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Thread: State Department Is Moving To Take MeK Off Banned List At Risk Of Angering Iran

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    State Department Is Moving To Take MeK Off Banned List At Risk Of Angering Iran

    Iran Exile Group Nears U.S. Rebirth
    State Department Is Moving to Take MeK Off Banned List at Risk of Angering Iran

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...860446952.html

    By JAY SOLOMON And EVAN PEREZ
    5/15/2012

    WASHINGTON—The Obama administration is moving to remove an Iranian opposition group from the State Department's terrorism list, say officials briefed on the talks, in an action that could further poison Washington's relations with Tehran at a time of renewed diplomatic efforts to curtail Iran's nuclear program.

    The exile organization, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MeK, was originally named as a terrorist entity 15 years ago for its alleged role in assassinating U.S. citizens in the years before the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and for allying with Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein against Tehran.

    The MeK has engaged in an aggressive legal and lobbying campaign in Washington over the past two years to win its removal from the State Department's list. The terrorism designation, which has been in place since 1997, freezes the MeK's assets inside the U.S. and prevents the exile group from fundraising.

    Senior U.S. officials said on Monday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet to make any final decision on the MeK's status. But they said the State Department was looking favorably at delisting MeK if it continued cooperating by vacating a former paramilitary base inside Iraq, called Camp Ashraf, which the group had used to stage cross-border strikes into Iran.

    The group has already renounced terrorism, which was the main earlier sticking point. Residents have resisted leaving the camp because they feared retribution if they were returned to Iran and political irrelevancy abroad.

    The U.S. officials said Mrs. Clinton would make her final decision on the MeK's status no less than 60 days after the last MeK member is relocated from Camp Ashraf to a new transit facility near Baghdad International Airport. The U.S. is working with the United Nations to resettle Camp Ashraf residents in third countries. Roughly 1,200 people remain at the camp from an earlier population of over 3,000.

    "The MeK's cooperation in the successful and peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf…will be a key factor in her decision regarding the MeK's [foreign-terrorist organization] status," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Monday.

    Western and Iranian diplomats are concerned that the MeK issue could draw serious recriminations from Tehran, which has been fixated on neutralizing the group. Many of Iran's top leaders, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, were targets of MeK attacks during the 1980s.

    Iran has regularly accused Western countries of hypocrisy for providing shelter to MeK members while criticizing Tehran's support for militant groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories. "We believe that despite the claims that others make about fighting terrorism, they [Western nations] provide the most support for terrorist groups," Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said last week. "In Europe, the MeK has already been removed from the list of terrorist organizations and they are completely safe to continue their activities."

    U.S. officials said that the moves weren't related to coming nuclear talks, but are tied to the MeK's legal challenge to its designation in a Washington appeals court.

    A judge ordered the State Department to review the MeK's status nearly two years ago, and congressional rules maintain the process should take only 180 days.

    "There is a great deal of animosity among Iranian officialdom toward the MeK. But Our delisting has to be done by the facts and the law," said a senior U.S. official. "Any move to delist should not be seen as a sign of our support."

    Other officials briefed on the MeK issue said Mrs. Clinton purposefully tied the closing of Camp Ashraf to the designation issue to defuse a thorny diplomatic issue between Washington and Baghdad. The U.S. military had provided security at the camp before pulling its forces from Iraq last year. Baghdad now controls the camp and has threatened to return MeK members to Iran if it isn't swiftly closed.

    These officials stressed that Mrs. Clinton could still rule against delisting the MeK due to other information gathered on its role in terrorism. But they acknowledged it would be difficult politically for Mrs. Clinton to maintain the designation after publicly stating the importance of the Camp Ashraf issue.

    "The secretary's statement was clear that there's a relationship between delisting and closing Ashraf. It is also true that we are making progress," said an official briefed on the deliberations. "To make that assertion on your own that the MeK will be removed is a realistic one. But in policy making you never know for sure what will happen."

    The MeK's status has become an explosive political issue inside Washington and a major irritant in U.S.-Iranian relations.

    The group, despite its history of terrorism and anti-Americanism, reoriented itself after Saddam Hussein's 2003 fall and the capturing of Camp Ashraf by U.S. forces. The MeK renounced violence and turned over its weapons. And it has cooperated with the U.S. and U.N. in gathering intelligence on Iran's nuclear program.

