December 15, 2017

Secretary Clinton, Delist MEK

Lives of 3400 Iranian dissidents in Iraq are threatened; Secretary Clinton should listen to the voice of distinguished and well-respected top American officials
12 August 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. (USA) – A group of distinguished and well respected top American officials have spoken in support of delisting the Iranian opposition, Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK /PMOI), from the State Department FTO list. The campaign to counter the Iranian regime’s disinformation campaign to hamper the Iranian opposition seems to bother some lobby groups in Washington such as NIAC nowadays. 

The efforts are aimed at securing the safety of 3400 unarmed individuals, including 1000 women, in Camp Ashraf in Iraq, who are faced with a potential massacre at the hands of Iraqi forces under Iranian influence and pressure, especially after the year-end when US forces are due to leave Iraq. Each of the residents was recognized as Protected Persons by the US after they signed an agreement with the US military in 2004 to voluntarily surrender their arms in exchange for safety. The US protected the camp until 2009 and handed over control to the Iraqi government under the SOFA agreement (US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement).

The camp has been attacked twice by Iraqi forces acting on behest of the Iranian government and 36 residents including 6 women have been massacred during the latest attack this April. Delisting MEK will deny the Iraqi authorities the justification to conduct another attack on the unarmed and peaceful camp where Iranian dissidents live, under pretext of countering terrorism.

The Iranian regime’s Washington-based lobby is targeting former top US officials from the full political spectrum who have worked for the Clinton, Bush and Obama Administrations, for making paid speeches during their visits to various venues to attend conferences organized by Iranian Americans and Iranian exiles this year, which is a common practice among former US officials. The Iran lobby hopes to confuse the issue by targeting the officials for speaking fees. It is a perfectly legal practice for a former official to make a paid speech for a cause he believes in. Many former officials including former US presidents, including Presidents Clinton and Bush, accept fees for their speeches after leaving office.

If these lobbyists are so concerned about and want to stop this practice, they should in fact address the way American politics is run.  It seems the pervasive message by these officials in support of the MEK has delivered a hard blow to the storyline promoted by the Iranian regime to cast the MEK as a terrorist organization despite the lack of any evidence to support the allegations. The UK removed the MEK from the list in 2008 and the EU in 2009 after courts found no evidence of terrorist action. It won no less than 22 battles in courts across Europe as it sought to be delisted there. The US Federal Court of Appeals, DC Circuit, ruled in June 2010 to remand the case to the Secretary of State after no evidence was found to support the designation by the court, strongly suggesting the Secretary should revoke the listing.

The designation was based on “classified” documents. These documents which lack any significant substance originate from the Iranian regime and propagate through its web-sites and the Iran lobby in Washington and ultimately end up in the State Department’s classified dossiers by low-level State Department employees of Iranian origin affiliated with NIAC who seem to have a serious conflict of interest. Reza Marashi, who today is Director of Research for NIAC, once served at the State Department’s Iran desk for 4 years until recently. Mr. Marashi has written several articles lambasting the MEK based on pure allegations and no proof. It is of serious concern that a group such as NIAC, known to have extensive links with Iranian officials, under investigation for misusing government funds in lobbying for Tehran, and accused of being an unregistered agent of the Iranian government would have so much influence in shaping US policy toward Iran and Iran’s main opposition force.

NIAC has launched a disinformation campaign in the US against the Iranian opposition MEK to bolster its ties with the Iranian regime. It has belittled the threat of the Iranian nuclear program, has lobbied against effective sanctions, and has encouraged US and Iran reconciliation in favor of Iran’s interests and contrary to the Iranian people and US national interests.

NIAC was formed in the US to seemingly advance Iranian-American civic participation. But in actuality it has worked to advance Iranian regime policy interests in Washington with slick campaigns. Hassan Daioleslam, an Iranian analyst familiar with NIAC’s activities, has linked NIAC to the Iranian regime with extensive research.

It seems the message that the Iran lobby wishes to convey is that US officials have spoken in support of delisting of MEK out of ignorance and only for the money, perhaps being bribed.

