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Gingrich Warns of War With Iran

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2006 11:40 am    Post subject: Gingrich Warns of War With Iran Reply with quote

Gingrich Warns of War With Iran

National Security & Defense.Exclusive Interview
Feb , 2006


Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R.-Ga.), a prospective 2008 presidential candidate, argues that the United States may need to preemptively invade Iran within the next three years to thwart that country’s development of a nuclear weapon if efforts to inspire a democratic revolution there do not succeed.

In an interview with the editors of Human Events, Gingrich likened the way the Bush Administration is handling Iran today to the way British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin handled Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

The conversation with Gingrich was the first in a series of interviews the editors of Human Events will be conducting with a number of potential candidates for the ’08 GOP nomination and with a broad spectrum of conservative thinkers about U.S. policy toward Iran.

What do you think President Bush’s priorities ought to be in his last three years in office?

First of all, they have to recognize what a lost opportunity 2005 was, and I look forward very much to see how they reset the administration in a sense. I hope that they will focus first of all on telling the American people the truth about how dangerous the world has become, and that if we don’t have a very serious systematic program to replace the government of Iran, we’re going to live in an unbelievably dangerous world. This is 1935 and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is as close to Adolf Hitler as we’ve seen. We now know who they are -- the question is who we are. Are we Baldwin or Churchill?

What would Churchill do about Ahmadinejad?

I was just last night re-reading the opening of The Gathering Storm, which is the first volume of his World War II memoir, and he said Roosevelt asked him at one point, “What should they call the war?” And he said we should call it “The Unnecessary War.” He said had we done simple, practical things in 1935, 1936, we would have saved 100 million lives.

But what are the simple, practical things?

The simple, practical things are first of all, we say now we understand thoroughly who the current Iranian dictatorship is. It has been at war with the United States since 1979. Its current leader has said openly and publicly -- this is not some intelligence problem -- openly and publicly we must defeat the Anglo-Saxons and eliminate Israel from the face of the Earth. He has stood in front of a huge poster -- which I would urge you to publish as a two-page poster for people to hang up on their walls -- which has an American glass jar broken on the floor and an Israeli jar falling to the floor. The poster was paid for by the Iranian government. And they’re actively trying to get nuclear weapons.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt in September 1941, when we sank a German submarine while we were technically at peace, did a nation-wide radio address and said, “If you are standing next to a rattle snake, you do not have an obligation to wait until it bites you before you decide it’s dangerous.” I will just say flatly: Our objective should be the systematic replacement of this regime.

We should start with all-out help to the forces of independence in the country. There are trade union groups. There are student groups. We should in every way we can get them resources. We should indicate without any question that we are going to take the steps necessary to replace the regime and we should then act accordingly. We should say to the Europeans that there is no diplomatic solution that is imaginable that is going to solve this problem.

What are the instruments -- short of the use of military force -- we can use to change the regime?

First of all, supporting the right of individual Iranians to be treated well. If you go back and look at what President Reagan did with the Soviet Union in terms of the refusniks, and going after the Gulag Archipelago and shining the light on it, and you talk to people who were in the Gulag at that time, they say, clearly, that their lives may have been saved by the intensity of Western concern.

So use the bully pulpit and the presidency and diplomatic pressure?

And financial support. I would actively right now be funneling money into Iran. I would actively be supporting a Radio Free Iran. I would actively be helping the trade unionists in the oil fields have money for strike funds. And I would be laying out a base to say, if we end up having no choice, we don’t want to make the mistake we made in Iraq. If at some point we have to go in, we want to make sure there is a network of Iranians prepared to run their own country.

On Thursday I asked precisely that question of Scott McClellan at the White House briefing: Is the administration in touch at all with the exile community from Iran? No, they are not, was the answer.

The current behavior of the bureaucracy is perfectly compatible with Stanley Baldwin and totally incompatible with Winston Churchill. My hope is that the President will impose his will. Short of the President’s imposing his will, it is inconceivable that the current system would be prepared to take on the Iranian government.

If we were going to funnel aid to people who wanted to replace the government in Iran, would that have to be covert aid?