    This ideological shift by the MeK has been accompanied by an intensive lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill. A number of former senior U.S. officials said they were offered payments to speak on behalf of the MeK, including James Jones, President Barack Obama's former national security adviser, and James Woolsey, the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency.

    Mr. Jones confirmed last year that he received a fee, but declined to specify how much. Mr. Woolsey said he waives his usual speaker's fee.

    Take a look at key dates in the U.S.-Iran relationship and recent international sanctions, details on major players, a map of major nuclear sites, and possible naval strategies.

    The Treasury Department has an continuing inquiry into payments made to MeK advocates, for possible violation of sanctions that prohibit financial dealings with terrorist groups. It is unclear how any delisting would affect that probe.

    The deliberations over the MeK's status come as the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, are gathering in Baghdad next week for negotiations with Iran aimed at curbing its nuclear program. Officials from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency met Monday with Iranian officials in Vienna and pressed for greater access to the country's nuclear facilities.

    Diplomats and Iran analysts worry that any moves to delist the MeK could result in Iran driving up its demands at the negotiating table. Tehran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons, but also says it needs advanced weapons systems to guard against the U.S. and other hostile states. The MeK issue will likely be perceived in Tehran as another American-led effort to topple Iran's theocratic government, these analysts said.

    "In the cynical, conspiratorial world view of the Iranian regime, delisting the MeK will be interpreted in Tehran as validation that Washington's underlying goal is regime change, not behavior change," said Karim Sadjadpour of Washington's Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    Critics of the MeK allege that the organization has no major support inside Iran and that its leaders, who are based outside Paris, run the group like a cult. They also worry that any perceived U.S. support for it could undercut the Iranian opposition, known as the Green Movement, which pushed for democratic change during 2009 street protests.

    Still, the organization has large support on Capitol Hill. And some lawmakers are seeking to use the possible delisting of the organization to begin providing U.S. financial support. Congress took similar steps in the 1990s to provide funding to Iraq's opposition and, in particular, the exiled politician, Ahmad Chalabi.

    "If there's a coalition against the mullahs, then we should fund that coalition, and the MeK should be a part of it," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R., Calif.). He cautioned that for now, he wasn't advocating directly funding MeK. "The MeK has the resources to resist and fight the mullah dictatorship. They don't need our money, they just need us to get out of the way and take the shackles off."
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    Likely victory for MeK shills
    Former U.S. officials, paid to advocate for a designated Terror group, are now on the verge of succeeding

    http://www.salon.com/2012/05/15/like...lls/singleton/

    By Glenn Greenwald
    5/15/2012

    A bipartisan band of former Washington officials and politicians has spent the last two years aggressively advocating on behalf of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MeK), an Iranian dissident group that has been formally designated for the last 15 years by the U.S. State Department as a “foreign Terrorist organization.” Most of those former officials have been paid large sums of money to speak at MeK events and meet with its leaders, thus developing far more extensive relations with this Terror group than many marginalized Muslims who have been prosecuted and punished with lengthy prison terms for “materially supporting a Terrorist organization.” These bipartisan MeK advocates have been demanding the group’s removal from the Terror list, advocacy that has continued unabated despite (or, more accurately, because of ) reports that MeK is trained and funded by the Israelis and has been perpetrating acts of violence on Iranian soil aimed at that country’s civilian nuclear scientists and facilities (also known as: Terrorism).

    Now, needless to say, the State Department appears likely to accede to the demands of these paid bipartisan shills:
    The Obama administration is moving to remove an Iranian opposition group from the State Department’s terrorism list, say officials briefed on the talks, in an action that could further poison Washington’s relations with Tehran at a time of renewed diplomatic efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.

    The exile organization, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MeK, was originally named as a terrorist entity 15 years ago for its alleged role in assassinating U.S. citizens in the years before the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and for allying with Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein against Tehran.

