At lightning speed, the State Department overturns an order prohibiting US diplomats from meeting controversial Iranian dissident groups – including a close friend with Trump World allies and previously designated a terrorist group, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) ). The initial memo, lit by a career State Department employee, angered Iranian congressional hawks. And the Ministry’s decision to modify its guidelines encouraged them.
The first memo, first reported by Bloomberg and reviewed by The Daily Beast, included sober warnings against meeting with the PMOI, pointing to its terrorist past and claiming that most everyday Iranians have bad news. group opinion. The memo also warned of interactions with the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, highlighting its attacks on Iranian military targets; and ordered diplomats to obtain permission from the headquarters of the State Department before meeting with members of an Azeri separatist group. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent the memo on January 7 and warned that meetings with these groups could undermine American efforts to reach an agreement with Tehran. Joey Hood, a senior State Department official, approved the note, according to The Daily Beast document reviewed.
But now the note is canceled. The Daily Beast obtained a cable, sent to American diplomats on Sunday evening, replacing the week-old directive.
“The posts should welcome the opportunities to meet and learn from members of the Iranian diaspora community,” said the cable, which explicitly noted that it “replaces” the January 7 missive. “After 40 years of repression and violence at the hands of the Ayatollahs, the pride of the Iranian people for their history has not diminished or their determination to celebrate it in the face of the abuses of the Islamic Republic.”
The cable went on to say that American diplomats should consider hosting members of the diaspora for “Persian cultural events”, while noting that “not all of the interests and objectives of Iranian opposition groups align with American political priorities ”.
“Although it is up to the Iranian people to determine the future course of their nation, the United States will continue to support them and echo their calls for justice and accountability,” said the cable.
Although the new note does not mention PMOI or other groups, it said diplomats should simply “exercise good judgment when receiving invitations or meet with opposition groups” and should raise questions and concerns with senior state officials – an apparent revocation of the order that they only hold such meetings with the express approval of Foggy Bottom. State Department spokespersons did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the cable.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani – whom the MEK hired to help them withdraw from the US list of foreign terrorist groups and who recently called the group “my people MEK” – welcomed the overthrow. “(The PMOI) is very much in favor of a free Iraq. It is headed by a great woman who has pledged to end the repression of women in a non-nuclear Iran, “the president’s personal attorney told The Daily Beast. “They were of great help to us during (the invasion) of Iraq and are supported by a very non-partisan group of former and former American officials.”
The PMOI is close to several other hawkish Trumpworld figures, including retired general Jack Keane and former national security adviser John Bolton. Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, a longtime friend of Giuliani and a former legal partner, is a volunteer advisor to the group’s political arm.
“They undermine the president’s policy when no one is watching.”
– Hill collaborator
The group has a controversial past. For, among other things, its alleged role in the assassination of three US military officers and three other civilian contractors, the PMOI found itself on the official list of foreign terrorist organizations of the United States government. He was also charged with acting as the death squad for the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. A 2009 article published by Rand Corporation described “the PMOI’s almost religious devotion to (its leaders), public self-deprecation sessions, compulsory divorce, celibacy, forced separation from family and friends, and segregation sexual. ” The group and its allies vehemently deny all of these costs.
The rapid return came after the initial memo from the State Department angered the hawks of the Iranian Congress. One noted that the memo had been sent to diplomats just days after an American strike killed Soleimani, and that senior State Department politicians were likely preparing for reprisals from Tehran.
“This is a fairly large figure for the state,” said Christian Wiman, a former senior adviser to the department under Presidents Trump and George W. Bush. “Even if it is formulated diplomatically, it is not so common to have something published and to cancel it almost immediately. And I think it just shows that the original declaration was something that had been done at a lower level that did not have the support or buy-in from senior politicians. “
It was the second time in recent months that Hood, the career official who put the memo on the green, has angered Hill’s hawks. During a testimony to Congress on December 4, he had a tense exchange with Senator Ted Cruz on the financing of the Lebanese government and whether this money had gone to Hezbollah. A transcript of the hearing indicates that Hood laughed in response to a question from Cruz; the episode left the nerves raw.
“They undermine the president’s policy when no one is watching,” said a Hill staff member for a member who advocates a tighter policy toward Iran.
Others, meanwhile, highlighted the overthrow as the Trump administration’s last struggle to clearly explain its position on the conflict with Iran. A congressional staff member who worked on Iranian politics and who favored the overthrow noted that it comes from the fact that the administration sent mixed messages on the legal basis of the Soleimani strike and the number of American embassies threatened. by Iranian Allied Shia militias.
“I think there is a lot of fog of war-like messages that has come out,” said the staff member, who spoke anonymously to discuss the sensitive issue. “I think there is still a lot of fog of war.”
The overthrow of the State Department, as reflected in the cable, comes as Pompeo and other U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper, find it difficult to articulate the U.S. next steps after the murder of Soleimani and reconcile their accounts of the information that sparked this strike. .
For years, the Trump administration has maintained a “maximum pressure” campaign, imposing crippling sanctions on the Iranian economy in an attempt to reopen talks with Tehran on a nuclear deal. Since the Soleimani strike, Trump administration officials have struggled to define the administration’s Iranian policy. Some have said that the maximum pressure campaign still includes a military option. Others say that the United States has long communicated to the Iranians that if Tehran killed Americans, there would be military consequences.
“WE. The diplomats should not meet with the PMOI. They represent a dangerous cult. We must avoid all the errors of the war in Iraq, including being deceived by an alleged diaspora opposition unrelated to it.”
– former Obama administration official, Jarret Blanc
Now it seems that the State Department is changing its mind on how to approach Iran diplomatically after the Soleimani strike. In the hours immediately following the assassination, US officials in an attempt to defuse described the coup as a warning and insisted that America was still interested in working with Iran on conversations on the nuclear deal. The United States Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, appeared on BBC World, saying that the murder of Soleimani was intended to “advance the cause of peace”. Sunday’s cable, meanwhile, will encourage the Iranian hawks – and frustrate the elders of the Obama administration.
“There are at least two problems with this reversal,” said Jarrett Blanc, a former Obama administration official who worked on Iranian politics.
“The first is that the policy is wrong. American diplomats should not meet with MEK or its affiliates. They represent a dangerous cult. We must avoid all the mistakes of the Iraq war, including being deceived by so-called diaspora opposition unrelated to it. The second problem is that it reflects the utter incompetence and chaos of this administration’s policy making – send out an instruction and less than a week later cancel it. They just don’t know what they are doing. “
For years in the United States, PMOI lobbyists and defenders have waged an aggressive, sustained and successful campaign to have the group removed from the State Department’s list of terrorists, a decision that was finalized at the time of Obama. Donors to the organization also include Democrats such as retired General Wesley Clark and Howard Dean, as well as attorneys Victoria Toensing and Joseph di Genova, two of Trump’s informal legal advisers.
By Pauline Ewell – mashviral.com