It probably works better if it’s covert aid.

Would it need to be approved by Congress as per, say, the aid to the Nicaraguan Contras?

Absolutely.But [Sen. Rick] Santorum [R.-Pa.] has had a bill up there which shamefully had a part taken out by Democrats just before Christmas. He had a bill for getting to a free Iran.And Rick Santorum has done yeoman’s work on this.

I think it is amazing that people keep trying to hide from reality. This is a very dangerous dictatorship which is saying publicly -- there’s no illusion, there’s no hyperbole, they say it publicly: We want to eliminate Israel from the face of the Earth.

This is so dangerous I wake up every morning thinking we could lose two major cities today and have the equivalent of the second Holocaust by nuclear weapon -- this morning. Now, if we are not prepared to act with that, then when, if, it does happen, no one should look around and say let’s create a commission to find out what went wrong. What went wrong was a failure of courage, a failure of clarity and a failure of commitment.

The Soviet Union had nuclear weapons and all the rest of it.The fact is we have far more nuclear weapons than Iran at this point. And even French President Jacques Chirac has said if they use nuclear weapons we’re going to actually destroy them with our nuclear weapons. Now why don’t you think that diplomacy of this kind could actually at least check them? The Soviet Union was in check for all those years. The Chinese so far have been checked because they fear retaliation.This is not a group, yet, that has a Soviet-kind of defensive, or offensive, system.

Both the Soviet Union and the current Chinese government are relatively bureaucratic structures of shared power which have a high premium on not dying. We have hundreds of examples a year that our enemies in the irreconcilable wing of Islam are very prepared to die. Now if you end up with somebody as the head of Iran who thinks that dying would be just terrific as long as it was in the right cause, there is no deterrence.

We believed at one point that the majority of Iranians were pro-American. Do you think that that’s still true?

I think the majority of Iranians today are pro-American.

You think they are pro-American? So do you think they would just go along with this?

I don’t think they’d have any choice. Mao Tse Tung once wrote, “All power comes out the barrel of a rifle.” When you are faced with a regime which is prepared to hang you in public, or to shoot you, or to throw you in jail and torture you -- whether it was Adolf Hitler and the Nazis or whether it was the Communists in the ’80s and ’90s -- systems that have been established that have good secret police networks can be remarkably powerful. Nobody actually thought a majority of Iraqis favored Saddam. Everybody thought it was impossible for the Iraqis by themselves to overthrow him. In fact, at least a quarter million Shia were probably killed in ’91 trying to overthrow him.

So you definitely believe that, even though we so far have not found this group that you’re talking about in Iran that would be willing to overthrow--

We know that the religious dictatorship knocked 1,000 candidates off the ballot. Now that suggests there are at least 1,000 people willing to run for office who were outside the current machine.

But they had a choice between former Iranian President Rafsanjani, who was certainly considered milder than Ahmadinejad, and they chose Ahmadinejad. If the majority of Iranians are really in favor of overthrowing the government and are basically on our side, why wouldn’t they vote for Rafsanjani? If I had a choice between Stalin and Tito, I would take Tito.

Remember the mayor of Tehran [Ahmadinejad] ran on a populist anti-corruption ticket and Rafsanjani is seen as the symbol of corruption. So Rafsanjani represented the people who had been looting the economy and Ahmadinejad represented the populist, hard-right people who were going to purify the economy. And by the way, if you read what he promised, it was pretty good socialism. It was almost like a National-Socialist ticket. He said, I’m going to give you this kind of money. I’m going to give you free electricity. There were a whole lot of things that Ahmadinejad was promising average people.

And there’s a real argument about whether the turnout was 20% or 60%. People I know who are pretty knowledgeable about Iran say that the number of people who did not vote out of disgust because the election was so totally rigged in terms of your choices is actually very substantial.

If this track fails to change the government of Iran and to deter them from building nuclear weapons, do you think the United States would be warranted in using force against Iran?