    The MeK has engaged in an aggressive legal and lobbying campaign in Washington over the past two years to win its removal from the State Department’s list. . . . Senior U.S. officials said on Monday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet to make any final decision on the MeK’s status. But they said the State Department was looking favorably at delisting MeK if it continued cooperating by vacating a former paramilitary base inside Iraq, called Camp Ashraf, which the group had used to stage cross-border strikes into Iran.
    This highlights almost every salient fact about how Washington functions with regard to such matters. First, if you pay a sufficiently large and bipartisan group of officials to lobby on your behalf, you will get your way, even when it comes to vaunted National Security and Terrorism decisions; if you pay the likes of Howard Dean, Fran Townsend, Wesley Clark, Ed Rendell, Rudy Giuliani, Tom Ridge and others like them to peddle their political influence for you, you will be able to bend Washington policy and law to your will. As Andrew Exum put it this morning: “I guess Hizballah and LeT just need to buy off more former administration officials.”

    Second, the application of the term “Terrorist” by the U.S. Government has nothing to do with how that term is commonly understood, but is instead exploited solely as a means to punish those who defy U.S. dictates and reward those who advance American interests and those of its allies (especially Israel). Thus, this Terror group is complying with U.S. demands, has been previously trained by the U.S. itself, and is perpetrating its violence on behalf of a key American client state and against a key American enemy, and — presto — it is no longer a “foreign Terrorist organization.”

    Third, this yet again underscores who the actual aggressors are in the tensions with Iran. Imagine if multiple, high-level former Iranian officials received large sums of money from a group of Americans dedicated to violently overthrowing the U.S. government and committing acts of violence on American soil, and the Iranian Government then removed it from its list of Terror groups, thus allowing funding and other means of support to flow freely to that group.

    Fourth, the rule of law is not even a purported constraint on the conduct of Washington political elites. Here, the behavior of these paid MeK shills is so blatantly illegal that even the Obama administration felt compelled to commence investigations to determine who was paying them and for what. As a strictly legal matter, removing MeK from the Terror list should have no effect on the criminality of their acts: it’s a felony to provide material support to a designated Terror group — which the Obama DOJ, backed by the U.S. Supreme Court, has argued, in a full frontal assault on free speech rights, even includes coordinating advocacy with such a group (ironically, some of this Terror group’s paid advocates, such as former Bush Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend, cheered that Supreme Court ruling when they thought it would only restrict the political advocacy of Muslims, not themselves).

    The fact that the Terror group is subsequently removed from the list does not render that material support non-criminal. But as a practical matter, it is virtually impossible to envision the Obama DOJ prosecuting any of these elite officials for supporting a group which the Obama administration itself concedes does not belong on the list. The removal of this group — if, as appears highly likely, it happens — will basically have the same effect, by design, as corrupt acts such as retroactive telecom immunity and the shielding of Bush war crimes and Wall Street fraud from any form of investigation: it will once again bolster the prime Washington dictate that D.C. political elites reside above the rule of law even when committing violations of the criminal law for which ordinary citizens are harshly punished.

    * * * * *

    Speaking of the assault on the free speech rights of Muslim critics of the U.S. under the guise of “material support” prosecutions (an assault which also erodes free speech rights for everyone), Michael May has a great long article in The American Prospect on the horrendous, free-speech-threatening prosecution of Tarek Mehanna, whose extraordinary sentencing statement I published here.

    UPDATE: In 2003, when the Bush adminstration was advocating an attack on Iraq, one of the prime reasons it cited was “Saddam Hussein’s Support for International Terrorism.” It circulated a document purporting to prove that claim (h/t Hernlem), and one of the first specific accusations listed was this:
    Iraq shelters terrorist groups including the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO), which has used terrorist violence against Iran and in the 1970s was responsible for killing several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians.
    So the group that was pointed to less than a decade ago as proof of Saddam’s Terrorist Evil is now glorified by both political parties in Washington and — now that it’s fighting for the U.S. and Israel rather than for Saddam — is no longer a Terror group.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    US court demands decision on MEK's 'terror' listing
    An MEK member displays the group's flag Removing the MEK from the terror blacklist would allow it to lobby the US Congress directly

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-18308879

    6/2/2012

    A US appeals court has ordered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to decide within four months whether a dissident Iranian group should be removed from the US terror blacklist.

    The long delays in acting on the group's petition to be removed were "egregious", the court said.

