Former attorney general makes case for Iran regime change

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Click photo to download. Caption: America Israel Friendship League (AIFL) Chairman Kenneth Bialkin (left) welcomed former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey to a May 14 New York reunion for members of AIFL judicial missions to Israel. Credit: Maxine Dovere.

NEW YORK—Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said the “ideal solution” to the Iranian nuclear threat is “regime change in Iran, [which] can certainly be a U.S. policy.”

“Israel is not equipped to do anything about it,” Mukasey said in an interview with JointMedia News Service. “The United States is. Regime change is the ultimately desirable outcome.”

Mukasey stressed the need to “assure that the particular problem with Iran is solved in a way that doesn’t result in its getting a nuclear weapon, [which] would enhance the prestige and stability of the current regime and increase its influence in that part of the world.”

High above New York’s Times Square on May 14, Mukasey headlined a unique group of American jurists—including federal, state and municipal judges, practicing attorneys, partners in prestigious law firms, and Harvard law students—who gathered to exchange recollections of their participation in America Israel Friendship League (AIFL)-sponsored missions to Israel. The reunion brought together a multi-generational group of alums of several AIFL judicial delegations, as the Americans shared ideas with their Israeli peers.

Through its programs, AIFL introduces both Jewish and non-Jewish American professionals, policy makers, leaders and future leaders in their fields to their Israeli cohorts, in order to foster a better mutual understanding and build lasting relationships. AIFL board member and chairman of its delegation committee, former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams, noted that the organization strives “to make friends for Israel and encourage understanding and appreciation of Israel in the American public.”  

Mukasey, an active member of the New York Jewish community who served for 18 years as a judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, was only the second Jew to hold the office of U.S. Attorney General, President George W. Bush called him “clear-eyed about the threat our nation faces” and one who “knows what it takes to fight this war effectively, in a manner consistent with our laws and our Constitution.” Mukasey is currently a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, a prominent international law firm.

Dr. Alex Grobman, AIFL’s executive director, called Mukasey’s presentation at the event a “sobering and profound discussion” and an indication of how “one of the leading judicial minds in America thinks about problems facing the country and threatening our security.” 

In his years as a judge in the Southern District of New York, Mukasey presided over the criminal prosecution of Omar Abdel Rahman, “the blind sheikh,” sentencing him in 1996 to life in prison for plotting to blow up New York City landmarks. The judge stated that Rahman was trying to “spread death in a scale unseen in this country since the Civil War.”

JointMedia News Service asked Mukasey if he believed change could be fostered from within Iranian society, and what actions could promote such a transformation. 

“The United States can put itself on the side of those in Iran working to that end,” Mukasey responded. “We can make it clear in our relationships with other countries that they cannot support the Iranian regime and that the United States will stand with them.”

“Even to have the U.S. president speak out will be valuable,” Mukasey added. “When events like 2009 [Iranin Green Movement] happen and the only thing that greets [anti-regime activists] is nothing—deafening silence—it’s a disaster. Anytime a foreign movement is greeted with silence, it’s got a problem.”

Mukasey noted that he has spoken out in behalf of having the MeK (Mujahedin-e Khalq), an Iranian opposition group now listed as a terrorist organization by United States State Department, “de-listed.” MeK, a Muslim group, originated prior to the 1979 Iranian revolution as a challenger to the Shah, and is a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). 

The group had been allied with Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Mukasey described MeK as standing for a “democratic and secular, non-nuclear Iran with equal rights for women.” The group has “provided intelligence information about nuclear activity to the State Department,” he said.

Although the European Union has already removed MeK from its terrorist listing, any U.S. action will take a minimum of several months, State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland has said. Mukasey is not alone in his support of the MeK de-listing. James Jones, President Obama’s former national security chief, and James Woolsey, former CIA Director, are also on board with that effort. Additionally, an active advertising campaign has been promoting a change in the MeK’s designation, suggesting it is a democratic alternative to the current regime.

The Jerusalem Post reported that MeK supplied intelligence claims that Iran “is accelerating its nuclear weapons program.” Emanuele Ottolenghi, a Brussels-based Iran expert and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has said the new information on MeK could be a “game changer” in Western perceptions of Iran’s nuclear program.

“Until now, intelligence agencies and policymakers surmised that Iran sought civil nuclear energy but kept the option open for nuclear weapons, while pending a decision from its religious leaders,” Ottolenghi said. “These documents support the opposite conclusions—namely that Iran’s program was always military and its civil nuclear component was just a façade. Iran decided long ago to make nuclear weapons—the only question is when.”

Former U.S. Department of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and some 130 members of Congress also mirror Mukasey’s support of the MeK. Congressional supporters include Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mukasey said making communications technology available to revolutionary activists, including cell phones is “essential.” 

“This is all in the interest of the United States—promoting a decent kind of democratic rule,” he said.

Posted on May 20, 2012 and filed under Features, U.S., World.