Good evening to the freedom-loving people of Iran, both here and in Albania. Much has been spoken at this conference about the idea of regime change. What does regime change look like? And how do you know that you will be successful? What must you do to be successful?
Whether or not that change comes three months from now, a year from now, three years from now, those questions will remain the same and they must be addressed.
The key to regime change is the army — the 350,000 Iranian soldiers in the Iranian army. Why are they critical? Because those men, many of them inductees, are closest to the people on the street. They are the fathers and the sons and the brothers and the sisters of the people who are dying in the street, and they are most likely to be able to turn and resist supporting the government if they’re having to kill their own people. We’ve seen it happen that way time and again.
How will it happen? It can happen with a peaceful demonstration that turns into conflict. The more successful the demonstration, the more likely people are to be shot.
Now those countries represented here, to include my own, are also critical to the equation. We cannot do what we did in 2009, which is exhibit a lack of moral courage and indecision and sit on our hands. Good people died in the streets in 2009 and we did nothing. I honestly think they were that close. I honestly think that the [Iranian] army was evaluating, “What should we do?” But the lack of support from other nations in America, in Europe, in the Middle East caused those people to feel very much alone and, in the end, they lost.
That cannot happen if those generals are to not risk their troops, not risk their families, not risk themselves. They have to feel like they can be supported and make a good decision for what is good for a free Iran.
I wish for you that the gods of freedom-loving people everywhere support your efforts. I encourage you. Your objective should be the overthrow of those ayatollahs who have created a dark period in Iranian history.
• Retired Gen. James Conway is a former commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. This excerpt is from his remarks to the July 1 rally in Paris.
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