    The Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) had asked the court to give Mrs Clinton just 30 days to decide.

    It says its presence on the list puts members living in Iraq under threat.

    The MEK, also known as the People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) led a guerrilla campaign against the US-backed Shah of Iran during the 1970s and also opposed Iran's clerical leaders who replaced the Shah.

    It was given refuge in Iraq by Saddam Hussein but has fallen out of favour with Iraq's new Shia-dominated leadership.

    Members of the group have been based at a refugee camp in Iraq but Baghdad is taking steps to expel them.

    In Friday's ruling, the US Court of Appeals in Washington said the PMOI had been left in "administrative limbo" by Mrs Clinton, reported AFP news agency.

    Mrs Clinton had not ruled on its petition to be removed from the terror list in 600 days, despite being given only 180 days to do so by the US Congress.

    The court gave Mrs Clinton four months to rule or it would issue a so-called writ of mandamus order and remove the group from the list itself.

    But the court refused to take that step immediately, citing "national security and foreign policy concerns".

    Expensive campaign
    In a written response, state department spokesman Mark Toner said it intended to comply with the ruling, reported Reuters news agency.

    The ruling was welcomed by PMOI leader Maryam Rajavi as a "triumph of justice", AFP reported. She said maintaining the terrorist designation would be "illegitimate and unlawful".

    Those backing the MEK have staged a very expensive campaign to call for the group to be removed - a move that would enable the MEK itself officially to lobby Congress, the BBC's Bahman Kalbasi has previously reported.

    But detractors say the government should not bow to the group, saying ample evidence remains to justify keeping them on the terror list.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    MEK victims warn Lobby groups - "we will claim compensation from MEK beneficiaries"

    http://www.sacbee.com/2012/06/17/456...by-groups.html

    By Iran-Interlink
    Published: Sunday, Jun. 17, 2012 - 5:14 am

    LONDON, June 17, 2012 -- /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Iran-Interlink -- Critics of Iran's human rights record are being warned by former MEK members in Europe not to be fooled into giving support to a terrorist cult. The Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) wants to be removed from the U.S. FTO list and is using front organisations to lure paid speakers to a campaign rally in VillePinte, Paris on 23 June.

    The warnings come after documents were made available to the U.S. Treasury linking an array of front organisation finances to companies and investments controlled by the Mojahedin-e Khalq's leader. Top MEK members are also directing political support for the campaign through proxy parliamentary groups like Friends of a Free Iran.

    Speakers' agencies are being urged to exercise extreme caution regarding the MEK's methods for recruiting support. In the U.S., former political and military heavyweights have already fallen foul of this tactic, where several are currently being investigated for aiding and abetting a terrorist entity. Those attending the rally must know they are engaged by organisations with direct links to the MEK.

    With the MEK's financial sources exposed it has become possible for victims to pursue a class action to claim compensation directly from the Rajavis.

    Victims of the MEK, including former members who say their basic human rights were denied them for years, have launched a legal case for compensation from the companies which Massoud and Maryam Rajavi use to fund their elaborate and expensive propaganda campaigns. Anne Singleton speaking for the victims said, "Individuals who accept financial recompense from the MEK through its front organisations for speeches or lobbying should know that they can no longer claim ignorance and we will pursue them through the courts to recover money which should rightfully go to compensate the victims."

    The MEK was removed from European terrorist lists on legal technicalities but concerns remain at official levels about the group's propensity to use violence.

    In spite of their public bravado, the MEK leaders are facing harsh setbacks. Massoud Rajavi's stronghold in Iraq is being dismantled by UNAMI. His wife and co-leader Maryam Rajavi was in court last week in Paris to answer to charges of terrorism related activities, fraud and slavery. Other high ranking MEK members are being pursued for murder and terrorism offences relating to Iran, Iraq and France.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    Iranian dissident group warned delisting from US terror not guaranteed

    http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/0...ot-guaranteed/

    By Jamie Crawford
    6/19/2012

    The United States warned an Iranian dissident group that it may have "over-interpreted" recent events, and should not presume its removal from the U.S. terror list is guaranteed.

    The Obama administration has told Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) an orderly departure from its base Camp Ashraf inside Iraq will be a central condition to any decision regarding the group's removal from the list.

