Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has not moved any closer to removing an Iranian dissident group from the U.S. list of terror organizations, senior Obama administration officials said on Monday.
Speaking on background with reporters, a senior official said members of the Iraq-based Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) seem to “think that de-listing is now imminent.”
“We continue to try to impress upon them that there is no such automaticity,” the official said.
Representatives working on behalf of the MEK, also known as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, have sued the State Department in federal court to take the group off the terror list.
While the case has dragged on for more than two years, it appeared to move forward June 1 when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Court ordered Mrs. Clinton to decide within four months whether to de-list the MEK.
Dispute over the MEK’s status hinges on a group of the organization’s supporters who have been living under U.S. protection at a camp in Iraq since shortly after U.S. troops entered Iraq in 2003.
Now that the Americans have left, the Iraqi government has said it will close the camp. As a result, members of the MEK are being relocated from their present home at Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad, to Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base near the Iraqi capital’s international airport under a deal brokered by the U.N.
But State Department officials on Monday said movement of the MEK members has stalled during recent weeks and that representatives of the group have grown less willing to cooperate with the deal.
“The United States remains concerned about the situation at Camp Ashraf and urges the residents of Camp Ashraf to resume full cooperation immediately with the Iraqi government and United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
“The United States has made clear that cooperation in the closure of Camp Ashraf, the Mujahedin-e Khalq’s main paramilitary base, is a key factor in determining whether the organization remains invested in its violent past or is committed to leaving that past behind,” she said.
A senior Obama administration official added that “we cannot speak with certainty about the reasons for the MEK’s slowdown in its cooperation.”
The official said the group may have “over-interpreted” the most recent federal court ruling and assumed that its removal from the U.S. terror list is imminent.
The official said that while Mrs. Clinton fully intends to respond to the court’s order by the Oct. 1 deadline, she “retains complete discretion” over whether to take the group of the terror list.
By Guy Taylor