The Iranian Extremists America Loves: U.S. Takes Violent Group Off Terror List
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The government of Prime Minister Nour Al-Maliki, however, has been hostile to the MEK’s continued presence in Iraq. Two violent clashes since 2009 between Iraqi security forces and camp residents resulted in the deaths of at least 45 MEK members.
Last December, the UN reached a U.S.-mediated accord with the MEK to re-locate the residents to “Camp Liberty” at Baghdad’s airport, which would serve as a “temporary transit station” for residents to resettle in third countries or in Iran, if they so chose, after interviews with the UN High Commission on Refugees.
Until quite recently, however, the group — which Human Rights Watch (HRW) and a significant number of defectors, among others, have described as a cult built around its long-unaccounted-for founder, Massoud Rajavi, and his Paris-based spouse, Maryam — has resisted its wholesale removal from Ashraf. Some observers believe Massoud may be based there.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s increasingly blunt suggestions that the MEK’s failure to co-operate would jeopardise its chances of being removed from the terrorism list, however, appear to have brought it around.
The MEK claims that it halted all military actions in 2001 and has lacked the intent or the capability of carrying out any armed activity since 2003, an assertion reportedly backed up by the State Department.
Earlier this year, however, NBC News quoted one U.S. official as confirming Iran’s charges that Israel has used MEK militants in recent years to carry out sabotage operations, including the assassination of Iranian scientists associated with Tehran’s nuclear programme.
“The Iranian security establishment’s assessment has long believed that foreign intelligence agencies, specifically the CIA, Israeli Mossad, and the UK’s MI6 utilise the MEK for terror attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists, nuclear sabotage and intelligence gathering,” noted Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former senior Iranian diplomat and nuclear negotiator currently at Princeton University.
“Therefore, the delisting of MEK will be seen in Tehran as a reward for the group’s terrorist actions in the country,” he wrote in an email exchange with IPS. “Furthermore, Iran has firmly concluded that the Western demands for broader inspections (of Iran’s nuclear programme), including its military sites, are a smokescreen for mounting increased cyber attacks, sabotage and terror of nuclear scientists.
“Delisting MEK would be considered in Tehran as a U.S.-led effort to increase sabotage and covert actions through MEK leading inevitably to less cooperation by Iran with the IAEA (the International Atomic Energy Agency).”
He added that government in Tehran will use this as a way of “demonstrating to the public that the U.S. is seeking …to bring a MEK-style group to power” which, in turn, “would strengthen the Iranian nation’s support for the current system as the perceived alternative advanced by Washington would be catastrophic.”
That view was echoed by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which noted that the decision opens the doors to Congressional funding of the MEK and that leaders of the Iran’s Green Movement have long repudiated the group.
“The biggest winner today is the Iranian regime, which has claimed for a long time that the U.S. is out to destroy Iran and is the enemy of the Iranian people,” said NIAC’s policy director, Jamal Abdi.
“It will certainly not improve U.S.-Iranian relations,” according to Alireza Nader, an Iran specialist at the Rand Corporation, who agreed that the “delisting reinforces Tehran’s longstanding narrative regarding U.S. hostility toward the regime.
“Nevertheless,” he added, “I don’t think it is detrimental to U.S. interests as Tehran suspects U.S. collusion with the MEDK anyhow, whether this perception is correct or not.”