The Christian Science Monitor has an extensive article on the Mujahidin-e Khalq’s lobbying efforts. It reviews the terrorist group’s history and the debate over removing it from the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list, but it goes into much greater detail in describing how the MEK has been getting the support of many prominent American advocates. The most disturbing thing in the article is the claim that top national security officials wouldn’t have heard about the MEK prior to being approached by the group’s representatives:
“Top-level national security officials never heard about the MEK; it never rose to their level until now,” says another US official. “So when MEK representatives show them a political platform comprised of the ’15 greatest ideas of Western civilization,’ it looks pretty compelling.”
If you knew nothing about the group until now, and you were extremely gullible, I suppose it could be. Ignorance would help to account for why so many former officials and politicians would be willing to associate themselves with the cause of a terrorist group, but it is hardly reassuring that “top-level” national security officials are so ignorant of the recent history of Iran and Iraq that being approached by representatives of this group wouldn’t raise any red flags. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that these officials don’t understand the region’s politics and history very well, but that is just one more reason not to heed their recommendations on how to treat the MEK.
The article goes on to list quotes from Rudy Giuliani, Howard Dean, and a number of former Bush administration officials, all of whom are on the record saying embarrassing things in praise of the MEK. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell may have qualified for the most egregious flattery when he said, “MEK is a force for good, and the best hope we have.” While these people may not be able to appreciate what this sounds like to most Iranians, having so many prominent national figures in the U.S. singing this group’s praises signals to Iranians that Americans see both the Iranian people and the regime as our enemy. If the State Department were so unwise as to remove the MEK from the FTO list, that would mark this administration as being more hostile towards Iran than the two administrations before it.
Confirming just how creepy the cult of personality built around Maryam Rajavi is, the article describes Camp Ashraf:
Her portrait – along with that of husband and co-leader Massoud Rajavi, who has been in hiding since 2003 – is as ubiquitous at Camp Ashraf as Saddam Hussein’s once was across Iraq, and Ayatollah Khomeini’s still is in Iran. Every day at the camp, the MEK motto is heard: “Iran is Rajavi, Rajavi is Iran. Iran is Maryam, Maryam is Iran.”
Obviously, a new totalitarian political cult is not what Iranians need or want. The group has eagerly started saying all of the right things about democracy, but the group’s organization and practices show that it has no values in common with the legitimate Iranian opposition or with the United States. In the past, the State Department has understood this:
A US State Dept. report in 1994 dismissed MEK efforts to reinvent itself. Noting the MEK’s “dedication to armed struggle”; the “fact that they deny or distort sections of their history, such as the use of violence”; the “dictatorial methods” of their leadership; and the “cult-like behavior of its members,” the State Dept. concluded that the MEK’s “29-year record of behavior does not substantiate its capability or intention to be democratic.”
Nothing about the MEK has changed in the last seventeen years, except that it has become more adept at getting Americans opposed to the Iranian government to work on its behalf. As Trita Parsi explains, the only thing that has made the decision to keep the MEK on the list remotely controversial is that the group’s lobbying is much greater this time around:
The momentum to remove the terrorist status “is all about [the MEK’s] ability to muster a political lobbying campaign,” says Parsi. If the decision were based on “the merits of the case, this would be as uncontroversial as the four times that the Bush administration re-listed them. Four times. No controversy.”
Put another way, not even the Bush administration was willing to accept the MEK’s reinvention, and they were hardly interested in fostering good relations with Tehran. The Obama administration should likewise reject the appeals of these paid advocates for a terrorist group.