By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Oct. 22, 2007 - The regime in Iran actively supports terrorism and is directly involved in efforts to disrupt U.S. and allied efforts to stabilize Iraq, Vice President Richard B. Cheney said during a speech yesterday. The Quds Force, a branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, is trying to establish a terrorist organization within Iraq that's dedicated to destabilizing the Iraqi government, Cheney told members of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy at a gathering in Leesburg, Va.
"Operating largely in the shadows, Iran attempts to hide its hands through the use of militants who target and kill coalition and Iraqi security forces," Cheney said. "Iran's real agenda appears to include promoting violence against the coalition."
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior U.S. military commander in Iraq, believes that Iran-affiliated militants have provided weapons, training and funding that have been employed to kill U.S. troops in Iraq, Cheney said.
Iran has stirred up trouble across the Middle East since Islamic radicals toppled the country's government and seized power in 1979, Cheney said. Today, Iran is "the world's most active state sponsor of terror," the vice president said.
Meanwhile, the Iranian regime wants Iraq "to remain in a state of weakness," Cheney explained, so that Baghdad cannot contest Tehran's influence in the region.
Establishing lasting peace in the turbulent Middle East requires responsible conduct by regional governments, respect for the sovereignty of neighbors and compliance with international agreements, as well as peaceful words and peaceful actions, Cheney said.
However, Iran's actions over the past two decades have proved counterproductive to regional accord and constitute "a growing obstacle to peace in the Middle East," Cheney said.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for the destruction of Israel, Cheney pointed out. Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad's regime employs secret police and rigorous censorship to control Iranian citizens' behavior. The Iranian people "have every right to be free from oppression, from economic deprivation and tyranny in their own country," Cheney said.
In light of Iran's efforts to destabilize the Middle East for its own gain, it is all too dangerous for peaceful nations of the world to allow it to pursue technology that could be used to develop nuclear weapons, Cheney said.
"The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences," Cheney said. "The United States joins other nations in sending a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."
Meanwhile, the Iranian people need to know "that America respects them, cares about their troubles, and stands firmly on the side of liberty, human dignity and individual rights," Cheney said.
The United States and its allies aren't upset at the Iranian people, Cheney stressed. The issue of contention, he explained, involves the actions and ambitions of the current Iranian government.
"Given the nature of Iran's rulers, the declarations of the Iranian president, and the trouble the regime is causing throughout the region -- including direct involvement in the killing of Americans -- our country and the entire international community cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its most aggressive ambitions," Cheney said.