Not so long ago (Jun. 20, 2007), the Financial Times of London was urging the U.S. to "dismantl[e] the MEK" to "signal U.S. readiness for an accommodation with Tehran, since it is the only militarized exile group seeking to overthrow the Islamic Republic and is the darling of the Washington 'régime change' lobby." -- That the regime change lobby is now stronger than ever is suggested by a front-page article in Sunday's New York Times reporting that "a stellar list of supporters from both parties and the last two administrations, including a dozen former top national security officials" is backing its quest to reverse the U.S. State Dept.'s 1997 listing of it as a terrorist group." -- The MEK has been greasing the wheel: "The American advocates have been well paid, hired through their speaking agencies and collecting fees of $10,000 to $50,000 for speeches on behalf of the Iranian group." -- The Times failed to note that in August a group of 37 Iran experts wrote to Hillary Clinton urging her not to reverse the listing, as the Financial Times reported at the time. -- "Removing the MEK from the foreign terrorist organization list and misconstruing its lack of democratic bona fides and support inside Iran will have harmful consequences on the legitimate, indigenous Iranian opposition," they said. -- "The signatories include John Limbert, head of Iranian affairs in the State Department until recently and one of the diplomats held hostage during the 1979 siege of the U.S. embassy in Tehran; Paul Pillar, a former U.S. intelligence agent now at Georgetown University; Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council; and Hadi Ghaemi of Human Rights Defender." -- In June 2011 the National Iranian American posted a document that it says is a 2004 FBI report saying that the MEK “is actively involved in planning and executing acts of terrorism,” despite the organization’s alleged renunciation of terror in 2001, that it “routinely lobbies unwitting members of Congress under the pretext of human rights issues in Iran,” and that MEK members have endured “years of ideological training and for lack of better word ‘brain washing.’” -- It also reports that "the MEK is attempting to align themselves with the West by reporting information about the Iranian Nuclear Weapons program" and that "MEK lobbyists routinely hold press conferences and pass information regarding the current Iranian government that is inaccurate and designed to influence Western media and governments." -- It said the MEK raises money fraudulently by representing itself as "a non-profit group of doctors and nurses fundraising for starving Iranian children" and was involved in money laundering. -- BACKGROUND: Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor, summarizing a 2007 State Dept. report, called the MEK a "secular blend of Islam, Marxism, and feminism and a 'cult of personality' centered on the group’s leader, Maryam Rajavi." -- Murphy noted that "A 2005 report by Human Rights Watch reported the use of torture and detention of MKO members who expressed criticism or wished to the leave the group at Camp Ashraf" and said Maryam Rajavi "views herself as Iran’s president in waiting." -- Maryam Rajavi, 58, lives reclusively in Paris, where she has been based for thirty years, and her husband, 63 if he is still alive, has not been seen in public since 2003. -- Rajavi and her husband seem to share some of the psychological profile of Lyndon LaRouche. -- A website that seeks to "expose the Mojahedin as a religious/personality cult" is iran-interlink.org....
FOR OBSCURE IRANIAN EXILE GROUP, BROAD SUPPORT IN U.S.
By Scott Shane
New York Times
November 26, 2011
WASHINGTON -- At a time of partisan gridlock in the capital, one obscure cause has drawn a stellar list of supporters from both parties and the last two administrations, including a dozen former top national security officials.
That alone would be unusual. What makes it astonishing is the object of their attention: a fringe Iranian opposition group, long an ally of Saddam Hussein, that is designated as a terrorist organization under United States law and described by State Department officials as a repressive cult despised by most Iranians and Iraqis.
The extraordinary lobbying effort to reverse the terrorist designation of the group, the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People’s Mujahedeen, has won the support of two former C.I.A. directors, R. James Woolsey and Porter J. Goss; a former F.B.I. director, Louis J. Freeh; a former attorney general, Michael B. Mukasey; President George W. Bush’s first homeland security chief, Tom Ridge; President Obama’s first national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones; big-name Republicans like the former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Democrats like the former Vermont governor Howard Dean; and even the former top counterterrorism official of the State Department, Dell L. Dailey, who argued unsuccessfully for ending the terrorist label while in office.
