[Mujahedeen-e Khalq:] A Terrorist U.S. Ally?
by Daniel Pipes and Patrick Clawson
Translations of this item:
One of the stranger news items coming out of Iraq these days concerns an Iranian opposition group called the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MeK). It's a U.S. government-designated terrorist organization that coalition forces first bombed from the air, then signed a cease-fire agreement with - and finally disarmed and protected.
Say that again?
The MeK is not your typical anti-Western group, but an organization with a strong political presence in Western capitals and over 3,000 soldiers stationed in Iraq, singularly dedicated to one goal: overthrowing its "archenemy," the Islamic Republic of Iran. Of course, during its 17 years in Iraq, it also had to do Saddam Hussein's bidding. This situation raises several questions:
Policy toward the MeK has long been quietly but intensely and bitterly debated in Washington. To curry favor with Iranian "moderates," the State Department in 1997 designated the group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Although 150 members of Congress publicly opposed this designation, a U.S. court of appeals recently upheld it.
This stark difference of views helps explain Washington's erratic policies of late. On April 15, the U.S. Army signed a cease-fire permitting the MEK to keep its weapons and use them against Iranian regime infiltrators into Iraq. This deal infuriated the State Department, which then convinced the president to undo it, leading to the strange sight of U.S. troops surrounding MeK camps on May 9, disarming its fighters and taking up positions to protect them.
That's a bad idea. Coalition forces are urgently needed to restore order elsewhere in Iraq. And State is dreaming if it thinks the sight of U.S. troops guarding the MEK will mollify Iran's mullahs.
Instead, as the U.S. Army recommends, MEK members should (after giving assurances not to attack Iranian territory) be permitted enough arms to protect themselves from their Iranian opponents. And in November, when the secretary of state next decides whether or not to re-certify the MEK as a terrorist group, he should come to the sensible conclusion that it poses no threat to the security of the United States or its citizens, and remove it from the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
Finally, because Iran's mullahs irrationally fear the MeK (as shown by their 1988 massacre in the jails of Iran of 10,000 long-imprisoned MeK members and supporters), maintaining the MeK as an organized group in separate camps in Iraq offers an excellent way to intimidate and gain leverage over Tehran.
To deter the mullahs from taking hostile steps (supporting terrorism against coalition troops in Iraq, building nuclear weapons), it could prove highly effective to threaten U.S. meetings with the MeK or providing help for its anti-regime publicity campaign.
June 24, 2009 update: For a list of my writings on the MeK, see "Bibliography – My Writings on the Mujahedeen-e Khalq."
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