The National Council of Resistance of Iran has opened shop just a stone’s throw from the White House — and only months after being removed from a US State Department list of designated terrorist groups.
The Washington Post reports that the NCRI, an organization of Iran exiles considered terrorists by the State Department between 1997 through 2012, has officially begun operating out of a downtown Washington, DC office building.
“Once-banned Iran exile group opens office a block from White House,” reads the Post article from Thursday afternoon.
The NCRI had been barred from operating within the United States since 2003, but a campaign that drew the attention of some high-profile American politicians in recent years helped have their name removed from the same Department of State roster that contains foreign organizations including al-Qaeda, Hamas, the Palestine Liberation Front and the Army of Islam.
Critics of the NCRI have called the group a front for the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, the group of Islamic Marxists that helped violently overthrew the Pahlavi Shah during a 1979 revolution in Iran and was credited with killing six American citizens that decade. As recently as 2002, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation told the State Department that ‘‘[i]t is the unanimous view of the FBI personnel who are involved in and familiar with the FBI’s investigation of the [MEK] that the NCRI is not a separate organization, but is instead, and has been, an integral part of the MEK at all relevant times.’’
“Contrary to NCRI’s portrayal of itself as an umbrella organization, of which the MEK was just one member, the FBI concluded that it is NCRI that is ‘’the political branch,’” the agency found at the time.
A decade later though, a group of influential politicians including former UN ambassador John Bolton, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), presidential candidates Newt Gingrich (R), Rudy Giuliani (R) and Howard Dean (D) rallied on behalf of the NCRI to have their name removed from the State Department list.
"Have you ever seen a more bipartisan disciplined group as the one that supported this issue?" asked lobbyist Victoria Toensing of DiGenova & Toensing when she weighed in on the NCRI to US News & World Report last year.
Now that the organization formerly considered terrorists has been given the go-ahead to operate in the US, they’ve opened their doors alongside the rest of the powerful lobbying groups that litter downtown DC’s K Street district.
“The MEK are Iranians who desire a secular, peaceful, and democratic government,” Rep. Rohrabacher told the Post last year as the State Department considered their appeal. “Nothing threatens the Mullah dictatorship more than openness and transparency.”
Others haven’t been as certain, though, and cite a number of incidents credited to MEK throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, including an attempted attack in 1992 against the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York City.
NCRI officials speaking to the Post confirmed that Bolton and a handful of others — including former Obama National Security Adviser Jim Jones — attended the grand opening of the group’s new DC office, styled as “Iran’s Parliament-in-exile.”