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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Former CIA station chief urges Biden to block Iran leader from attending UN General Assembly
CHICAGO: Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi should be prevented from attending next month’s UN General Assembly because Tehran is complicit in the attack on novelist Salman Rushdie in New York on Aug. 12, and continues to foment violence and terrorism across the world.
This is the view of Norman Roule, the CIA’s former national intelligence manager for Iran, who said that President Joe Biden and the UN must send a strong message that Tehran’s actions will not be tolerated in an interview with Arab News’ Ray Hanania Show.
Roule said the attack on Rushdie by 24-year-old Hadi Matar, a Lebanese American from Fairview, New Jersey, was a “clear act of terrorism” that reflects a wider campaign of Iranian-sponsored violence that demands a forceful response from the US, its European allies and the UN.
“But I think because of the actions against the United States at this very sensitive time we need to send a message to the Iranian government that this will not be tolerated,” Roule told Arab News.
“It (banning Raisi from the UNGA) would also send a message to other adversaries and rogue states that there is a consequence to actions. And if you undertake these sorts of actions this is how you will have to endure diplomatic isolation. If Raisi comes to the United States (for the UNGA) it sends the reverse message. It sends the message that you can conduct these sorts of actions. You’ll get a statement by the state department spokesman. Maybe a tweet from a US official. Maybe a sanction against an organization that has no financial assets in the United States. But otherwise it is pretty much cost free. I think we really want to avoid that.”
If this had been an act of Al-Qaeda, Roule said, the reaction from the US and other European allies “would be different.” In the past, Roule noted, the US had a “robust program” to punish any action by Al-Qaeda for its terrorism, especially in the US.
If Biden does not ban Raisi from entering the US to attend the UNGA meeting in mid-September, then the next option would be to boycott Raisi’s speech, argued Roule, who is a non-resident fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
“It is a campaign of violence throughout the world by Iran. There have been actions in Argentina recently. There have been missiles fired, Iranian missiles fired from Yemen against the international population of Saudi Arabia. One other aspect that could happen is that when President Raisi speaks, representatives from those countries who are partners and allies could walk out of the room. That has been done also in the past,” said Roule who served in his post at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from 2008 until 2017.
“We cannot allow them to get away with this cost-free or it encourages further violence.”
Roule argued that past administrations have taken very decisive actions in response to terrorism including when former President Ronald Reagan launched an attack against Libya’s strongman Muammar Gaddafi after American personnel were targeted in Germany.
“We have had a series of Iranian actions almost always involving other nationals beyond Iranian officials because it allows Iran to conduct actions that are attributable to Iran so it gets its message (across) but in a sense it is deniable,” Roule said.
“What the United States and also Europe have done is I think a dangerous strategy. They are following a dangerous strategy. In essence we pursue the local actor under law enforcement aspects and then we make public statements ascribing the action to Iran and threatening privately or publicly severe consequences if someone succeeds. In most cases, Iran’s actions fail.
“But in essence we are sending a message that they are swinging the bat at killing Americans and we have had a number of attempts by Iran this year that have been frustrated per press reports. But we don’t punish them for the effort, which in essence encourages them to continue to try these actions. But also to put out propaganda on Twitter, (and on) the Supreme Leader’s account and other places, which encourage people to undertake actions that in essence satisfy Iran’s political goal.”
Roule said that Iran clearly is not only behind the attack on Rushdie, but also attempted to harm others including former UN Ambassador and US National Security Adviser John Bolton, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and leaders in other countries including Adel Al-Jubeir, the former Saudi foreign minister, who is currently the minister of state for foreign affairs and the Kingdom’s new climate envoy.
“Certainly Iran is responsible for creating a worldwide atmosphere, propagating an atmosphere that encouraged this action. Iran not only put out a fatwa which has been reaffirmed, not recently but not often but it has been reaffirmed. But Iran has actually increased the money in the pot it would pay for the violence against Salman Rushdie,” Roule said, noting that the passage of 33 years does not undermine the original death fatwa which was issued in 1989 but has never been revoked by Iran’s leaders.
“Iran is responsible for creating this sense that this (Rushdie attack) is a necessary action. I think we have got something that is identical to what Al-Qaeda did with its worldwide propaganda campaign instigating other acts of violence. So maybe Al-Qaeda didn’t undertake the specific act but actions were undertaken because people were informed on social media by a specific line of propaganda.”
Roule noted that Biden has threatened to pursue other actions to stop Iran’s terrorism but “hasn’t provided a lot of details” on this policy.
“It even underscores that when Iran makes a threat, that threat may eventually be achieved over time. There is a lesson there that the United States and the international community should have dealt with this fatwa differently, should not have tolerated the fact that the fatwa remained (intact), should not have tolerated the fact that Iran did not withdraw this. But we did, hoping that it sort of would drift into obscurity whereas there are plenty of people who follow the propaganda that Iran puts in social media and this individual acted accordingly,” Roule said.
Failure to respond to Iran over the Rushdie attack, and the other attacks, sends a “dangerous message,” Roule argued.
“In essence what we got is a situation in which we punish people we capture under law enforcement. We tell Iran privately and publicly we will respond to a successful attack,” Roule said.
“But failed attacks seem to provoke no response from not only the United States but also friends and our European partners. And I think this encourages individuals in Iran to think that there is no penalty for their efforts to conduct terrorism in the United States and elsewhere.”
The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington D.C. including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.
You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.
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