The Foolish Embrace of the MEK
The bizarre enthusiasm for the Mujahideen-e Khalq keeps growing in Washington. Trita Parsi describes the terrorist group’s intense lobbying efforts to have the group removed from the government’s list of terrorist organizations (via Chris Bodenner):
Since early January 2011, the MEK has spent millions of dollars on lobbyists, PR agents and communications firms to build up pressure on Secretary Hillary Clinton to take the group off of the terrorist list. Their argument is that the MEK rejected violence and terrorism in 2001 and as a result should be de-listed.
But this is not true, according to the FBI. A recently disclosed FBI report from 2004 reveals that the group continued to plan terrorist acts at least three years after they claimed to renounce terrorism.
No one should be surprised — not even DC’s “unwitting members of Congress” — as the FBI calls the group’s supporters on Capitol Hill. The State Department has documented the MEK’s disturbing record: killing Americans and Iranians in terrorist attacks; fighting for Saddam Hussein against Iran and assisting Saddam’s brutal campaign against Iraq’s Kurds and Shia; its “cult-like” behavior; the abuses and even torture it commits against its own members; and its support for the U.S. embassy takeover and calls for executing the hostages.
And let’s not forget, the MEK suppresses and holds captive its own members – more than 70 percent of the MEK members in Camp Ashraf in Iraq are held there against their own wishes, according to a RAND Corporation study.
I have marveled at the willingness of numerous former government officials, retired military officers, and elected representatives to embrace the MEK. There’s no question that they are motivated by their loathing of the Iranian government, but their hostility to the regime had led them to endorse a group that most Iranians loathe. Michael Rubin has been sharply critical of MEK boosters here in the U.S. for some time now, and he most recently called out Michele Bachmann for her foolish support for the group, which she refers to as “one of the bravest Iranian dissident groups” and “freedom-seeking.” Bachmann is hardly alone in her folly. She has quite a lot of company, as Muhammad Sahimi tells us:
Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is one. President Obama’s former National Security Adviser Gen. James L. Jones is another. Others include Bill Richardson, former energy secretary and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; Michael Mukasey, attorney general under President George W. Bush; Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania and homeland security secretary under Bush; Gens. Peter Pace and Hugh Shelton, former vice chair and chairman, respectively, of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Louis Freeh, former FBI director; Lee Hamilton, former Democratic congressman; Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA; Gen. Anthony Zinni, former commander of the Central Command; Frances Townsend, homeland security adviser in the Bush White House; and Brad Sherman and Dana Rohrabacher of the House of Representatives.
In the past, the U.S. has supported ethnic separatist groups inside Iran in their armed opposition to Tehran, and some of these groups have resorted to attacks on civilian targets. When Jundullah was added to the list of terrorist organizations, it seemed as if that policy of subversion through sponsoring terrorism might have been abandoned. If the effort to de-list the MEK is successful, it seems more than likely that the group will be used as a proxy to launch attacks against Iranian interests. As Parsi explains:
First, the desire to de-list them in Washington seems partially driven by gravitation towards covert military action against Iran. Neither sanctions nor diplomacy have yielded the desired results on the nuclear issue, and some in Washington are advocating using the MEK to conduct assassination and sabotage campaigns inside Iran.
As one former State Department official put it, the “paradox is that we may take them off the terror list in order for them to do more terror.”
This will not only help the regime to consolidate power in the name of anti-terrorism, but it will be an unexpected propaganda boost for the regime by convincing most Iranians that the U.S. has sided with a group they understandably regard as an enemy of their country.