The American advocates have been well paid, hired through their speaking agencies and collecting fees of $10,000 to $50,000 for speeches on behalf of the Iranian group. Some have been flown to Paris, Berlin and Brussels for appearances.
But they insist that their motive is humanitarian -- to protect and resettle about 3,400 members of the group, known as the MEK, now confined in a camp in Iraq. They say the terrorist label, which dates to 1997 and then reflected decades of violence that included the killing of some Americans in the 1970s, is now outdated, unjustified, and dangerous.
Emotions are running high as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton completes a review of the terrorist designation. The government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq has said it plans to close the camp, Camp Ashraf, by Dec. 31 and move the people elsewhere in Iraq in order to reassert Iraqi sovereignty over the land where it is located, 40 miles north of Baghdad.
Two earlier incursions by Iraqi troops into Camp Ashraf led to bloody confrontations, with 11 residents killed in July 2009 and at least 34 in April of this year. The MEK and its American supporters say that they believe the Maliki government, with close ties to Iran, may soon carry out a mass slaughter on the pretext of regaining control of the camp.
If that happens, the supporters say, the United States -- which disarmed the MEK and guaranteed the security of the camp after the invasion of Iraq -- will bear responsibility.
“We made a promise,” said Mr. Ridge, a former congressman and governor of Pennsylvania. “Our credibility is on the line. They’ve been attacked twice. How can we possibly accept assurances from the Maliki government?”
Mr. Ridge suggested that the MEK’s implacable hostility to the rulers of Iran should be a point in their favor.
“In my view, if you’re a threat to Ahmadinejad,” -- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president -- “well, the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Mr. Ridge said. He noted that the MEK had provided information on Iran’s nuclear program during the Bush administration.
The MEK advocacy campaign has included full-page newspaper advertisements identifying the group as “Iran’s Main Opposition” -- an absurd distortion in the view of most Iran specialists; leaders of Iran’s broad opposition, known as the Green Movement, have denounced the group. The MEK has hired high-priced lobbyists like the Washington firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Its lawyers in Europe won a long fight to persuade the European Union to drop its own listing of the MEK as a terrorist group in 2009.
The group’s spending, certainly in the millions of dollars, has inevitably raised questions about funding sources.
Ali Safavi, who runs a pro-MEK group in Washington called Near East Policy Research, says the money comes from wealthy Iranian expatriates in the United States and Europe. Because “material support” to a designated terrorist group is a crime, advocates insist that the money goes only to sympathizers and not to the MEK itself.
Congress has taken note of the campaign. A House resolution for dropping the terrorist listing has 97 co-sponsors, including the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan. At a hearing this month, senators pressed the defense secretary, Leon E. Panetta, about the threat to Camp Ashraf.
A State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, said officials there were “working as quickly as possible” to complete a review of the MEK’s terrorist designation. American officials are supporting an effort by the United Nations to resettle Camp Ashraf residents voluntarily to other countries, a process that is making slow progress.
Other State Department officials, addressing the issue on the condition of anonymity because it is still under deliberation, said that they did believe the 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf were in danger as the Dec. 31 deadline approaches.
“We’re in constant talks with the Iraqis and the Ashraf leadership to show maximum flexibility on the closure of the camp,” one official said.
But the officials expressed frustration at what they described as the American supporters’ credulous acceptance of the MEK’s claims of representing the Iranian opposition and of embracing democratic values.
In years of observation, the official said, Americans have seen that the camp’s leaders “exert total control over the lives of Ashraf’s residents, much like we would see in a totalitarian cult,” requiring fawning devotion to the MEK’s leaders, Maryam Rajavi, who lives in France, and her husband, Massoud, whose whereabouts are unknown.
