A recent opinion piece by Elizabeth Rubin of the New York Times Magazine about the Iranian democratic opposition, Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK), is a great case study in “yellow Journalism”. Short on facts and credible sources, the piece is filled with cheap and sensationalist shots at the group and its 3400 members in Camp Ashraf, Iraq. It is a shameful attempt at “journalistic assassination” of the group, complementing what Iran rulers and their Iraqi proxies are doing to the MEK members and sympathizers through executions and military raids.
The seed of this article, as she alludes to it in her first paragraph, is planted by the usual suspects of Tehran’s Washington-based anti-MEK lobby. The obvious propose of the piece is to persuade the State Department to ignore the growing calls from US Congress and a bi-partisan array of US national security and policy luminaries to remove the group from the Department’s terrorism list. It attempts to achieve this objective by leveling a barrage of lies and IRGC-manufactured fabrications against the MEK, its leadership, and its members.
Like other hysteric opponents of the MEK de-listing, Rubin opts to ignore volumes of opinions issued by high courts in United Kingdom and the European Union which found the group “not concerned in terrorism” and described its continued blacklisting as “perverse.” The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has also found the designation a violation of due process and remanded it back to State Department for lawful review, strongly suggesting the MEK must be delisted. Rubin conveniently omits what she had said back in 2003 that “the group is also on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, placed there in 1997 as a goodwill gesture toward Iran’s newly elected reform-minded president, Mohammad Khatami.”
Although many of the allegations against the MEK and the Rubin-made context for them have no basis in truth whatsoever, one needs to refrain from buying into this deflective contemptuous invective and instead focus on two core issue.
The first issue is that the designation of a group in the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) must satisfy the statutory requirements. By law if those requirements no longer apply to a designated group, regardless of what the Department of State or anyone else may think of the group, the group must be de-listed. This is a matter of law not politics.
Dr. Patrick Clawson, deputy director for research at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote in 2008 that:
“Any designation review should be based only on terrorism issues, not on the general U.S. government view of the organization in question. If the decision to designate a group is made on foreign policy considerations rather than evidence, then the list will be branded as a political instrument, thus reducing its utility…
“In the MEK’s case, its designation should not be based on the group’s political stance or worries about U.S.-Iranian relations, nor should it be a reward for its reports on Iran ’s nuclear activities. Over the past three years, the State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism have cited no alleged MEK terrorist activity since 2001, yet have increased allegations pertaining the group’s non-terrorist activities…
“These allegations… are not related to the legal criteria for terrorist designation and are probably meant to discredit the MEK. These allegations are irrelevant, and some are also based on contestable evidence.”
The second core issue is that the de-listing of the MEK would have direct impact on development of relocation alternatives for the 3400 MEK members in Camp Ashraf which would preserve their human rights and are consistent with the Fourth Geneva Convention and International humanitarian law.
The leadership and rank-and-file of Camp Ashraf have stated their agreement to relocate to a European Union member country or the United States. But that would not be possible with the State Department’s continued designation of the MEK as a terrorist entity. The designation presents a grave complication for efforts to resolve the persistent humanitarian crisis in Ashraf.
Last April, just days after the massacre at Camp Ashraf by the Iraqi Army and directed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in a hearing at the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Ranking Member, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), said:
“In private discussions, the Iraqi ambassador’s office has said the blood is not on the hands of the Iraqi government but is at least partially on the hands of the State department because the MEK is listed as a terrorist group and accordingly, Iraq doesn’t feel that it has to respect the human rights of those in the camp.”
There is no mention of any of these facts in the August 14 piece. It should not be so hard to see that Elizabeth Rubin is nothing but a “yellow journalist.”