Two former high-profile US officials acknowledged that they had been paid by the anti-Iran terrorist group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), to endorse de-listing the group from the US State Department’s list of terrorist groups, a report said.
The report released by the Inter Press Service on Tuesday said that for years now, supporters of the anti-Iran terrorist group have lobbied in vain to have the organization taken off the US terrorism list.
"A growing number of high-profile defense and foreign policy big-wigs – from former Central Command Chief Anthony Zinni to former Congressman and think tank head Lee Hamilton – have given paid speeches either endorsing de-listing or questioning why the group remains on the list when it has not committed a known terrorist act for many years," Inter Press Service stated.
The MKO, whose main stronghold is in the Camp of New Iraq (formerly known as Camp Ashraf) in Iraq’s Northern province of Diyala, is blacklisted by much of the international community, including the United States.
The MKO has been in Iraq’s Diyala province since the 1980s.
Last July, a federal appeals court in Washington ordered the State Department to review the designation. Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the department would make a decision "as soon as we can".
Ray Tanter, a National Security Council staffer under Ronald Reagan and founder of the Iran Policy Committee, a group that has sought MKO de-listing since 2005, said there have been six recent panels of high-profile individuals dealing with the topic: two in Paris, where the MKO’s political wing, the National Council of Resistance, is headquartered; one in Brussels, seat of the European Parliament; and three in Washington organized by a group called Executive Action LLC.
Executive Action head Neil Livingstone, a former member of the Iran Policy Committee, said another panel might be organized soon on Capitol Hill, the report by the Inter Press Service said.
"Iran-American cultural organizations" had approached him about doing the logistics for the meetings, he said, without giving specific names.
The report added that Zinni, who spoke before a Washington audience Jan. 20 – along with a star-studded bipartisan cast that included former national security adviser Jim Jones, former FBI director Louis Freeh and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson – said in an interview Tuesday that he was unaware of the group’s cultist aspects but still felt it should be taken off the State Department list if it disavowed terrorism.
He also said that the US was responsible for the fate of more than 3,000 MKO members still at the Camp Ashraf even though the camp is now under Iraqi sovereignty.
Zinni acknowledged that he had been paid his "standard fee" for speaking at the Iran event but would not say how much that was. He said he was never told what to say about the MKO, although he clearly knew the views of those sponsoring the event.
Hamilton, a former chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee who headed the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Center for 12 years until last fall, told IPS that he had also been paid "a substantial amount" to appear on a panel Feb. 19 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.
Hamilton appeared with Richardson, two former Joint Chiefs of Staff, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Walter Slocombe, former State Department counterterrorism coordinator Dell Dailey and ex-Sen. Robert Torricelli of New Jersey, the report added.
At the event, while Hamilton did not call for removing the MKO from the list immediately, he said he was "puzzled" by why the group remained so designated.
In the subsequent interview, Hamilton – who once had access to classified information – said, "I haven’t seen any reasons that are current" for the MKO to be branded as terrorist.
He also conceded, however, that he was not aware of the cult-like nature of the group.
"They presented me with a platform that was thoroughly democratic," Hamilton said. "Were they misleading me? You always can be misled."
Before an overture by the EU, the MKO was on the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations subject to an EU-wide assets freeze. Yet, the MKO puppet leader, Maryam Rajavi, who has residency in France, regularly visited Brussels and despite the ban enjoyed full freedom in Europe.
The MKO is behind a slew of assassinations and bombings inside Iran, a number of EU parliamentarians said in a recent letter in which they slammed a British court decision to remove the MKO from the British terror list. The EU officials also added that the group has no public support within Iran because of their role in helping Saddam Hussein in the Iraqi imposed war on Iran (1980-1988).
Many of the MKO members abandoned the terrorist organization while most of those still remaining in the camp are said to be willing to quit but are under pressure and torture not to do so.
A May 2005 Human Rights Watch report accused the MKO of running prison camps in Iraq and committing human rights violations.
According to the Human Rights Watch report, the outlawed group puts defectors under torture and jail terms.
Numerous articles and letters posted on the Internet by family members of MKO recruits confirm reports of the horrific abuse that the group inflicts on its own members and the alluring recruitment methods it uses.
The most shocking of such stories includes accounts given by former British MKO member Ann Singleton and Mustafa Mohammadi — the father of an Iranian-Canadian girl who was drawn into the group during an MKO recruitment campaign in Canada.
Mohammadi recounts his desperate efforts to contact his daughter, who disappeared several years ago – a result of what the MKO called a ‘two-month tour’ of Camp Ashraf for teenagers.
He also explains how the group forces the families of its recruits to take part in pro-MKO demonstrations in Western countries by threatening to kill their loved ones.
Lacking a foothold in Iran, the terrorist group recruits ill-informed teens from Iranian immigrant communities in Western states and blocks their departure afterwards.
The group, founded in the 1960s, blended elements of Islamism and Stalinism and participated in the overthrow of the US-backed Shah of Iran in 1979. Ahead of the revolution, the MKO conducted attacks and assassinations against both Iranian and Western targets.
Leaders of the group have been fighting to shed its terrorist tag after a series of bloody anti-Western attacks in the 1970s, and nearly 30 years of violent struggle against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In recent months, high-ranking MKO members have been lobbying governments around the world in the hope of acknowledgement as a legitimate opposition group.
The UK initiative, however, prompted the European Union to establish relations with the exiled organization now based in Paris. The European Court of First Instance threw its weight behind the MKO in December and annulled its previous decision to freeze its funds.
The group started assassination of the citizens and officials after the revolution in a bid to take control of the newly established Islamic Republic. It killed several of Iran’s new leaders in the early years after the revolution, including the then President, Mohammad Ali Rajayee, Prime Minister, Mohammad Javad Bahonar and the Judiciary Chief, Mohammad Hossein Beheshti who were killed in bomb attacks by MKO members in 1981.
The group fled to Iraq in 1986, where it was protected by Saddam Hussein and where it helped the Iraqi dictator suppress Shiite and Kurd uprisings in the country.
The terrorist group joined Saddam’s army during the Iraqi imposed war on Iran (1980-1988) and helped Saddam and killed thousands of Iranian civilians and soldiers during the US-backed Iraqi imposed war on Iran.
Since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the group, which now adheres to a pro-free-market philosophy, has been strongly backed by neo-conservatives in the United States, who also argue for the MKO to be taken off the US terror list.