Bahai News - Text of Albright's Iran Address
Text of Albright's Iran Address
By The Associated Press
A transcript of Madeleine Albright's address Friday to the American-Iranian
Council, as provided by Federal Document Clearing House:
Today's conference reflects a coming together of a real pantheon of
organizations, not just the American-Iranian Council, but also the Asia
Society, the Middle East Institute and the Georgetown School of Foreign
Service. The wealth of expertise in this room is enormous and it is
testimony to Iran's importance.
As this audience well knows, Iran is one of the world's oldest continuing
civilizations. It has one of the globe's richest and most diverse cultures.
Its territory covers half the coastline of the on one side of the Straits
of Hormuz through which much of the world's petroleum commerce moves. It
borders the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus and Central and South Asia, where a
great deal of the world's illegal narcotics are produced, several major
terrorist groups are based and huge reserves of oil and gas are just
beginning to be tapped. And it is currently chairing the Organization of
the Islamic Conference.
There is no question that Iran's future direction will play a pivotal
role in the economic and security affairs of what much of the world
reasonably considers the center of the world. And so I welcome this
opportunity to come to discuss relations between the United States and
It is appropriate, I hope, to do so in anticipation both of the Iranian
new year and the start of spring. And I want to begin by wishing all
Iranian-Americans a happy new year.
Eid ashu mamubada.
I extend the same wishes to the Iranian people overseas.
Spring is the season of hope and renewal, of planting the seeds for new
crops, and my hope is that both in Iran and the United States we can plant
the seeds now for a new and better relationship in years to come.
And that is precisely the prospect that I would like to discuss with you
today. President Clinton, especially, asked me to come to this group to
have this discussion with you.
It is no secret that for two decades most Americans have viewed Iran
primarily through the prism of the U.S. Embassy takeover in 1979,
accompanied, as it was, by the taking of hostages, hateful rhetoric and
the burning of the U.S. flag. Through the years, this grim view was
reinforced by the Iranian government's repression at home and its support
for terrorism aboard, by its assistance to groups violently opposed to
the Middle East peace process and by its effort to develop a nuclear
America's response has been a policy of isolation and containment. We
took Iranian leaders at their word that they viewed America as an enemy,
and in response we had to treat Iran as a threat.
However, after the election of President Khatami in 1997, we began to adjust
the lens through which we viewed Iran. Although Iran's objectionable external
policies remained fairly constant, the political and social dynamics inside
Iran were quite clearly beginning to change.
In response, President Clinton and I welcomed the new Iranian president's
call for a dialogue between our peoples. We encouraged academic, cultural
and athletic contacts. We updated our advisory to Americans wishing to
travel to Iran. We reiterated our willingness to engage in officially
authorized discussions with Iran regarding each other's principal concerns
and said we would monitor future developments in that country closely,
which is what we have done.
Now we have concluded the time is right to broaden our perspective even
further, because the trends that were becoming evident inside Iran are
plainly gathering steam. The country's young are spearheading a movement
aimed at a more open society and a more flexible approach to the world.
Iran's women have made themselves among the most politically active and
empowered in the region. Budding entrepreneurs are eager to establish
winning connections overseas.
Respected clerics speak increasingly about the compatibility of reverence
and freedom, modernity and Islam.
An increasingly competent press is emerging despite attempts to muscle it.
And Iran has experienced not one, but three, increasingly democratic rounds
of elections in as many years. Not surprisingly, these developments have
been stubbornly opposed in some quarters and the process they have set in
motion is far from complete. Harsh punishments are still meted for various
kinds of dissent. Religious prosecution continues against the Baha'i and
also against some Iranians who have converted to Christianity.
And governments around the world, including our own, have expressed concern
about the need to ensure the process for 13 Iranian Jews who were detained
for more then a year without official charge and are now scheduled for trial
next month. We look to the procedures and the results of this trial as one
of the barometers of U.S.-Iran relations.
Moreover, in the fall of 1998, several prominent writers and publishers
were murdered, apparently, by rogue elements in Iran's security forces.
And just the past weekend a prominent editor and adviser to President
Khatami was gravely wounded in an assassination attempt.
As in any diverse society, there are many currents whirling about in Iran.
Some are driving the country forward, others are holding it back. Despite
the trend toward democracy, control over the military, judiciary, courts
and police remains in unelected hands and the elements of its foreign
policy about which we are most concerned have not improved.
But the momentum in the direction of internal reform, freedom and openness
is growing stronger. More and more Iranians are unafraid to agree with
President's Khatami's assessment of 15 months ago, and I quote, "Freedom
and diversity of thought do not threaten the society's security," he said.
"Rather, limiting freedom does so. Criticizing the government and state
organizations at any level is not detrimental to the system; on the
contrary, it is necessary," unquote.
The democratic winds in Iran are so refreshing, and many of the ideas
espoused by its leaders so encouraging, there is a risk we will assume too
much. In truth, it is too early to know precisely where the democratic
trends will lead.
Certainly, the primary impetus for change is not ideology, but pragmatism.
Iranians want a better life - they want broader social freedom, greater
government accountability and wider prosperity. Despite reviving oil prices,
Iran's economy remains hobbled by inefficiency, corruption and excessive
state control. Due in part to demographic factors, unemployment is higher
and per capita income lower than 20 years ago.
The bottom line is that Iran is evolving on its own terms and will continue
to do so. Iranian democracy, if it blossoms further, is sure to have its own
distinctive features consistent with the country's traditions and culture.
And like any dramatic political and social evolution, it will go forward
at its own speed on a timetable Iranians set for themselves.
©Copyright 2000, The Associated Press
Page last updated/revised 031700
Return to the Bahá'í Association's Main Web Page