FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) deplores the decision to remove the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations. The decision opens the door to Congressional funding of the MEK to conduct terrorist attacks in Iran, makes war with Iran far more likely, and will seriously damage Iran’s peaceful pro-democracy movement as well as America’s standing among ordinary Iranians.
“The biggest winner today is the Iranian regime, which has claimed for a long time that the U.S. is out to destroy Iran and is the enemy of the Iranian people. This decision will be portrayed as proof that the U.S. is cozying up with a reviled terrorist group and will create greater receptivity for that false argument,” said NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi.
Members of Iran’s democratic opposition, Iran experts, human rights defenders, and former U.S. officials have warned that delisting the MEK “will have harmful consequences on the legitimate, indigenous Iranian opposition.” Kaleme, a leading pro-democracy newspaper in Iran run by supporters of the opposition Green Movement, has warned that support for the MEK strengthens the Iranian regime. According to the opposition paper, “there is no organization, no party and no cult more infamous than the MEK amongst the Iranian nation.”
In addition, a recent NBC News report raises serious questions about whether the MEK has truly given up terrorism. Citing senior U.S. officials, NBC reported that the Mujahedin is behind the assassinations of Iranian scientists and that it has previously worked with the mastermind of the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.
“Given that U.S. officials have recently acknowledged that the MEK is still conducting terrorism in Iran, where is the evidence MEK has abandoned terrorism?” asked Abdi. “The multi-million dollar lobbying campaign undertaken by the MEK and its supporters seems to have paid off.”
Prominent former U.S. officials have been paid up to $100,000 to speak on behalf of the MEK, as part of the lobbying campaign aimed at pressuring the Obama administration to delist the group. The activities, organized through a network of MEK-associated organizations in the U.S. with no oversight of the funding sources, also raise serious questions about the selective enforcement of anti-terror laws by the U.S. government.
“Even though they have no support in Iran, the MEK will now follow the playbook of Iraqi exiles like Ahmad Chalabi who pushed the U.S. into war in an attempt to gain power,” said Abdi. “Congressional backers may also try to fund and re-arm this group to carry out terrorist attacks in Iran, which could also quickly escalate into war.”
However, the administration should be commended for successfully relocating the residents of the MEK’s paramilitary base to Camp Liberty and thus avoiding a humanitarian disaster. The Iraqi military had threatened to forcibly close the camp, and the MEK leadership had hinted that it might order a mass-suicide.
Nevertheless, a majority of the residents at Ashraf were prisoners, held against their own wishes, according to RAND. Measures must be taken now to ensure that this decision does not lead to continued entrapment of the residents by the MEK cult and its leaders. This is a critical humanitarian aspect of this issue that should not be neglected.