Moreover, the official said, the group is “hated almost universally by the Iranian population,” in part for siding with Mr. Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. A State Department cable this year concluded that any indication of United States support for the MEK “would fuel anti-American sentiment” in Iran and would “likely empower Iranian hardliners.”
In Iraq, the MEK is also widely despised, especially by the country’s Shiite majority, because it is accused of helping the Iraqi dictator crush a Shiite revolt in 1991 -- a charge the group denies. Because of deep Iraqi hostility, American officials argue that merely dropping the terrorist designation would not end the danger of attacks on the group.
While the MEK carried out a campaign of attacks from the 1970s to the 1990s, mostly targeting Iranian officials, supporters say it has renounced violence and has not engaged in terrorist acts for a decade. The designation law, however, allows Mrs. Clinton to keep the label for a group that “retains the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism.”
Such a decision would outrage the American advocates of reversing the terrorist label.
Mr. Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2005 to 2009, said the administration’s failure to act decisively threatened a “humanitarian catastrophe.” Mr. Mukasey said he did not believe the claim that the MEK was a cult, but even if true, it was no reason to keep the terrorist listing. “These people are sitting in the camp, completely harmless,” he said.
Like other advocates, Mr. Mukasey said he had been paid his standard speaking fee -- $15,000 to $20,000, according to the Web site of his speakers’ agency -- to talk at MEK-related events. But he insisted that the money was not a factor for him or other former officials who had taken up the cause. “There’s no way I would compromise my standing by expressing views I don’t believe in,” he said.
--Artin Afkhami contributed reporting from Boston.
IRAN EXILE GROUP SHOULD STAY ON TERROR LIST, SAY EXPERTS
By Anna Fifield
Financial Times (London)
August 10, 2011
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/c84c2faa-c375-11e0-b163-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1evUZtHRa (subscription required)
A group of U.S.-based Iran experts -- including academics, former political prisoners, and former officials -- is writing to Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, to urge her not to remove an Iranian exile group from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organisations.
The letter is an attempt to counter an aggressive lobbying campaign by supporters of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or People’s Mujahideen of Iran, to be taken off the list a decade after it renounced violence.
. . .
“Removing the MEK from the foreign terrorist organisation list and misconstruing its lack of democratic bona fides and support inside Iran will have harmful consequences on the legitimate, indigenous Iranian opposition,” the 37 experts say in the letter.
“By attempting to claim credit for Iran’s democracy movement, the MEK has aided the Iranian government’s attempts to discredit the green movement and justify its crackdown on peaceful protesters by associating them with this widely detested group.”
The signatories include John Limbert, head of Iranian affairs in the State Department until recently and one of the diplomats held hostage during the 1979 siege of the U.S. embassy in Tehran; Paul Pillar, a former U.S. intelligence agent now at Georgetown University; Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council; and Hadi Ghaemi of Human Rights Defender.
. . .
The U.K. removed the MEK from its list in 2008 and the European Union in 2009 after courts found no evidence of terrorist actions since the MEK renounced violence in 2001. It won more than 20 battles in courts across Europe as it sought to be delisted there.
A Washington, D.C., court last year ruled that the MEK had been denied due process during its last appeal to the Bush administration to be taken off the list and ordered the State Department to reconsider the request.
But many U.S. analysts agree with the signatories that delisting the MEK would be a setback for Iran’s grassroots opposition.
. . .
“The MEK has halted all military activity since 2001, renounced violence and condemned terrorism in all its forms in 2004, handed over all its weapons voluntarily to the United States in 2003,” said Ahmad Moein, executive director of the Iranian American Community of Northern California, a group that supports the MEK.
The MEK could now lead a viable alternative to the current Iranian regime, he said. “We support the aims of MEK for the establishment, through the electoral process of a democratic, secular, non-nuclear republic that is at peace with all its neighbors,” Mr. Moein said.
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