    From Camp Ashraf, the residents travel by convoy under United Nations and Iraqi government auspices to a former U.S. base in Iraq where they can be processed and eventually re-settled to countries in Europe and elsewhere.

    Some 2,000 MEK members have left Camp Ashraf since the process began, but none have moved since May 5. Some 1,200 to 1,400 still remain at Camp Ashraf.

    "Constructive offers must be met with a constructive spirit, and not with refusals or preconditions to engage in dialogue," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said in a written statement. "Recent publicly declared conditions for cooperation, including calls for the Department to inspect Camp Ashraf as a precondition for further relocations to Camp Hurriya, are an unnecessary distraction."

    Nuland also called on the Iraqi government to "intensify its efforts to fulfill its commitment to provide for the safety, security, and humanitarian treatment" of Camp Ashraf residents.

    "The residents’ request for the US to inspect Camp Ashraf, which Ms. Victoria Nuland has described as unnecessary in her June 18 statement, is to prevent the Iraqi government and the Iranian regime’s operatives in Iraq from stage managing of finding ammunitions and explosives at Camp Ashraf once the residents leave," said Shahin Gobadi of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a group that supports the MEK. "For this reason, the representative of the residents of Ashraf wrote to [State Department Special Advisor on Camp Ashraf] Amb. Dan Fried on June 17, 2012 that if no inspection of Ashraf is possible, he should issue a statement as a confidence building measure. He is yet to receive [sic] a response."

    MEK has waged a widespread, well-publicized campaign for enforcement of a 2010 ruling by a federal court ordering the State Department to review the group's status on the terror list.

    Earlier this month, a federal appeals court ordered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to make a decision by October 1, or the court would issue a so-called writ of mandamus to set aside the designation. The State Department has said it will comply with the ruling.

    On a conference call with reporters Monday, a senior administration official said MEK may have "over-interpreted" the court ruling, and may believe that Clinton has no choice now but to de-list the group. The official said that belief would be "quite plainly, wrong."

    Clinton "retains complete discretion on this matter," the official said. "The court has told her to deliver a decision one way or the other. They have not told her to de-list."

    The administration says it is incumbent for MEK to realize that Camp Ashraf's existence is coming to a rapid close.

    "The Iraqi government is committed to closing it," the official said on the call with reporters, "and any plan to wait out the government in the hope that something will change it - change its mind - is really quite dangerous."

    The Iraqi government has said it would like to see Camp Ashraf closed by July 20, the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

    A second senior administration official on the same call said that MEK may also have "over-interpreted" Iraqi politics and the possibility of a no-confidence vote against Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as a reason to cease cooperating in the eventual closure of Camp Ashraf.

    "We believe the MEK may indeed calculate that a change of government in Iraq could rebound to their advantage, and they may be able - and they might be able to stay," the second official told reporters. MEK are "gravely mistaken" to think any Iraqi government "would, in fact, allow them to remain as a paramilitary organization in Iraq," the official said. "We think that their time in Iraq is over."

    The official said the push for a no-confidence vote on Maliki appears to be receding.

    MEK was placed on the terror list in 1997 because of the deaths of Americans during attacks in the 1970s against the U.S.-backed shah of Iran.

    The U.S. says MEK engaged for years in terrorist activities in Iran, launched from bases in Iraq, including assassinations of high-level Iranian officials and attacks in Iran with heavy weaponry. The group was granted refuge in Iraq by Saddam Hussein during and after the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

    MEK supports the overthrow of the Iranian theocracy.

    The terrorist designation prohibits Americans from providing material support to the organization, but a number of high-profile former U.S. officials have taken up the cause of the MEK and called for it to be de-listed. Some of them have received speaking fees for that support.

    The Treasury Department currently is issuing subpoenas to some speakers bureaus for information on the source of those funds.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    U.S. steps up warnings on Iran dissident camp in Iraq

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2...hraf-mek-khalq

    July 06, 2012|Andrew Quinn | Reuters

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States warned an Iranian dissident group on Friday that time was running out for it to vacate its Iraqi base camp, and said its hope to be taken off the official U.S. blacklist of terrorist organizations could depend on its compliance.

    Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's coordinator for counter-terrorism, said the Mujahadin-e Khalq (MEK) must complete its move from the Camp Ashraf facility, which the Iraqi government has vowed to close by July 20.

    "It is past time for the MEK to recognize that Ashraf is not going to remain an MEK base in Iraq," Benjamin told reporters, saying Baghdad's patience was running out.

    "The Iraqi government is committed to closing it, and any plan to wait out the government in the hope that something will change is irresponsible and dangerous."

    The dissident group, which calls for the overthrow of Iran's clerical leaders, is no longer welcome in Iraq under the Shi'ite-led government that came to power after Saddam Hussein's downfall in 2003.

    Also known as the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran, the group led a guerrilla campaign against the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran during the 1970s that also included attacks on U.S. targets.

    The United States added the MEK to its official list of foreign terrorist organizations in 1997, but the group has since said that it has renounced violence and has mounted a legal and public relations campaign to have its terrorist designation dropped.

    COURT DEADLINE
    Last month, a U.S. appeals court asked U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to make her determination on the MEK's status by October, a ruling hailed as a victory by MEK supporters.

    But U.S. officials have stressed that Clinton - who has herself said that the disposition of Camp Ashraf will be key to her eventual decision - may still find against the group.

    "MEK leaders appear to believe that the secretary has no choice now but to delist them. That conclusion is quite plainly wrong," Benjamin said.

    "The MEK's relocation will assist the secretary in determining whether the organization remains invested in its violent past or is committed to leaving that past behind."

    A spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran in Paris, an affiliated group, said Clinton should base her decision only on the statutory criteria, not the status of Camp Ashraf.

    Shahin Gobadi said the relocation would be completed only when a standing list of demands covering items including air conditioners, power generators and private property at the new facility were met.

    "The residents and the leadership of Camp Ashraf have said time and again that if their minimum life support needs are provided, they will immediately relocate," he said in an emailed statement, calling the notion of a July 20 deadline "ridiculous."

    Despite repeated U.S. appeals to close the camp and the successful relocation of some 2,000 MEK members to a new holding facility near Baghdad, the group continues to have 1,200-1,300 members at Camp Ashraf and has taken no steps to relocate them since May 5.

    The MEK has complained of mistreatment and poor conditions at the new facility, a large former U.S. military base, and U.S. officials say they have urged the Iraqi government to take steps to address some of the group's concerns.

    Daniel Fried, Clinton's special advisor on Ashraf, said that while the Iraqi government had shown flexibility on earlier deadlines for Camp Ashraf, there was no indication it would do so again unless there were signs of significant movement from the camp by July 20.

    "That date should put everyone on notice, and the MEK on notice, that it needs to proceed with the next convoy of people out of Camp Ashraf," Fried said.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    Q&A: what is the MEK and why did the US call it a terrorist organization?
    The MEK cut a 'swath of terror' in the Middle East, but leaders have worked hard to convince the west they are peaceful now

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2...?newsfeed=true

    Chris McGreal in Washington
    guardian.co.uk, Friday 21 September 2012 15.21 EDT

    Why did the US designate the MEK a terrorist organisation in 1997?
    The MEK's supporters say it was banned as a move by the Clinton administration to appease the Iranian government. The US state department, which decides which groups to include on the list of designated terrorist organisations, points to a long and bloody history.

    The MEK ran a bombing campaign inside Iran against the Shah's regime the 1970s. The targets were sometimes American, including the US information office, Pepsi Cola, PanAm and General Motors. The group routinely denounced Zionism and "racist Israel", and called for "death to America".

    A state department report in 1992 identified the MEK as responsible for the killing of six Americans in Iran during the 1970s. They included three military officers and three men working for Rockwell International, a conglomerate specialising in aerospace including weapons, who were murdered in retaliation for the arrest of MEK members over the killings of the US military officers.

    The MEK was an enthusiastic supporter of the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran following the Iranian revolution. It called the eventual release of the American hostages a "surrender".

    After falling out with Iran's new rulers, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, the MEK launched a bomb campaign against the Islamic government. In 1981, it attacked the headquarters of the Islamic Republic Party, killing 74 senior officials including the party leader and 27 members of parliament. A few months later it bombed a meeting of Iran's national security council, killing Iran's president and the prime minister.

