginning that there was a close connection between the Quds force and the Shi'a militia's.  But we didn't really begin to see the full impact of Iran's influence until after the bombing of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra in February of 2006. 

As our intelligence got better, as we conducted more raids on Iranian backed militias, we discovered a particular type of improvised explosive device that was handmade in Iran.  We discovered the latest rocket propelled grenades.  And mortars and rockets that had writing on them in Farsi and had the dates which they were made, so it was clear that they had come recently from Iran.  By mid-2006, there was no doubt that Iran was providing weapons and equipment to terrorist organizations inside Iraq. 

I took this information with the U.S. ambassador to the new Prime Minister, Prime Minister Maliki.  We told him about the weapons and equipment, we told him about the training camps in Iran, and we told him about the Quds force presence. 

At the end of the briefing, he looked at me and said, "They are conducting terrorism in my country."  I said, "Yes, Prime Minister, they are."  And they probably still are today. 

We saw another troubling trend in late 2006.  It appeared to us that Iraqi militias backed by Iran were pushing Iraqis out of their neighborhoods in Baghdad to increase their control of the city.  We confirmed this in December of 2006 when we captured six Quds force operators in an operation cell in Baghdad.  In this cell there was a command center and on that wall was a map and on the map were color-coded sections of Baghdad and it was color-coded by ethnic groups.  On the map also were arrows showing the potential movement of these populations. 

It was immediately crystal clear to us that Iran was purposely and directly fomenting sectarian violence to destabilize Iraq. 

So what should you take from all this?  History … is important as a guide for the future.  I can tell you that this regime will not stop in its support of terror and they will continue to use terror to accomplish their political objectives and to spread instability across the Middle East.  When you combine this with their continued pursuit of nuclear weapons, I believe that this regime presents an unacceptable threat both to the region and to the international community. 

And I can think of no other case when democratic opposition to an existing regime is more warranted.  So I applaud you for your efforts and I wish you every success.  Thank you very much.

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