Lord Maginnis Member of the British Parliamentary
Committee for Iran Freedom
George Bernard Shaw once famously said, “Political necessities sometimes turn out to be political mistakes”, and so it has turned out in relation to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). For the past 15 years the United States has pursued a policy of perceived political necessity with regard to the using this major Iranian opposition movement as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the Iranian regime.
What was once thought to be a political necessity has proven to be a political fiasco as Iran’s mullahs’ regime moves ever closer to producing a viable nuclear bomb. It is now time to put an end to this fruitless and unjust policy, and remove the terror label that was placed, unjustifiably, on the PMOI at that time.
The flawed reasoning at that time can be traced to Tehran’s precondition that the PMOI had to be branded as terror group if the regime were to engage on negotiations and the belief that ensuing negotiations would find the regime amenable to give concessions. Hence, in 1997, the United States placed this dissident Iranian group on the FTO (Foreign Terrorist Organization) list as what one senior Clinton administration official termed “a goodwill gesture” to the then perceived reformist Mohammad Khatami, who was the President of the Iranian regime at the time.
While the EU and UK followed suit, they faced inevitable legal proceedings, which resulted in the de-listing of the PMOI in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Interestingly enough, Wikileaks documents have revealed the U.K. Government’s apparent apprehension towards the de-listing of the PMOI as assessed within the Britain’s own judicial system.
However, the U.S. government’s contempt for its own judiciary’s findings was mirrored by the actions of the State Department. A ruling by the DC circuit court of appeals in 2010, found that the groups due process rights were violated, and ordered the State Department to review the designation and respond. Instead of paying heed to this court ruling, the State Department has continued to procrastinate.
Nearly two years later, in another ruling, the DC circuit court of appeals ordered a strict fourth month deadline for a response from the State Department. In its ruling, it found that the State Department “has failed to heed our remand.” They added that “the delay has the effect of nullifying our decision while at the same time preventing the PMOI from seeking judicial review.”
It seems that the threat of disturbing relations with Iran is of more importance to the West than following the rulings of the judiciary. But is this policy really a political necessity? Interestingly enough it was the PMOI that first revealed Iran’s secret nuclear program in 2002, providing a stream of intelligence on Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities and egregious conducts in other countries.
To date, and despite countless rounds of failed negotiations, overtures, and resolutions, all have yielded little in terms of concrete changes. Other tactics including computer viruses, sanctions, and isolation have slowed but not stopped Iran’s nuclear program.
With the increasing urgency to act before major and disastrous military confrontation becomes unavoidable, the US is searching for options to rein in Iran. Why then is the United States not using this opportunity to abandon its self-defeating policy of suppression of the PMOI and, instead, empower an Iranian opposition group whilst placing real pressure on Tehran? Even this belated change of direction could not only serve US interests but could finally end a legal battle which has served as an embarrassment for the State Department and its respect for the rule of law.
Furthermore, it would remove the greatest obstacle to the relocation of 3,500 PMOI members from Iraq. Third countries are unable to coordinate such an operation until the terror label is removed. Meanwhile, the Government of Iraq has, at behest of Iran’s clerical regime, used the U.S. ‘terror’ designation as an excuse for two massacres against defenceless Iranian dissidents.
Presidential elections or otherwise, the United States is now at a crossroads; with the court deadline approaching, and an urgent need for a more effective policy shift towards the Iranian threat, the time for action is now. De-listing carries no cost, either to taxpayers, or soldiers overseas, yet it must signal a powerful message to the tyrants in Tehran and indicate a U.S Government capable of critical decision-making. Whether in terms of geopolitics, jurisprudence, or humanitarian consideration, the time to de-list of the PMOI is now.
It is time to end this political mistake, and send a strong message to Tehran. Surely, it is obvious that this is the new political necessity!