In Iran Talks, Obama Admin Considers Accusations by Regime Change-Linked M.E.K.
Allegations made by a controversial group that has been used by hawkish Americans to push for regime change in Iran are figuring in US diplomats’ ongoing nuclear negotiations with Tehran.
The accusations, leveled by the Mujahhedin-e-Khalq (MEK), about a “secret nuclear facility” in Iran are being considered by the Obama administration during the multilateral nuclear talks with the Islamic Republic and all five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
“On this secret facility, we’re well aware of the allegations regarding that facility,” Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday at a House Foreign Relations Committee hearing. “Any questions would have to be answered to have any kind of an agreement. People should rest assured that will take place.”
Kerry was responding to a question posed by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) who specifically noted the controversial group by name.
“The MEK sometimes gives us accurate information. They are the ones that told the world about the Iranian nuclear program,” he said, referring to information believed to have been provided to the group by Israeli spies. “They now say that there’s a secret facility at Lavizan-3,” Sherman added.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), in noting the allegations, was far more praiseworthy in his assessment of the controversial militant group, calling them “our friends in the MEK.”
Kerry responded that the nature of the establishment “is yet to be determined” but that “these things are going to have to be resolved as we go forward.”
“It is a facility that we are aware of, which is on a list of facilities we have,” he said. “I’m not going to go into greater detail.”
Kerry also noted in response to a related query from Sherman concerning the facility that International Atomic Energy Association inspections are “a critical part of compliance” and “obviously part of the negotiation.”
In recent years, the State Department has dismissed MEK assessments about Iran’s nuclear program. In noting official skepticism of a 2010 claim made by the group about a facility near Qazvin, Fox News quoted PJ Crowley, State Department spokesperson at the time, saying that “the MEK has made pronouncements about Iranian facilities in the past–some accurate, some not.”
Between 1997 and 2012, the MEK was listed as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) by the State Department. The group was removed from the FTO list after it launched an intense, well-financed lobbying campaign that gained the support of many prominent former officials, including ex-Vermont Governor and Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean and former Speaker of the House and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).
It rose to prominence in Washington due to hawkish lawmakers’ bid to bring about regime change in Tehran. A Fox News report on a 2005 Congressional push to foment instability in Iran said the move involving the MEK was similar to “US support of exiles like Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress.”
The MEK had previously figured in US-engineered regime change plans, albeit in a very different way. The Bush administration, at one point, said that Iraq should be invaded, in part, for sheltering the MEK, as journalist Glenn Greenwald pointed out in 2012, noting how intelligence and concerns about terrorism are easily manipulated by pro-war forces in Washington.
Sam Knight, District Sentinel
About The Author
Since 2010, Sam Knight’s work has appeared in Truthout, Washington Monthly, Salon, Mondoweiss, Alternet, In These Times, The Reykjavik Grapevine and The Nation. In 2012, worked as a producer for The Alyona Show on RT. He has written extensively about political movements that emerged in Iceland after the 2008 financial collapse, and is currently working on a book about the subject.