Joseph Lieberman, US-Senator (D-Connecticut)

Posted in NATO , United States | 04-Feb-06 | Source: Munich Conference on Security Policy

Joseph I. Lieberman, US-Senator, during his speech.
Speech at the 42nd Munich Conference on Security Policy

Distinguished Panelists and Conference Participants,

NATO was founded to protect the shared values and security interests of its member nations. For half a century, this great transatlantic alliance successfully and effectively confronted expansionist Soviet communism. After the Berlin Wall fell, skeptics said NATO would fall with it because our common enemy was gone. They were wrong. There were new threats to face, and NATO faced them in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, and in training security forces for Iraq.

Today, we confront two significant new challenges outside of the U.S.-European theatre that nonetheless threaten our shared security interests and values - the development of nuclear weapons by Iran and the genocide in Darfur. Today, I want to suggest that NATO should be activated to respond to these two challenges.

Why NATO? Because it is the premier transatlantic organization for political, economic, and military coordination and action - and I stress action. It has the military assets and international credibility to put power to work in service of our diplomacy. NATO provides a structure and process to implement policy and to deploy force in a coordinated and unified way. That is why NATO exists. As Article 2 of the North Atlantic Treaty states, "The Parties will contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded, and by promoting conditions of stability and well being."

Let me begin with Iran. And I will do so briefly because I agree with everything John McCain said a short while ago on this urgent subject. I may sound like a cheerleader for John - but we all know that my friend needs no cheerleader. However, discussion of the danger posed by a nuclear Iran merits repeated emphasis and must concern us all. The stability and well-being of both the EU and the U.S. are threatened by Iran's program to develop nuclear weapons. For two years, the "EU3" - in coordination with the U.S. - have engaged in a vigorous and conscientious engagement with Iran. These efforts merit our profound gratitude, because when the EU and U.S. work together, our prospects for success are all the better. Unfortunately, the Government of Iran has responded by reneging on multiple treaty obligations and other pledges, and continuing to push forward with their nuclear program.

Iran's President Ahmadinejad recently asked an audience to realize a "world without the America" and recommended "wiping Israel off the map." He is only the most recent and extreme example of the small, fanatical, corrupt leadership in Iran who have made similar hateful, violent statements about other religions, countries, and cultures. History teaches us this crucial lesson: that sometimes people advocating hate and violence do exactly what they say they are going to do. The evidence of this is as varied as the writings of Hitler in the thirties and the polemics of bin Laden in the nineties. So we must take Ahmadinejad's statements literally and seriously. We have seen this chilling pattern of extremist statements, disingenuous negotiations, preparation for aggression, and repudiation of international commitments followed by war before. Let us not deceive ourselves into letting it happen again.
Iran will test us all. If we ignore the threat it poses, or cover it with endless and hopeless negotiations, we will regret it. Given the recent agreement among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council that Iran will be "reported" to that body, I urge our respective governments to pursue vigorous measures under UN auspices to induce Tehran to abandon its aspiration for a nuclear arsenal.
However, should the efforts at the United Nations fail, then we in the transatlantic community must be ready to apply a cohesive regime of sanctions against Iran in an economic coalition of the willing. For instance, the United States and European nations, acting together, could effectively halt foreign direct investment in Iran. "Smart sanctions" that capture the assets of the government and its multi-millionaire rulers will best work with transatlantic coordination.
I suggest that NATO begin to plan now how its military assets might be employed to enforce our shared goal to stop Iran's military nuclear program. For example, NATO can conduct surveillance and interdiction activities that are sufficiently intense and enduring to secure an economic or political blockade and defend against Iran's potential reaction to it. And I also agree with John McCain that both the U.S. and NATO should make clear that military action to destroy or deter Iran's nuclear arsenal is not an option we seek, but it is also not an option that we can eliminate.
Together the U.S. and EU also must engage in more vigorous outreach to the Iranian people, who hear only the official drumbeat of a nuclear program as a source of national pride. We must support more energetic assistance to pro-democracy dissidents inside of Iran, and the dedication of far more resources for broadcast and electronic outreach to the Iranian people, who by all accounts, remain alienated from the fanatical clique that rules them.

In Darfur, if we fail to do more to prevent genocide against millions of vulnerable and isolated people, we are turning our backs on the fundamental humanitarian values of our societies, and forgetting the lessons of our history. Darfur is a place where meaningful NATO assistance can be important, effective, and life saving. First, NATO can do more to equip, train, and supplement the vital, yet beleaguered, African Union (AU) force trying to restore order there. On January 25, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reported that despite substantial international efforts, the situation in Darfur was worsening. The number of displaced persons has reached 2 million, and 3 million people are dependent on international relief for food and other basics. Many parts of Darfur, the Secretary General reported, were too dangerous for relief workers to reach. And instability in Sudan threatens to spill over into neighboring Chad.

NATO can reverse these alarming trends by committing more training, equipment, and logistical support to the 7,000 person AU force. As AU peacekeeping is transitioned into a hopefully larger United Nations force, NATO can manage command and control and logistics and provide necessary resources to sustain this operation. NATO can also enforce a no-fly zone over parts of Darfur to stop aggression from the air by Sudanese forces. In the long term, a political settlement is the only solution. However, without sufficient power to restore order and protect the weak and vulnerable masses there, the Government of Sudan, its militia allies, and rebel groups will feel no compulsion to stop the killing and reach an agreement. On Darfur, NATO can - and must - move now. Doing so is not only a humanitarian gesture; it can have practical value for our security. From Afghanistan to Somalia, we should have learned that broken states become breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism.

NATO action on Iran and Darfur is totally consistent with The Alliance's Strategic Concept of April 1999 that stated that NATO "has committed itself to essential new activities in the interest of a wider stability." So let us act together once again through this grand alliance to protect the security and honor the values of the hundreds of millions of people we serve.

The spoken word is applicable!