    The state department described the MEK as cutting a "swath of terror" across the country in the following years and of "violent attacks in Iran that victimise civilians".

    "Since 1981 the [MEK] have claimed responsibility for murdering thousands of Iranians they describe as agents of the regime," the report said.

    The bombings continued into the 1990s including one at Khomeini's tomb and against oil refineries.
    Who supported the MEK?

    After the MEK leadership fell out with the Islamic regime it fled first to Paris. France expelled the MEK leader, Masud Rajavi, in 1986. The group then ran into the arms of Iran's enemy, the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein. Iraq helped arm the MEK's thousands of fighters with artillery, guns and tanks and housed them in three camps near Baghdad and along the border with Iran. Baghdad also supplied money.
    saddam hussein MEK Saddam Hussein helped arm the MEK's fighters. Photograph: AP

    The MEK's armed wing, the National Liberation Army (NLA), conducted raids into Iran during the last stages of the Iran-Iraq war. It also became a tool of Saddam Hussein's campaign of internal oppression.

    "The NLA's last major offensive reportedly was conducted against Iraqi Kurds in 1991 when it joined Saddam Hussein's brutal repression of the Kurdish rebellion," the state department report said.

    The last major act of violence committed by the MEK in the west was in 1992 when it stormed Iranian diplomatic missions in the US, Britain, Canada, Germany, France and Switzerland. The assault was in response to an Iranian air force bombing raid on an MEK base in Iraq.

    Wouldn't the killing of Americans, calls for the destruction of Israel and supporting Saddam Hussein be enough to scare off any American politician from ever supporting the MEK?
    The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 changed everything for the MEK. Its fighters at Camp Ashraf, near the Iranian border, and other sites near Baghdad were disarmed by the Americans. The MEK leadership moved swiftly to distance itself from Saddam Hussein, emphasising its opposition to the Islamic government in Tehran and casting its supporters as selfless and long suffering supporters of freedom and democracy. From then on the MEK reinvented itself in American eyes.

    Until the 1990s it was known as the People's Holy Warriors of Iran, but that's not the kind of name to win support in the west these days so it tweaked the name.

    Two decades ago, the state department identified the MEK as running what it called "a determined lobbying effort among western parliamentarians".

    "To conduct its propaganda campaign the group has established offices through western Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia and the Middle East," it said. "Through such efforts, the (MEK) attempt to transform western opprobrium for the government of Iran into expressions of support for themselves".

    The MEK leadership has played on opposition to the present Iranian leadership, which is in part bound up with concerns among US politicians over Tehran's nuclear programme and fears for Israel's security, to bury its past by portraying itself as a democratic and popular alternative to the Islamic regime.

    "Exploiting western opprobrium of the behaviour of the current government of Iran, the (MEK) posit themselves as the alternative. To achieve that goal, they claim they have the support of a majority of Iranians. This claim is much disputed by academics and other specialists on Iran, who assert that in fact the MEK have little support among Iranians," it said.

    The state department report quotes an American journalist as saying of the MEK: "They hope to transform their public image in America from terrorists to freedom fighters".

    It appears to have been largely successful in that. Few of the MEK's American backers appear to know the detail of its past, particularly the scale of its killing and the depth of its hostility to the US and Israel. Instead it described as a loyal and useful ally. Supporters say that it was the MEK that first provided the US with information about Iran's nuclear programme.

    Has the MEK changed?
    It has certainly abandoned violence, at least for now. But that is in part because it was forcibly disarmed by the US army in Iraq. It also recognises that since 9/11, bombing attacks by a mostly Muslim organisation are not likely to win it friends in the west.

    In exile, the MEK leadership established the National Council of Resistance which has evolved into what the group calls a parliament in exile.

    But the MEK is far from democratic. It is autocratically run by a husband and wife, Masud and Maryam Rajavi, who the state department say have "fostered a cult of personality".

    In its 1992 report on the MEK, the state department said the group's leadership "never practices democracy within their organisation".

    "Many Iranians who have dealt with MEK members assert that the [MEK] suppress dissent, often with force, and do not tolerate different viewpoints. The [MEK's] credibility is also undermined by the fact that they deny or distort sections of their history, such as the use of violence or opposition to Zionism. It is difficult to accept at face value promises of future conduct when an organisation fails to acknowledge its past," the report said.

