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MEK: deep pocket, relentless lobbying, still no progress

The MKO’s million dollar champagne in the US Congress has always got the attention of Western media. Hannah Allam of the Miami Herald is one of many American journalists who report on the

well funded MKO lobbying efforts in the Congress and its problematic situation as a foreign force in Iraq. The herald piece "Iran’s MEK has friends in Congress, but that hasn’t eased problems in Iraq" , quotes an MKO activist Shirin Nariman who admits that  the group’s "deep pocket" and " relentless lobbying" against  Islamic Republic is the key to buy US high profiles although she claims that the paid sponsors’ motivation is human :

“ The congressional hearing earlier this week was to have focused on al Qaida’s resurgence in Iraq, but lawmaker after lawmaker veered off topic to ask about another problem left from the U.S.-led war there: what to do with a group of Iranian dissidents stuck in a besieged camp in Baghdad.

The plight of the former militant group known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq dominated the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday. Critics of the group consider it a cult and note that only a year and a half ago it was still listed as a U.S.-designated terrorist group. They’re outraged at what they call the disproportionate amount of attention the group receives in Congress.

Yet despite all the powerful friends won by the MEK’s deep pockets and relentless lobbying, the group has seen relatively little progress in efforts to relocate the 2,500 or so members who remain in Iraq, where they’re vulnerable under the Iran-friendly government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. Since September, attacks on Camp Liberty, the former U.S. base where the group is housed under the watch of the Iraqi military, have killed more than 50 people and wounded many more.

American supporters of the group – including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich – say the United States has abandoned its pledge to protect the group, which was disarmed after the U.S.-led invasion of 2003. A few hundred MEK members were relocated recently to Albania and Germany, but there’s no word yet on a broader resettlement program in accordance with a 2011 agreement between the Iraqi government and the United Nations.

Eight members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee – six Republicans and two Democrats – lambasted the U.S. government for failing to do more to protect the virtual prisoners at Camp Liberty.

The most forceful was Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., who called Maliki a “murderer” and said the United States had no business helping him on other issues, such as the fight against jihadists in western Iraq. Another Republican, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, complained that the residents “still have very little protection” and demanded “extra effort in saving lives there.”

Brett McGurk, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, had been called to testify about al Qaida but found himself answering as many if not more questions about the MEK. McGurk, who visited Camp Liberty on a trip to Baghdad this month, said talks were ongoing about resettling the residents and getting them more protections in the meantime.

“I told them I promise I would do everything I could,” McGurk said of his talks with MEK members in the camp.

An investigation by Britain’s Guardian newspaper found that Rohrabacher had received thousands of dollars in donations from MEK supporters in 2012 alone. The paper’s report added that Ros-Lehtinen has accepted at least $20,000 in campaign donations from Iranian-American groups, or their leaders, that support the MEK. Other members of Congress have been flown to France to address pro-MEK events, and a Washington lobbying firm received nearly $1 million to work on getting the MEK off the terrorist list, according to The Guardian.

Shirin Nariman, a Virginia-based MEK activist, acknowledged that some of its political allies had received money from MEK supporters. But Nariman said that more important than campaign donations and speaker fees was the time the group had spent knocking on the doors of politicians, making them aware of the MEK’s cause.


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