US Envoy Becomes Next to Refuse Attending House Hearing Due to MKO Leader’s Attendance

Former US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford joined former State Department counter-terror official Daniel Benjamin as a second witness that refused to testify at a House hearing because of the presence of the leader of the anti-Iran Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO also known as MEK, PMOI and NCRI) in the meeting.

“I didn’t want to be on a panel with the MEK. I was shocked they invited the MEK. What the MEK has to do with the ISIL, I don’t have a clue,” Ford told FP.

“I told the committee to put me on a panel without the MEK or I wouldn’t appear,” the former envoy stressed.

The April 29 hearing, in front of a House subcommittee on terrorism and nonproliferation, will focus on the threat from the ISIL, which has overrun much of Syria and Iraq. Among the invited speakers is Maryam Rajavi, president of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which is the umbrella organization for groups that include Mojahedeen-e-Khalq (MKO), the foreign policy reported.

Earlier, former State Department counterterror official Daniel Benjamin balked at sharing the spotlight with terrorist group’s leader.

Daniel Benjamin, formerly the State Department’s counterterror coordinator, also was slated to testify at the House hearing. But on Monday, Benjamin declared that “I will not appear at a hearing” about the ISIL with the MKO’s leader, because “I know of no substantive expertise that the MKO has developed on the ISIL.” News of Benjamin’s cancellation was first mentioned on Twitter by ALM Congress Pulse.

In an email to Foreign Policy, Benjamin noted that the MKO’s “exclusive focus” of concern has for decades been Iran. “So one has to wonder what the purpose of Rajavi’s presence on this panel is,” said Benjamin, who is now director of an international studies program at Dartmouth University.

“Being delisted as a Foreign Terrorist Organization — a decision I took part in — doesn’t mean that this group … has suddenly … become trustworthy or worthy of engagement,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a follow-up interview with Foreign Policy, Benjamin — who had a role in the State Department’s decision to delist the MEK — criticized the House panel for agreeing to let Rajavi testify by video. He said that is not a perk that is offered to US witnesses.

“Why won’t she travel here to testify?” Benjamin asked.

"MEK offered me tens of thousands of dollars to speak on its behalf, but i turned down the request," he underlined.

“This is still a group that has American blood from killings in the 1970s on its hands and killed many other innocents as well. That has never been apologized for,” the former senior American official stressed.

The Obama administration believed the MKO was providing misinformation in an effort to derail recent nuclear talks with Iran. During negotiations the MKO insisted Tehran was building underground nuclear facilities, an assertion dismissed by the State Department.

The MKO, founded in the 1960s, blended elements of Islamism and Stalinism and participated in the overthrow of the US-backed Shah of Iran in 1979. Ahead of the revolution, the MKO conducted attacks and assassinations against both Iranian and western targets.

The group started assassination of the citizens and officials after the revolution in a bid to take control of the newly-established Islamic Republic. It killed several of Iran’s new leaders in the early years after the revolution, including the then President, Mohammad Ali Rajayee, Prime Minister, Mohammad Javad Bahonar and the Judiciary Chief, Mohammad Hossein Beheshti who were killed in bomb attacks by the MKO members in 1981.

The group fled to Iraq in 1986, where it was protected by Saddam Hussein and where it helped the Iraqi dictator suppress Shiite and Kurd uprisings in the country.

The terrorist group joined Saddam’s army during the Iraqi imposed war on Iran (1980-1988) and helped Saddam and killed thousands of Iranian civilians and soldiers during the US-backed Iraqi imposed war on Iran.

Since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the group, which now adheres to a pro-free-market philosophy, has been strongly backed by neo-conservatives in the United States, who argued for the MKO to be taken off the US terror list.

The US formally removed the MKO from its list of terror organizations in early September, one week after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent the US Congress a classified communication about the move. The decision made by Clinton enabled the group to have its assets under the US jurisdiction unfrozen and do business with the American entities, the State Department said in a statement at the time.

In September 2012, the last groups of the MKO terrorists left Camp Ashraf, their main training center in Iraq’s Diyala province. They have been transferred to Camp Liberty. Hundreds of the MKO terrorists have now been sent to Europe.

Earlier this month, the managing editor of Veterans Today from Atlanta said the number of Iranian terror victims is “in effect almost six 9/11’s,” but these attacks never got enough coverage in international media.

Jim W. Dean said even now, very few people know the scale of the Iranians who were killed in terrorist acts. “I would imagine your maimed casualties would also be high, and those statistics should be publicized as well.”

He went on to say that despite this great number of terror victims, “Iran did not crank up a huge War on Terror that slaughtered countless thousands of innocents, as happened with the Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld gangsters and their army of helpers.”

The US political analyst underscored that the story of Iranian victims of terror, “with all of its gory details,” still has to be brought to the international audience. “The Western media blackout shows they fear their audiences wanting to know more about why this was being covered up and eventually figuring out that these were offensive Western Intel operations during peacetime.”

"You have been maligned in Western media as a longtime supporter of international terrorism, but we know that hiding the history of Iran having been the top victim of terrorism was part of the false propaganda," he continued.

“Suppressing publicity of your being the major victim of terrorism at the time played a key role in falsely casting Iran as a major terror threat to everyone else,” Dean continued. “This is what people remember as it was an organized campaign in the Jewish controlled media for years and years.”

Regarding the presence of Iranian terrorist groups such as MKO in the US and their role in anti-Iran policies, Jim Dean said, “They have no negative profile here whatsoever. They are presented as oppressed freedom fighters and that is all the public ever hears.”

He pointed out that American people would be shocked, if Iranian terror victim groups and families were constantly touring the American college campuses and the church networks on speaking tours. “But the Zionist Lobby, the NeoCons and Christian Zionists would fight any attempt to do this, but that would be good as it would show they fear exposure.”

The US veteran went on to say that Iran should not act alone in exposing the state sponsors of terrorism, “as the victims of terror are now manufactured on an industrial scale, most of it state-sponsored terrorism, and the guilty parties naturally dread having this exposed.” “This is why I feel Iran is in a unique position to be the tip of the spear for efforts to uncover the long sordid history of state-sponsored terrorism and to publicize it on a continual basis to challenge the various nations involved to hold their leaders and operational organs responsible.”

“Their goal to destabilize target countries to protect their own nations will not be believable once the truth is out that these were purely offensive operations straight out of the Cold War operations manual, where anything could be done to hurt ‘the other side’ and be done with immunity, despite there being no state of war existing.”

He also made a reference to the Zionists’ killing of Iranian nuclear scientists and said, “Unfortunately, we see old tactics being reused, the ones with a track record of being successful and low risk.” “The killing of a few scientists would not have much effect on a major program. Personnel losses get replaced. And with 20/20 hindsight, we see from the 18 months of nuclear talks with Iran that neither Israel nor Britain ever disclosed any hard evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.”

He finally said that he saw Iran nuclear deal as “an offering of good will from Obama,” and that “he wants to turn the corner on the sordid past of US diplomacy and start a new era.” “The average American is not aware of how our CIA and British intelligence basically hijacked your country and terrorized it under the Shah for a long time. No reparations for that flagrantly offensive act have ever been discussed here.”

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