But a review of the list of former top US officials and their speeches makes this quite implausible. For example, Howard Dean who has made pro bono speeches as well in support of the MEK delisting, said, “We must change our position on the MEK and stop calling them a terrorist organization. They are not a terrorist organization, they have their own bill of rights, which is an extraordinary thing under the leadership of Maryam Rajavi, and we appreciate what she has done greatly,” in reference to a 10-point plan for future Iran that Rajavi, a leader of the NCRI has put forward.

The furor that the Iran lobby has been trying to whip up over the support of top US officials, is really a brazen attempt by Tehran’s lobby, and mainly NIAC, to intimidate public opinion and these well-respected foreign and security policy experts and to pressure them to back away from the views they have expressed.

What is shameful is the Iranian regime’s funding of these lobbies to oppose MEK. According to documents available on the Internet hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid out to lobbies such as NIAC to advocate Iranian regime’s propaganda in the US and publish articles in the media to that effect.

The main motivation behind the State Department’s listing was to curry favor with the mullahs. In September 2002, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs during the Clinton Administration, Martin Indyk, told Newsweek, “[There] was White House interest in opening up a dialogue with the Iranian government. Top Administration officials saw cracking down on the [MEK], which the Iranians had made clear they saw as a menace, as one way to do so.”

This is what John Sano (former Deputy Director of CIA for National Clandestine Service) had to say on this issue in a recent conference in Washington with the Camp Ashraf massacre back in April as an instance: “The situation in Camp Ashraf and the recent massacre which occurred there only three months ago, is the perfect example in terms of what the MOIS is able to do in attempting to shape world opinion. It has been their consistent maligning of the MEK as a subversive and terrorist organization. This is in direct contravention of the reports here in the United States and internationally that have provided the true story behind the massacre… and the reality of the MEK as peace loving, pro-democratic, nonviolent, organization seeking only to promote a system with freedom of speech, assembly, and political parties, as separation of church and state and gender equality.”

Circulating cheap hearsay such as the Mujahedin-e Khalq’s participation in the American Embassy’s seizure and calling for the execution of American hostages is nothing but distorting the truth.  Anyone familiar with events in Iran during the 1980s knows well that MEK never took part in the American embassy seizure.  On the contrary, the Iranian regime used the opportunity to fasten its grip on power and isolate progressive groups and the opposition including the MEK.

The Iran lobbies have argued that delisting the MEK would give the Iranian hard-line rulers more reason to clamp down on Iran’s internal opposition and the green movement. One can question this kind of irrelevant rhetoric to keep an organization unjustly in the FTO terror list. Is this the statutory legal requirement to keep an organization on the FTO terror list? The time has long passed to exploit legal measures to advance certain political goals. After all, the State Department FTO list is not meant to promote the green movement in Iran and elsewhere, rather it is intended to confront the terrorist threat against US interests. MEK has never been a threat to the US at any time.

However, events of past 14 years, the period the MEK has been kept on the FTO list have demonstrated the moral and political drawbacks of the MEK listing on the opposition inside Iran. The Iranian people have suffered the most brutal crack-down during the past decade and the Iranian regime has used the terrorist label against MEK to silence all voices of opposition inside Iran. Only in the past two years, following post-election protests, thousands have been arrested and hundreds have been executed or tortured, mainly affiliated with the MEK.

The NIAC and their usual roster of so-called experts claim that delisting the MEK will hurt the opposition inside Iran. Delisting of MEK, as the most organized and effective opposition against the Iranian dictatorship could, however, limit the Iranian rulers’ ability to suppress the opposition inside Iran under pretext of terrorism. The ramification of January 2009 delisting of MEK in Europe contributed extensively to the spread of the protests in June of 2009 following the fraudulent presidential elections in Iran.

If NIAC’s argument were to be true, then the MEK and the victims of the regime’s crimes are the source of the problem and not the Iranian dictatorship. Likewise, one can claim the Jews were responsible for their own deaths during the Nazi period and they would never have been massacred if they had not existed or had been kept isolated in their ghettos. This is of course preposterous.

The time has come for the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to ignore the vicious calls originating from Tehran and listen to the voices of conscious coming from former US officials with distinguished records of public service, and the Iranian people, and make the right decision to remove the MEK from the FTO list.

Klick here to sign the petition urging Hillary Clinton to delist MEK 

Joseph Omidvar is a scholar in Middle Eastern studies specializing in Iran policies.