Terror labels shouldn’t benefit enemies

One way for the US to mitigate Iranian trouble-making capabilities is to remove restrictions on the resistance group the Iranian regime fears most

Mum not terrorist (photo credit: Reuters)
Mum not terrorist
(photo credit: Reuters)
One of the main goals of Iran’s theocratic rulers is to export and/or solidify their Shi’ite Islamic Revolution in neighboring states currently confronted with political turbulence and violence. One way for the US to mitigate such Iranian troublemaking capabilities is to remove US-imposed restrictions on the resistance group the Iranian regime fears most. Much to the dismay of Iran’s rulers and some US policy-makers, the movement to remove the Iranian Mujahedin- e-Khalq (MeK) from the US foreign terrorist organization (FTO) list has gained strength in past months, with more influential Americans joining the effort and urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to do it.
The State Department has for over 13 years branded the MeK an FTO. The group’s principal crime: trying to remove Iran’s terrorist rulers from power. The Immigration and Nationality Act applies to foreign terrorist groups and nations that threaten US security and citizens. The law requires the secretary of state to inform Congress of those meeting this stated terrorist criteria. The designation freezes assets, bars foreign nationals with terror ties from entering the United States, and criminalizes providing terrorists with material assistance.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright designated the MeK an FTO in 1997, and Great Britain and the European Union followed suit. It’s widely believed that Albright and others thought it would facilitate better relations with hostile Iranian rulers waging a one-sided “Death to America” war since 1979, earning the regime a richly deserved label as a US-designated state sponsor of terror.
Although rapprochement with Iran hasn’t succeeded during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, or modified the regime’s terrorist, hegemonic and nuclear weapons development activities, it has succeeded in disabling the MeK.
However, that situation is changing. The EU removed the MeK from its terror listings in 2009, and a US appeals court in July 2010 ordered the State Department to reevaluate the group’s designation. Court members and other Americans have raised serious doubts about the accuracy of information the Department used to label the MeK a terrorist group.
Among other things, the secretary of state’s most recent terrorism report to Congress fails to mention that the MEK (1) ceased its military campaign against the Iranian government in 2001; (2) voluntarily handed over its arms to US forces in Iraq in 2003; (3) provides valuable intelligence information to the US about Iran’s illegal nuclear activities; (4) advocates a secular, democratic, gender-equal, non-nuclear, and non-death-penalty state for Iran; (5) hasn’t had a credible allegation of terrorism recorded in the US National Counterterrorism Center, RAND, and the Global Database on Terrorism databases for many years.
THE STATE Department’s former counterterrorism coordinator (2007-2009), Ambassador Dell Dailey, whose former office is the main source for determining whether allegations of terrorist activities are true, casts light on the State Department’s dubious FTO-designation process. He said: “It brings great discredit to the United States for the MeK, which isn’t killing Americans, to be on the FTO list while Afghanistan’s Taliban, which is killing Americans in great numbers, is not. The MeK listing gives protection to an Iranian leadership which has sworn to kill us. It’s appropriate that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fix this gross embarrassment and obvious painful error by delisting the MeK as soon as possible.”
Other Americans calling for MeK delisting include former and current House Foreign Affairs Committee chairs, Reps. Lee Hamilton (D-IN) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL); president Bill Clinton’s UN envoy Bill Richardson, CIA director James Woolsey, and FBI director Louis Freeh; president George W. Bush’s attorney general Michael Mukasey, homeland security secretary Tom Ridge, and UN envoy John Bolton; President Barack Obama’s former national security advisor General James Jones; former joint chiefs chairs Generals Hugh Shelton and Peter Pace; former DNC chair Howard Dean; and former NYC mayor Rudy Guiliani. Additionally, a bipartisan coalition of 113 House members invited Secretary Clinton to delist the MeK (H.Res.1431, sponsored by Rep. Bob Filner D-CA) in June 2010.
US “terrorist” designations shouldn’t benefit America’s enemies. The Iranian regime is an enemy, the MeK is not. US security is better served by treating it as a legitimate resistance group, like the EU and Britain are now doing – enabling it to more easily join other Iranians in peaceably attempting to transform their country from a religious dictatorship to a free state.
Secretary Clinton should heed the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King as quoted by civil rights and peace champion Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) while addressing the MeK matter: “The time is always right to do right. Not next week, not next month, not next year, but now.”
The writer is a foreign policy and national security analyst who served in the Departments of State and Defense.