PARIS (Reuters) – By Paul Taylor – The United States should remove the main exiled Iranian opposition group from its blacklist of outlawed terrorist organizations, President Barack Obama’s former national security adviser said Wednesday.
Gen. James Jones, who as the top national security official in the White House until last November pursued a diplomatic opening with Iran, said he knew of no evidence that the People’s Mujahideen were involved in terrorism.
The issue had gained new urgency since Iraqi troops attacked a camp which is home to some 3,400 Mujahideen members and their relatives northeast of Baghdad on April 8, killing 35 people and wounding more than 200, he said.
Asked whether Washington should take the Mujahideen off the blacklist, the former NATO supreme commander said: “I haven’t seen any reason not to. I haven’t heard any reason not to.”
He said it was “odd” that the United States and the Iranian government would agree on any group being a terrorist organization, given their many differences.
“We should be more in synch with the Europeans, who have already de-listed them,” Jones said.
Jones said he had been one of the architects of Obama’s policy of trying to engage Iran’s Islamic rulers in a dialogue over its nuclear program and improve relations three decades after ties were broken after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
But that policy had not yielded any breakthrough because “the Iranian regime has defined itself more clearly in the last two years or so in terms of its nuclear program and its ambitions in the region.”
Jones was in France to attend an event organized by the National Council of Resistance, the Mujahideen’s political wing, to demand international protection for Camp Ashraf, scene of this month’s deadly clash.
Asked whether the status of the Mujahideen and Camp Ashraf had ever been discussed in the National Security Council during his years in the White House, Jones said: “Nope. I didn’t know about it.”
He was joined on the podium by another former NATO commander, Gen. Wesley Clark, Nobel peace prizewinner Elie Wiesel and former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, as well as NCR leader Maryam Rajavi.
Addressing more than 1,000 cheering supporters at a congress center in a Paris suburb, Rajavi said the attack on Camp Ashraf had been jointly planned by the Baghdad and Tehran governments.
“Today, the dictatorships in Iran and Iraq are preparing a new bloodbath,” she said, appealing for United Nations and U.S. protection for the camp, and a U.N. investigation into the April 8 attack.
The Iraqi government said three people were killed when army units sent to retake land from Ashraf residents and hand it over to local farmers encountered resistance. U.N. officials who visited the camp confirmed the higher death toll.
The United States put the Mujahideen on its terrorism list in 1997, based mainly on its role in armed struggle against the Shah in the 1970s, and armed attacks on Iran from its base in Iraq under former President Saddam Hussein.
The Mujahideen supported the 1979 seizure and hostage-taking by militants at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, but split with the Islamic government in 1981 and was crushed by the security forces.
The NCR says the Mujahideen renounced armed action in 2001.
(Editing by Andrew Heavens)