Supporting the Removal of Terrorist Tag from Iranian Resistance Movement

Family Security Matters – Mukasey, Ridge, Bolton, Giuliani, and Townsend Are Spot On
Thomas McInerney (Lt Gen, US Air Force Ret), Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, US Army (Ret), Professor Raymond Tanter (Reagan-Bush NSC staff)
How often do you see the A-Team of George W. Bush foreign policy advisers in back-to-back performances in Washington and Paris? Not often will you find such luminaries as Michael Mukasey, attorney general, 2007 to 2009; Tom Ridge, homeland security adviser from 2001 to 2003 and homeland security secretary, 2003 to 2005; Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York, 1993 to 2001; and Frances Fragos Townsend, homeland security adviser to George W. Bush, 2004 to 2008 singing from the same song sheet of conservative foreign policy at home and abroad.

 Joined by President Bush’s former Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton in Washington, these five prominent Bush foreign policymakers made breaking news in highlighting the Iranian threat to the United States but also suggesting ways to counter that threat by focusing on an Iranian solution: removal of the unwarranted terrorist tag on a principal Iranian opposition group—the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK).
 
Their basic argument is sound: The designation is unjustified because the Clinton administration placed the MEK on the list of terrorist organizations for nonterrorist reasons, e.g., to encourage Tehran to engage with Washington; and the Bush administration mistakenly kept the MEK on the list out of fear that the Iranian regime would send additional arms to Iraq for killing American soldiers, which Tehran did in any event.
 
Moreover, the United Kingdom and then the European Union removed the MEK from their respective terrorist lists after being prompted by the Courts, which conducted a thorough review of open source and classified evidence. As a result of such actions, the terrorist tag seems unjustified by historical circumstances.
 
The reasonable argument of the five former policymakers can be corroborated with direct evidence that the terrorist designation is without merit; indeed, the historical evidence affirms their conclusion that the designation is problematic at best. 
 
As input to the UK and EU decisions to overturn the MEK designations, one British court found that, “there have been no offensive operational attacks by PMOI [MEK] operatives inside Iran since August 2001.” And the UK Court of Appeal upheld that finding and concluded that classified material bolstered the idea that the Government could not have reasonably maintained that the MEK intended in the future to resort to terrorism.
 
Building on the European findings, the Iran Policy Committee searched three huge electronic databases for evidence of whether the MEK deserved to be listed as a terrorist organization: National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Worldwide Incident Tracking System (WITS); Global Terrorism Database, (GTD), University of Maryland; RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents.
 
The IPC study concluded that in three major public databases on terrorism, there are no confirmed and credible reports labeling the MEK as a perpetrator of any military incident after 2001; because MEK members in Iraq were under U.S. military round-the-clock monitoring and protection between 2003 and 2009, the plausibility of the MEK engaging in terrorist activities, or having capacity to commit terrorism is close to zero during this period; and in the Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism (CRT) 2007, 2008, and 2009, the 2006 accusation that the MEK has “capacity and will” to commit terrorism or terrorist activities does not reappear, suggesting there is no public basis for the Secretary to assert the MEK retains the capability and intent to engage in terrorism and terrorist activities.
 
To maintain the designation of a group absent terrorism or terrorist activity in the past two years, the State Department must show “current” capability and intent to carry out such activities that would threaten the national security interests of the United States or the security of U.S. nationals. Capability and intent (planning, training, and arming) also relate to the past two years.
 
Although Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held that the MEK continues to be a foreign organization that engages in terrorist activity or terrorism or retains the capability and intent to do so, there is no basis in the public record to justify such a conclusion.
 
It is unreasonable to believe terrorist capability and intent were hidden from the watchful eyes of U.S. military monitors who also protected the MEK in Camp Ashraf Iraq during the period of Secretary Rice’s January 2009 reconsideration of the designation; consequently, the credibility of the classified record would have to be beyond challenge to justify redesignation. In fact, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit questioned the credibility of classified sources used by the Secretary when the Court remanded the designation to State for further review consistent with due process of law procedures.
 
It is ironic for the State Department to appease the Ayatollahs of Iran by designating as terrorist one of their main opponents about which there is no public evidence of military incidents; terrorism or terrorist activities; or capability and intent not only during the legally binding time for the designation to be valid, but also in the last 10 years.
 
On the basis of a designation based on nonterrorist criteria; lack of evidence in the public record of MEK involvement in terrorism, terrorist activities, or current capability and intent; as well as doubts expressed by the Federal Appeals Court of the credibility of classified sources used in the redesignation, the terrorist tag on the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq is simply perverse.  
 
It is in the U.S. interest to correct this unwarranted designation; by doing so, President Barack Obama would place the United States in a much stronger diplomatic position in the aftermath of the failed Istanbul nuclear talks with Iran, January 21-22. Although it may be asking too much to expect Obama to follow the suggestions of Mukasey, Ridge, Bolton, Giuliani, and Townsend, the race for a bipartisan center in domestic policy by the Obama administration following the shellacking in the November midterms might be followed by a similar move in foreign policy.
 
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Paul E. Vallely, Major General (USA/Ret.) is an author, military strategist and Chairman of Stand Up America and Save Our Democracy Projects.  Dr. Raymond Tanter is an Affiliate of Government Department, Georgetown University, Adjunct Scholar at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan. He is also President of the Iran Policy Committee. Thomas McInerney is a retired Lieutenant General from the United States Air Force, with experience of more than 4,100 flying hours. He flew 407 combat missions in Vietnam and is now a contributor on Fox News. He is also a member of the Iran Policy Committee.

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