Embassy Row: Newt, the Professor
The Washington Times
September 11, 2012
Addressing Iranian dissidents this week, Newt Gingrich, the fiery former House speaker who led a conservative revolt in Congress a generation ago, assumed the role of thoughtful professor — a historian of measured words — even as he accused the State Department of appeasement.
In a lecture on “morality and reality” in foreign affairs, he talked of Britain’s prewar prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, who was blamed for trying to placate Adolf Hitler, and of Winston Churchill, then a backbencher who warned of the dangers of the rise of the Nazis.
“Those who saw had no power, and those who had power would not see,” Mr. Gingrich said.
He held up Ronald Reagan as an example of morality in foreign affairs, especially for his 1987 speech in which he called on Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. Mr. Gingrich noted that State Department bureaucrats tried several times to delete the reference to the Wall from the speech.
He took his audience on a tour of British literature as he noted the morality of author C.S. Forester and the exploits of his fictional character Horatio Hornblower during the Napoleonic wars.
Mr. Gingrich even added a reference to Thomas Jefferson.
He presented the historic figures and their struggles with morality and reality to underscore the potential of the Iranian exiles in his audience at the luncheon Monday at the National Press Club.
“Thomas Jefferson would have been against the Iranian dictatorship,” Mr. Gingrich said.
The Iranians — some naturalized Americans, some the children of dissidents, others political refugees — were all supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran and its formerly armed wing, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MeK).
Former President Bill Clinton put the Iranian resistance on the U.S. terror list in 1997 in an attempt to open talks with the Iranian regime. Iran’s theocratic rulers demanded that the resistance be labeled as terrorists as a precondition for any negotiations.
Former President George W. Bush refused to remove the dissidents from the list, but a federal court has ordered the Obama administration to review their status. The dissidents have gained wide bipartisan support in Congress and from former high-level U.S. officials, including a former attorney general and a former secretary of homeland security.
American troops disarmed the MeK during the invasion of Iran in 2003. The dissidents have been living in exile in Iraq since the 1980s but face a threat from an Iraqi government developing ties with Iran and using the U.S. terror designation as an excuse to harass the dissidents.
Mr. Gingrich criticized the State Department for failing to remove them from the terror list. “An American that understood the dangers of the Iranian dictatorship [would support] the MeK,” he said.
“We have isolated our most important ally,” he added, referring to the dissidents and their potential to undermine the Iranian regime.
Mr. Gingrich noted that Iran’s theocracy has been “at war” with the U.S. since 1979, when Iranian revolutionaries occupied the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held American diplomats captive for 444 days.
“We keep trying to be nice to them, while they keep finding new ways to make war on us,” he said.
The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee denounced Chinese aggression in disputes with other nations over Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea.
“The U.S. must take decisive action to ensure that aggression is not rewarded, or we and the world will soon face even greater threats from an emboldened Beijing,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lethinen.
The Florida Republican plans to hold a committee hearing on the disputes at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building.