In my judgment, this goes back to the core question whether or not you believe that a religious fanatic with a nuclear weapon will do what he’s openly saying he will do. I believe this is such a high risk that it is utterly irrational for us not to have a strategy that says in the next two to three years this regime is going to be changed.

Which means we’d have to go in with troops?

We’d have to do whatever it takes to affect in the next two to three years this regime being changed.

If it came to military force, do you think we could do that without actually putting troops into Iran?

I think it would be difficult. But here’s a simple test question which I think every person should ask themselves: If one morning we lose several cities to nuclear weapons and you say to yourself, “What is it I wish I had done the day before?” Wouldn’t it be a lot better to do it?

But it’s whether you think it’s inevitable. You obviously think it’s inevitable that he’s going to do it. But why not -- in the old days we just assassinated people -- we didn’t have to have wars.

Ahmadinejad is the vivid personification of the entire regime. If you look at what, for example, Rafsanjani has said in the past, it’s been exactly what Ahmadinejad said. If you look at what Khatami said on Iranian television -- not what he said in New York -- Khatami in fact said very similar language. If you read Michael Rubin’s piece in the Wall Street Journal last Friday, it’s very clear that all that’s happened now is we’ve suddenly looked up and here’s a guy who made it so vivid that we can’t avoid it.

Let me ask you though about one complication of a U.S. invasion of Iran. If you look at Iraq now militarily, all of our casualties are taking place in the Sunni triangle. They are almost all taking place in the cities along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers north of Baghdad. The Sunnis are against us, the Shiites are for us. But the Shiites who got elected were the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Dawa, both of whom are Islamic fundamentalist parties that took refuge in Iran during Saddam’s regime. And the Ayatollah Sistani, who seems to be the most influential person in Iraq now, is in fact an Iranian who embraces all the same political views as the regime in Iran. Wouldn’t we run a risk of losing Iraq if we went into Iran?

Look, I think that winning the long war -- and I agree with Gen. Abizaid that that’s the only way you can think of this, this is a 50- to 70-year campaign if we’re lucky -- is going to be a long, difficult process. But I think there are certain ground rules we have to set very early. One of them has to be: We are not going to accept dictatorships with weapons capable of destroying the United States.

So even at the risk of having the Shiite community in Iraq turn on us, we would have to invade Iran in the next two or three years if we can’t--

First of all, I think our primary interest in Iraq is having the Iraqis govern themselves.

Right, but the two parties that won the election are Shiite fundamentalist parties.

You have to ask yourself the question: Are those two parties prepared -- I mean, the United States could walk out tomorrow morning. We could say, “Fine, you want to try to cope with the Sunnis without us? Good luck. You want to go back to another 800 years of the Sunnis’ running you?”

But if you listen to what the Iranians have been saying all along, they, in fact, have backed the same people in Iraq that we have, the Shiites, and particularly the Shiite parties endorsed by the Ayatollah Sistani.

You’re already making the case about how much trouble we’re in. The question is, who’s going to intimidate who? In 1935 the Imperial Japanese, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini intimidated the democracies. The democracies did not intimidate the dictatorships. From 1947 to 1991, over all, we intimidated the Soviet Union. Despite skirmishes at the periphery, we convinced the Soviet Union that they would cease to exist as a state if they had a major invasion of Europe, that they could not take the U.S. head on, and they were very circumspective as we intimidated them. What you’re describing is, I think, exactly the mindset of this city and the mindset of Europe, which is even before they get a nuclear weapon the Iranians can intimidate us.

During the 1980s, when you were in the House of Representatives and President Reagan built the strategy that actually won the Cold War, we had a massive military build-up. We had a much bigger military establishment than we have now. Right now we have about 155,000 troops in Iraq. We’re taking casualties at a relatively low rate, compared to other protractic conflicts the United States has been in. Do you think this country is prepared to make the sort of military commitment we would need to make, and accept the sort of military casualties we’d have to accept, to follow out a strategy that ends up with U.S. troops on the ground moving into Iran?

