Thousands demonstrated in Washington D.C. on August 26, calling on Secretary of State to delist MEK and protect Iranian dissidents in Camp Ashraf
OfficialWire News Bureau – By Nooredin Abedian PARIS (FRANCE)
In an unprecedented political move, thousands of Iranian expatriates supporting the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) movement converged on the State Department on Friday, August 26, to join voices with former U.S. Congressmen and senior officials to call the U.S. Government to take the MEK off its list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTO).
Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) addressed he rally in front of the State Department headquarters. The event also featured speeches by former Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA), former FBI Director Louis Freeh, former CIA Deputy Director of Clandestine Operations John Sano.
It might have been the first time in the history of the State Department that such a rally holds on its doorsteps in regards to a decision by the Department. It certainly marks a point in democratic values, where victims of a decision on “security measures” have the opportunity to express their feelings for the world to see it. It can certainly show the way to regimes like the one in power in Tehran, that know no way other than shooting defenseless demonstrators back home.
But at the same time the event shows flaws in the decision-making procedure permitting a wrong decision to prevail for long periods of time in support of a wrong and perverse policy, and shows the whole world how vulnerable democratic principles can be in the face of political interests.
The MEK was blacklisted in Washingtonin 1997 as a “goodwill gesture” to Iran in the hope that the mullahs could be placated to abandon terrorism and repression. The Clinton administration was looking for a way to establish “special” relations with Mohammad Khatami, then newly-elected president in Iran and pretending to incarnate “those who stand for reform” inside the clerical regime. A senior White House official said to the Los Angeles Times on October 9, 1997, that the listing was a “goodwill gesture” towards Iran’s new president. Martin Indyk, then Assistant Secretary of States for Near East Affairs, was quoted in September 2002 by Newsweek confirming that the listing was part of Clinton administration’s policy of rapprochement with the Iranian regime.
Putting Iranian politics’ considerations parallel to those concerning foreign terrorist organizations is unethical in the first place, and is detrimental to US anti terrorist policy in the second. At the end, it undermines democratic principles of coherent state behavior.
Great care should be taken to keep there only those who merit a place on that list, thus isolating the real terrorists and those who support them. Tehran’s regime is the world’s first sponsor of State terrorism, according to State Department’s categorical definitions. Listing the main opposition movement to the same regime in the FTO list sends a wrong signal to all parties. It suggests that everything, including FTO lists, can be subject to opportunistic bargaining when it comes to short or middle term political interests. Other countries might be influenced by US policy. The UK and the EU followed Clinton administration’s tracks to include, in 2001 and in 2002 consecutively, and again on specific demand byTehran, the MEK in their own “terrorism” lists. It took the movement seven years of legal fight to get off those lists. In fact, the evidence presented by the State Department’s lawyers to justify the ban is a virtual copy of the Iranian regime’s misinformation against the group. All of these allegations were introduced as evidence by various European governments to justify their blacklisting of the MEK but were subsequently dismissed as Iranian state-propaganda by the courts, and the MEK was delisted in the UK and Europe.
But even if we were putting foreign policy considerations first, the worst policy is to continue a failed policy with no reason. Mohammed Khatami never delivered the promised “reforms”. On the other hand, Hassan Rohani, his chief negotiator in nuclear affairs, later admitted that the “open” Western attitude towards Khatami permitted Iran to quietly construct its array of enrichment centrifuges needed to produce more than necessary enriched uranium to bring the country close to making its first Bomb, creating one the most serious foreign policy challenges of all US administrations thereafter. After eight years of Khatami, we are now witnessing the second four year term of Ahmadinejad.
The brutal regime in power inIranhas definitely not changed its behavior, nor has the State Department in listing the MEK.
Finally, several courts, including the US Appeal’s court have studied every bit of “proof” presented against the MEK, and concluded that it is not a terrorist organization. Among Washington DC’s speakers on August 26 was Brian Binely, conservative member of the British House of Commons, giving the complete ordeal of the British and European judiciary who studied, in long hearings over more than seven years, the case of the MEK and consecutively deciding that terrorist allegations against the movement were, ‘perverse’ and ‘flawed’. But more than mere judicial and legal aspects are at stakes.
Thousands of MEK members have repeatedly come under deadly attack in their main base in Camp Ashraf, Iraq, by Iraqi armed forces at the behest ofIran’s fundamentalist regime. Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki uses the terror label as an excuse to murder the residents. On April 8, 2011, 36 MEK members were slaughtered by Iraqi forces and hundreds of others were injured. Eleven people had lost their lives in similar attacks carried out by Maliki’s forces in July 2009. Maliki has now threatened to close the camp and expel the residents by force at the end of the year. An urgent humanitarian task would now be saving those lives, with the United Nations and the US bearing the main responsibility. A situation which would normally not have occurred were it not for the FTO listing.
This is now a matter of life and death. Maintaining this illegitimate ban on the MEK will lead to the massacre of all Camp Ashraf residents.
No decision is more legitimate. No other foreign policy issue has in the past gathered so much opposition back home. An array of former American administrative, military and state officials, including a former Attorney General, FBI director, Homeland Security Secretary, two CIA directors, three former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a former NATO commander, two former US envoys to the UN, President Obama’s ex-National Security Advisor, and political heavyweights Howard Dean, Rudi Giuliani, and Patrick Kennedy support the call for the de-listing of the MEK.
A number of bipartisan US legislators from the Senate and House of Representatives, through sending messages, expressed their solidarity with the rally of thousands of Iranians in Washington DC on August 26 calling for delisting of MeK and protection of Ashraf. They represent a Congress that has insisted since long time ago on the necessity of delisting the movement. American lawmakers are not alone in such endeavor. More than 500 British Parliamentarians from all parties and both Houses of Parliament and a total of 4,000 lawmakers globally, stand on their side.
Apart those politics, there are the Iranian people as well.
MEK leader Maryam Rajavi, speaking to the rally from France via a video message on a big screen, echoed those people’s view in reference to the April massacre in Ashraf: “The terror listing in the U.S. is openly used as a justification to legitimize such bloodletting, by both the cruel mullahs as well as their proxy government in Iraqi,” she said. “Therefore, the Iranian people are asking the United States, ‘Why are you not annulling the license to kill our children?'”
Nooredin Abedian taught in Iranian higher-education institutions before settling in France as a political refugee in 1981. He writes for a variety of publications on Iranian politics and issues concerning human rights.