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Romney’s Pro-MEK Crowd

One of Romney’s special foreign policy advisers, Mitchell Reiss, has been involved for some time in the effort to de-list the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), the Iranian anti-regime group recognized as a terrorist organization by our government. Reiss’ role in the campaign has changed since last year, and his pro-MEK work has been cited as the reason. As Jordan Bloom notes, a new Ben Smith report explains that Reiss was demoted inside the Romney campaign:

It was, though, an attack from the left that led to Reiss’s quiet demotion from first among equals in 2008 to the status of one of many advisers this time: Salon reported that he had spoken out in support of the MEK, an anti-regime Iranian group viewed with suspicion by many but seen by some on the right as a valuable ally against Tehran [bold mine-DL]. And while some of Romney’s other advisers might share his sympathies, his public speaking on behalf of the group represented an unacceptable breach of discipline for Romney’s tight inner circle.

I wonder if the demotion came before or after Romney was confronted by a voter over his Reiss’ support for the MEK. Perhaps Reiss’ advocacy on behalf of a terrorist group didn’t matter until Romney had it thrown in his face. The demotion doesn’t seem to have discouraged Reiss from his pro-MEK advocacy. Here are his remarks introducing Maryam Rajavi at a recent pro-MEK gathering in Paris earlier this month. Here is some of Reiss’ flattery for the cult leader:

The residents of Camp Ashraf could not ask for a better leader. Her courage and determination continue to serve as an inspiration to us all.

As Bloom notes, other Romney advisers favor de-listing MEK, and John Bolton is at least as vocal in his support for the group as Reiss has been, so it doesn’t appear that Romney disagrees with the substance of pro-MEK advocacy.

Here is a report from last year on Bolton’s support for the MEK:

The team included former U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton, former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and former U.S. National Security Advisor director James Jones. They endorsed what one can only call a spectrum of views, although all backed MEK’s legitimacy, and the notion of removing it from the list of terrorist organizations.

On a related issue, Smith’s reporting about American support for the MEK is somewhat misleading. Pro-MEK advocacy is not confined to “some on the right.” It is unfortunately a bipartisan activity, and some of the prominent Democrats involved in it in addition to Richardson include Howard Dean and Ed Rendell, both of whom were at the conference in Paris where Reiss spoke.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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