I think if the President explains clearly to the country the implications of an Iranian nuclear capability, the implications in the Persian Gulf, the implications for dominating the world’s oil supply, the implications for eventually having a missile that can reach Germany as well as Tel Aviv, and the President says to the country, given what this guy has said, and given what Rafsanjani has said, and given what Khatami has said, and you go down the list, do you think that we should wait to see if they’re sincere and mean it? Or do you think we should take whatever steps are necessary to stop them from getting these weapons? My guess is the country will only break around 60-20 or 60-30 in favor of doing something.

This goes back to Churchill. Stanley Baldwin was terrifically popular while he simply failed to re-arm Britain. Churchill was so unpopular that by 1937 there were only three other people voting with Churchill out of 635.

So if you’re asking me, should we make sure that we only do things that people understand? Then the answer is: Right after the first city is lost politicians will suddenly find enormous energy and drive. This was Clinton in the ’90s with bin Laden: Oh, he happened to bomb two U.S. embassies? Well, let’s not overreact. Oh, we happen to have the Iranians bomb Khobar Towers? Well, let’s not overreact. Oh, we happen to have the U.S.S. Cole bombed? Well, let’s not overreact. It’s kind of interesting to ask if Gore and Clinton had been in charge in 9/11? What would their reaction have been? Would it have been: The FBI will sure get them?

It’s a core question of how you define reality. I believe a North Korea with nuclear weapons is a nightmare because they’re going to sell the weapons. I believe that an Iran with nuclear weapons is a nightmare because they’re either going to use the weapons or they’re going to blackmail people with the weapons. But, again, the Iranians have been pro-actively at war with us since 1979.

Western democracies--Great Britain, the United States--tend not to react on the scale necessary to defend themselves until after they’ve been attacked. We have September 11, people want to join the military, they want to see resources put into the military, they want a tough government. You have Pearl Harbor, it’s the same thing. You have the Germans going into Poland, Britain finally responds. Do you see this country making the sort of investment in money and manpower needed to carry out the strategy you’re talking about short of there being an attack?

Wasn’t Reagan’s whole career a repudiation of that thesis? Isn’t it a fact that Ronald Regan, calmly and steadily from 1947 on, told the truth about Communism. In October of 1964, he told the country things on behalf of a candidate who only carried five, six states. He came back, won the governorship of California, saying things people thought you weren’t allowed to say. He survived for 8 years saying things you weren’t allowed to say. He ran and lost in ’76 saying things you weren’t allowed to say. And ran and won in 1980 saying things you weren’t allowed to say. The entire national establishment was staggered that Reagan thought you could win the Cold War and to this day refuses to concede that the reason the Soviet Union disappeared was a clear, deliberate strategy by Reagan.

In your view, this going to come to a head in the next 2 or 3 years?

Not necessarily. If I’m wrong, it will turn out that Ahmadinejad was just a bad week with a bad speech and we’ll all end up being happy friends and we’ll never have to do this. But if I’m right, sooner or later, the strategy I’m outlining will become inevitable.

And if this President doesn’t deal with it, Republicans running for president in 2008 better warn the country that we need to get on a war-footing program?

I think you’re already seeing with people like Senator [Hillary] Clinton [D.-N.Y.] that even in the Democratic Party there are a fair number of people who have figured out that the current Iranian government is bad news and very dangerous. I don’t think there are going to be very many appeasement candidates by 2008.

You’ve mentioned these various groups within Iran, but what is your knowledge of them?

That is the best first step. To the degree we could replace the regime peacefully, I’m for it. To the degree we can’t replace the regime peacefully, I’m for replacing the regime. But we have seen large riots. We have seen, as I said, a thousand candidates who were rejected. So, the first thing I’d do is call the thousand people who were knocked off the list.


Quietly. We do know that there’s a trade union movement actively talking with non-Iranian trade union leaders. One of the first things that brought down Mossadeq in ’53 is that there were strikes in the oilfield. We do know that there are trade leaders who are saying, “Boy, if we had a strike fund, if our families were going to be fed, we’d sure be interested in fighting.” Remember, this is a country that’s only 51% Persian. Iran is a very complex, multi-ethnic society.
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