Struan Stevenson has an op-ed in The Washington Times that reminds us that no idea is too crazy or disreputable for some Iran hawks. Stevenson has taken up the odd cause of trying to rehabilitate the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, the left-wing cult-cum-terrorist organization opposed to clerical rule in Iran. Labeling MEK a terrorist group in the ’90s was not primarily a product of extending an olive branch to the newly-elected President Khatami. It was obviously part of an ongoing effort to build the case for regime change against Saddam Hussein, who had been the MEK’s principal sponsor and protector for decades. This had the added effect of satisfying one of Tehran’s complaints. The MEK’s methods and their sponsorship by Hussein didn’t bother Washington very much until overthrowing Hussein became a priority, at which point they officially became a terrorist organization after having been one in reality for a long time.
Likewise, ISCI (formerly SCIRI) and its militia, the Badr brigades, were no longer counted among state-sponsored terrorist organizations once the party became an important part of Iraqi coalition politics, which didn’t mean that they hadn’t really been a terrorist organization all along. They had been labeled as terrorists principally because Tehran backed them against Hussein, and for quite some time Washington was more concerned about Iran than Iraq, so Iran-backed Iraqi groups were deemed dangerous and Iraq-backed Iranian groups were not. Once that began changing in the late ’90s, MEK was caught in the middle, but quickly adapted itself to the new order when Hussein was ousted. Now their old hatred for clerical rule in Tehran is useful once more. Stevenson is correct that these are all political decisions, and he is doing nothing more than advocating yet another politically-motivated change to the MEK’s official status to advance the cause of regime change in Iran. One can call them “patriots,” but they have been no different in their methods than the IRA or Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Stevenson combines disreputable support for a terrorist group with misinterpreting the political scene inside Iran:
It is abundantly clear that Iran will not settle for anything less than a fundamental regime change.
This is far from clear, but Stevenson sets out to try to rehabilitate the MEK by tying it to the political unrest now occurring in Iran. Of course, nothing could be worse for the Green movement than to have their cause connected in any way with a group with a violent past.
P.S. Struan Stevenson is a Scottish Conservative MEP, who “has called for the support and empowerment of the main Iranian opposition movement to the mullahs, the People’s Mohajedin of Iran (PMOI), to help achieve regime change.” By support and empowerment, one assumes he doesn’t mean boosting their self-esteem. Most likely, he means that they should be armed and encouraged to resume their attacks on Iranian installations and officials. This makes Stevenson’s objections that the MEK was disarmed in 2003 ring rather hollow.