State Department Removes Iranian MEK from Terror List

by Patrick Brennan

The State Department has decided to remove Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK, from its list of terrorist organizations; from the Times:

Rarely in the annals of lobbying in the capital has so obscure a cause attracted so stellar a group of supporters: former directors of the C.I.A. and the F.B.I., retired generals and famous politicians of both parties.

The Iranian opposition group that attracted that A-list of Washington backers, many of them generously compensated for speeches, learned Friday that it had achieved its goal: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has decided to remove the group, the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People’s Mujahedeen, from the State Department’s list of designated terrorist organizations.

The decision removes a shadow from the Mujahedeen Khalq, known as the M.E.K., which lost a brutal power struggle with supporters of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the first years after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and then relocated to Iraq. Scorned by many Iranians as a cult and for its long alliance with Saddam Hussein, the group nonetheless has been promoted by some conservative American politicians as offering a democratic alternative for Iran’s future. While the decision is likely to anger Iran, experts said that United States-Iran relations are already at such a low point that it is unlikely to make them much worse.

The decision by Mrs. Clinton was based in part on the recent cooperation of the group, in completing a move of more than 3,000 of its members from its longtime location in Iraq, Camp Ashraf, said two officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in advance of an official announcement. A final convoy of 680 people from Ashraf arrived at the former site of Camp Liberty, near the Baghdad airport, on Sunday. . . .

Presumably it did not hurt the group’s case that among the dozens of prominent American supporters were R. James Woolsey and Porter J. Goss, former C.I.A. directors; Louis J. Freeh, the former F.B.I. director; President George W. Bush’s homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge, and attorney general, Michael B. Mukasey; and President Obama’s first national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones.

There are two obviously stark conclusions to be drawn here: Such a decision by the Obama administration, a tacit approval of a Marxist Islamist group, finally proves Newt Gingrich’s assessment that the president favors a vision that’s “atheist” yet “potentially dominated by radical Islamists.” Secondly, of course, never has his lack of sympathy and support for the U.S. military and intelligence communities been more clear than in his eagerness to deprive them of highly lucrative retirement opportunities.

But in all seriousness it is a strange move — some have argued that delisting MEK (though it doesn’t quite imply endorsement) is a useful way for the U.S. to support regime change in Iran, but MEK is, today as it was in 1979, a thoroughly unacceptable partner for the U.S. Support for such a group seems especially unnecessary in a nation where secular and democratic forces, if not so visible to the West, do exist. We don’t lack for basically acceptable Persian partners.

The good reason for this, then, would be that the Obama administration is already providing all the covert support it can to the useful Iranian opposition, and this is only an ancillary attempt to open another front for the ayatollahs — one hopes that is the case but might worry it is not. The disappointing reason would be that they have watered down the impartiality of the U.S.’s terror list to placate the group’s influential friends and give the appearance of doing something to confront Iran.

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