The dissident group’s lavish lobbying has paid off: hoping to look tough on Iran, the Obama administration has enlisted the MEK in a proxy war
US officials leaked to several news outlets Friday an impending decision by the Obama administration that it intends to remove the Iranian dissident group Mujahadeen e-Khalq (MEK) from the treasury department’s terror list.
Historically, the group joined together with Islamists to topple the Shah in 1979. But after it assassinated an Iranian president, prime minister and supreme court justice, Ayatollah Khomeini turned on its members and approved the massacre of hundreds of them.
At that point, the MEK set itself the mission of overthrowing the Iranian Islamist regime. It went into exile to France and Saddam Hussein also offered it refuge in Iraq. It is also known for assassinating US diplomats, military personnel and others.
It now claims it has renounced terror and devotes itself to establishing an Iranian democratic form of government that would replace the rule of the Ayatollahs. But former leaders and members of the MEK have noted the ruthlessness and duplicity of the group. They believe that the Iran it envisions would be a dictatorship rather than a democracy. These dissident former members decry the MEK’s slavish worship of its leader Maryam Rajavi in a cult of personality not unlike that of North Korea and other Communist regimes.
The Iranian dissidents have plotted for years to be removed from the terror list. They enlisted numerous Republican and Democratic officials to lobby on its behalf. Instead of paying lobbying fees to them, it offered honoraria ranging from $10,000-$50,000 per speech to excoriate the US government for its allegedly shabby treatment of the MEK.
Among those who joined the group’s gravy train are former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, Rudy Giuliani, Alan Dershowitz, and former FBI director Louis Freeh. Many of them profess to have little interest in the money they have collected. Instead, they claim they are sincerely moved by the group’s suffering in Iraq and wish to correct an injustice. I’m sure the money doesn’t hurt.
Analysts writing about the MEK and alienated members reject the group’s claim that it has renounced terror. Seymour Hersh recently published an expose reporting that as late as 2007, US special forces had offered Iranians training at a secret Nevada facility in covert operations. It provided them arms and communications equipment and black ops training for their anti-regime terror activities inside Iran.
A confidential Israeli source who is a former senior minister and IDF officer reported to me that the Mossad has used the MEK over many years, both to leak purported Iranian government documents of questionable provenance and engage in acts of sabotage against key figures in the Iranian regime. My source and other journalists have reported the MEK assassinated four nuclear scientists and caused an explosion that obliterated an Iranian Revolutionary Guard missile base.
Last week, the director of Iran’s nuclear program reported an August explosion disrupted the power lines to the new Fordo uranium enrichment facility. My source says this sabotage was also a product of the Mossad-MEK collaboration.
The US delisting of the group is a sham. The Obama administration isn’t even claiming the MEK has renounced terrorism. If it did, it knows that it’s likely such a statement would rebound should the MEK’s activities become exposed. The chief argument offered in defense of the change of heart is that the group has agreed to relocate from Camp Ashraf, where it’s been a thorn in the side of the Iraqi Shi’ite led government, to a US facility, from which the residents would be relocated to foreign countries.
So, we’re removing a terror group from the list not because it’s stopped being a terror group, but because it’s agreed to leave Iraq, where it had been a destabilizing influence. That’s not a principled position. It’s a position based on pure political calculation.
The MEK is useful in the covert war the US and Israel are waging against Iran’s nuclear program. It is our proxy, much as the Cuban rebels involved in the Bay of Pigs operation served our interests in the fight against Fidel Castro; and the Afghan mujahideen fought a dirty war for us against the Soviets.
In fact, Alan Dershowitz has argued that the MEK should be removed from the treasury list not because it has stopped being terrorist, but because it collaborated with US covert activities inside Iran, meaning that it was serving US interests. Or put more simply: the MEK may be terrorists, but they’re our terrorists.
Delisting the MEK serves several goals for President Obama. He can flex his muscles in the face of both the Iranians and Republicans. To the Iranians, he’s implicitly saying he will make alliance with their worst enemy as long as they resist him at the negotiating table. To Mitt Romney, he’s saying he’s willing to get tough with the Iranians. This inoculates him from campaign attacks claiming he’s soft on Iran or that he’s willing to let Iran get the bomb.
You can bet that one of the president’s campaign talking points will be that he delisted the MEK. It will establish his anti-Iran bona fides when the TV ads paid for by Sheldon Adelson’s anticipated $100m start airing in the coming weeks.
Just as President Obama’s anti-terror policies, including targeted assassinations and drone strikes, have betrayed his previous denunciations of such violations of constitutional principles, so his granting a seal of approval to the MEK marks a further erosion of his commitment to diplomacy and negotiation as the means for resolving international disputes, including the one with Iran.