Mujahedin Supporters Envision "Tit for Tat" Campaign Against Iran
The Iran Policy Committee argued that the MEK is not a terrorist organization, and that the group's "hands were tied" by the U.S. terrorist designation. But they suggested that delisting the MEK would enable it to commit attacks within Iran.
Washington, DC – The Iran Policy Committee, an organization dedicated to gaining U.S. support for the Mujahedin-e Khalq, organized an event on Thursday with former U.S. officials calling for the MEK to be removed from the U.S. list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
While the panelists argued that the MEK is not a terrorist organization, they said the group's “hands were tied” by the terrorist designation and suggested that delisting the group would enable it to commit attacks within Iran.
Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney said an MEK delisting should be part of a campaign of “proactive actions” against Tehran. The MEK, he said, is the only “credible overt political-military counterforce to the Iranian regime.”
“We need a very active tit for tat policy,” said McInerney. “So every time they kill Americans, they have an accident in Iran.”
John Sano, formerly of the Central Intelligence Agency, echoed those sentiments.
“I agree one hundred percent with what the General just said, it’s got to be tit for tat. We have known that the Iranians have been in Iraq talking to our enemies. We know that the MOIS has been in Iraq causing harm to U.S. personnel. And the only thing that can counter that is force,” Sano said. “I know that may sound too militaristic, but you have to go with what your enemy understands.”
McInerney accused former Defense Secretary Robert Gates of direct complicity in deaths that occurred in Camp Ashraf, the MEK compound in Iraq, last April. “As far as I’m concerned, Secretary Gates personally approved Prime Minister Maliki’s direction of that attack,” McInerney said.
The panelists also repeated the refrain that the MEK is Iran’s “main opposition,” but did not acknowledge the well-documented popular antipathy among Iranians towards the group, which fought alongside Saddam Hussein in the Iraq-Iran war. A recent editorial in Kaleme—a publication closely associated with Iran’s Green Movement—conveyed strong opposition to the MEK, stating that a U.S. delisting of the organization would significantly set back Iran’s indigenous democracy movement. But Thursday’s panel said a delisted MEK could lead other opposition groups in Iran.
The Iran Policy Committee’s President, Ray Tanter, said his organization uses the color green for its materials because the color should not be reserved for the Green Movement and Mir Hossein Mousavi, whom Tanter said is a “sell out.”
Tanter emphasized what he said was his own extensive research regarding the MEK and Iran’s opposition, and stated that those opposing the MEK’s delisting “are running in circles” because they do not have their facts straight.
However, Tanter’s presentation included several inconsistencies. When he invoked the death of Neda Agha Soltan and pulled up a photo of the wrong person.
Tanter stated that there was no publicly available evidence that the MEK has carried out terrorist attacks since 2001, but when asked whether this was an acknowledgement that MEK had committed terror attacks before this period, he demurred.
Tanter reasoned that attacks carried out by MEK against government officials and military installations are not terrorist acts. “I do not grant that the MEK committed terrorist attacks before 2001,” he said, “I do grant that there were military activities targeting military installations.”
But when asked if his logic meant that a 2009 attack at a Fort Hood, Texas, military base that killed fifteen U.S. servicemembers was terrorism, he avoided the question.
The panel was asked if sanctions could be an effective strategy towards Iran, to which all the panelists responded no—sanctions would not work. McInerney even said that sanctions alone would make war with Iran inevitable. But moments later, Tanter recanted. Sanctions would not work, he said, but they should still be leveled against Iran’s Central Bank—a step some legal experts have called “the nuclear option” that would constitute an act of war.