Friday, June 02, 2006

The devils' advocate

Marinka Peschmann, Western Standard: Iran's democrats are furious that former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark is protecting the mullahcracy he helped install
Every passing day brings Iran's totalitarian regime closer to building the bomb. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently announced that Iran "has joined the club of nuclear countries." In February, Britain's Telegraph reported that Tehran's mullahs had issued a fatwa "sanctioning the use of atomic weapons against its enemies," overriding prohibitions under sharia law. Meanwhile, on the streets of Tehran, "America Cannot Do a Damn Thing!" slogans are increasingly popular. Middle East expert and author Amir Taheri has written that it's because "Ahmadinejad believes that the Khomeinist revolution needs 'a second breath.'" A revolution "which can only come if the Islamic Republic takes on the U.S. and defeats it once again."

But while the international community struggles to find a non-military solution to heading off Iran's deadly ambitions, the same U.S. politician who helped the Islamists conquer American interests 27 years ago has begun a high-profile campaign to stop Washington from even considering a military one. Lawyer Ramsey Clark, who has defended some of history's greatest monsters over the last few decades (he's currently handling Saddam Hussein's case) is now standing guard for the dictators of Tehran. The motto of his U.S.-based organization, International Action Center: "Stop the war on Iran before it starts!"

Former president Lyndon Johnson's attorney general has said he is soliciting "generous" donations for IAC to buy ads in "major newspapers across the United States," designed to "oppose the drive towards a new war against the people of Iran." According to the IAC's, since the campaign was launched last February more than 6,000 people have signed the petition, and their supporters have sent more than 200,000 e-mails to U.S. government officials, the UN secretary-general and members of the press. Notable endorsers include British MP George Galloway (who has been accused of profiting from Iraq's corruption of the UN's oil-for-food program), Nobel laureate and playwright Harold Pinter, and U.S. civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart (who is facing 20 years in prison after being convicted of helping her al Qaeda clients plan terrorist attacks). But if Iranians themselves aren't backing Clark's movement, it's because many of them hold him personally responsible for turning their country over to the Islamist fanatics that run it today. READ MORE

"If Mr. Ramsey Clark is really concerned about Iran, and wants to stop war, he will tell his mullah friends to leave Iran," says Manda Zand Ervin, president of the U.S.-based Alliance of Iranian Women. "Clark helped put them into power. He should also tell his mullah friends that no matter how many Iranians they kill or imprison, the Iranian people want freedom, and he should demand that the regime leave peacefully."

In January 1979, when the Soviet Union endorsed the radical Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's plans for a revolution to overthrow U.S.-backed monarch Reza Shah Pahlavi, Clark began attending pro-Khomeini rallies, and held a news conference to announce he'd met the Islamic cleric in Paris. "I have great hope that this revolution will bring social justice to Iranian people," he recalled telling the ayatollah. Clark called on Washington to stay out of the situation and let Iran "determine its own fate." By the end of the month, unrest compelled the shah to flee Iran, allowing Khomeini to seize power and impose Islamist rule.

Months later, when Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took nearly 90 Americans hostage, U.S. president Jimmy Carter sent Clark, along with diplomat William Miller, to Iran to meet with the ayatollah to resolve the crisis. As hostage Bruce Laingen, Washington's chargé d'affaires in Tehran, later recalled: "Here was an opportunity at the highest level to get through to this regime, led by two people who the Iranian revolutionaries regarded, we assumed, and I think rightly so, as friends of the revolution. Ramsey Clark was a clear friend. He had been to Tehran in mid-summer of that year, shortly after I arrived in Tehran, on a visit. He was known as a friend of the revolution."

Still, the mission failed when the ayatollah denied the two men entry into Tehran, refusing to bargain with Carter's administration. Later that year, Clark returned to Tehran--defying a U.S. travel ban--to participate in a conference entitled Crimes of America. The conference was "put on by the regime in Tehran, to publicize and to highlight what they alleged were the kinds of crimes and criminal offences and political wrongs that governments in Washington had committed against Iran," Laingen told a Georgetown University interviewer in 1993. "It struck me as highly inappropriate for someone of that stature to come there to participate in that kind of a conference with that kind of theme."

Twenty-seven years of Islamic rule may have turned the once westernized Iran into a religious police-state and the largest financial supporter of terrorists in the world. But it hasn't changed the mind of the former U.S. attorney general. Clark didn't respond to interview requests for this story, but it's clear that he's still backing the revolutionaries. Not surprising, given that over the last couple of decades as a lawyer, Clark has defended Rwandan and Serbian war criminals, Palestinian terrorists and a Nazi prison guard. Prior to taking the Hussein case, Clark represented Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind Egyptian sheik now serving a life sentence for bombing the World Trade Center in 1993. Clark's IAC was founded in 1992, reportedly with the backing of the quasi-Stalinist World Workers Party, which has historically opposed all U.S. military action, including that in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

U.S. bullying. "Iran has submitted to the most intrusive and humiliating inspections, above and beyond what is required by [the] Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty," reads Clark's petition to stop U.S. action against Tehran. He inaccurately suggests there's no evidence that Iran is pursuing a weapons agenda.

In reality, Iran has repeatedly breached International Atomic Energy Agency restrictions, and when IAEA inspectors visited the Natanz nuclear facility in 2003 (the existence of which Tehran had tried to conceal), they found it buried 26 feet underground, protected by eight-foot-thick walls. Inspectors also discovered evidence of unreported, highly enriched uranium, which the IAEA concluded came from Pakistan, home of black market arms dealer A.Q. Khan, believed to be the source of Iran's illegal nuclear materials. If Clark believes Iran's nuclear ambitions are peaceful, he may be the only one. And while average Iranians may not be anxious for war with the U.S. (though some democrats believe it will hasten the end of the mullahcracy), many are furious that Clark is again aiding the regime he helped bring to power 27 years ago--and potentially stymieing the sort of military threat that might be required to disrupt Ahmadinejad's efforts. "The people of Iran want to be free to establish a democracy, have prosperity, and join the international community," says Zand Ervin. "It is long overdue for regime change in Iran."
A must read.