    So what is the likelihood of the MEK being unbanned?
    As part of their campaign, the MEK's supporters have won a federal court order requiring the state department to make a decision on whether the group should remain on the designated terrorist list by October 1.

    Some pro-MEK activists have interpreted that as a foregone conclusion that the state department will have to delist the organisation. They have been bolstered by its unbanning in Europe.

    The MEK's well financed and organised lobbying campaign has placed enormous pressure on the state department to delist the group. But the state department has warned the MEKthat its status will in part be decided over whether it obeys a demand to leave its main camp in Iraq. Its refusal, so far, to move remaining supporters from Camp Ashraf – where it used to train its paramilitary fighters – to a former US military base near Baghdad is said by the state department to be a significant obstacle to delisting the group.

    The MEK has moved 2,000 of the 3,200 people who were living in Camp Ashraf but refuses to shift the rest. The MEK has portrayed the issue as a humanitarian one to its sympathisers in Washington, saying that all that remains in Camp Ashraf are families and that conditions in the Baghdad camp are inadequate. They say it is effectively a prison – even going so far as to call it a concentration camp – and alleged they will be vulnerable to violence from the Iraqi government and forces.

    Some US officials say that those refusing to leave shows that the MEK has not really abandoned its past.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  10. #10
    Join Date
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    Iranian exiles, DC lobbyists and the campaign to delist the MEK
    US policy change on banned Iranian group came after extraordinary fundraising operation to transform its image

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012...mek?intcmp=239

    Chris McGreal in Washington
    guardian.co.uk, Friday 21 September 2012 17.53 EDT

    To the US government, the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK) was a terrorist group alongside al-Qaida, Hamas and the Farc in Colombia. The MEK landed on the list in 1997 with American blood on its hands and by allying itself with Saddam Hussein along with a long list of bombings inside Iran.

    But the organisation is regarded very differently by a large number of members of Congress, former White House officials and army generals, and even one of the US's most renowned reporters, Carl Bernstein. They see the MEK as a victim of US double dealings with the regime in Tehran and a legitimate alternative to the Iran's Islamic government.

    That difference is in no small part the result of a formidable fundraising operation and campaign to transform the MEK's image led by more than 20 Iranian American organisations across the US. These groups and their leaders have spent millions of dollars on donations to members of Congress, paying Washington lobby groups and hiring influential politicians and officials, including two former CIA directors, as speakers.

    In a highly sensitive political game, MEK supporters have succeeded in pressing the state department into removing the group from the list of terrorist organisations after winning a court order requiring a decision to be made on the issue before the end of this month. But its supporters were forced to tread a careful path so as not to cross anti-terrorism laws.

    Only a few years ago, the US authorities were arresting pro-MEK activists and freezing the assets of front groups for "material support for a terrorist organisation". Now members of Congress openly praise the group in apparent contradiction of the anti-terrorism legislation many of them supported. Nearly 100 members of the House of Representatives backed a resolution calling on the US government to drop the MEK from the terrorist list.

    At the forefront of the campaign are several Iranian American organisations across the US. They are:

    • The Iranian American Society of Texas. It paid more than $110,000 in fees last year to a Washington lobby firm, DiGenova & Toensing, to campaign for the lifting of the ban on the MEK and the protection of its supporters still in camps in Iraq.

    The Texas group's president, Ali Soudjani, has personally donated close to $100,000 to members of Congress and their political campaigns over the past five years because, he told the Guardian, of their positions on the MEK and Iran. Among the beneficiaries were Ted Poe, a member of the House foreign affairs committee, and Sheila Jackson Lee, who have been vocal supporters of delisting the MEK. The pair appeared at a House event at Congress earlier this year also attended by Soudjani at which Poe gave support to the MEK in calling for "freedom-loving Americans [to] support a regime change in Iran". Jackson Lee described the group as the "voices of freedom". Soudjani also gave to John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives as well as the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Obama Victory Fund.

    • Colorado's Iranian American Community. One of its leaders, Saeid Ghaemi, paid close to $900,000 of his own money to a Washington lobby firm, DLA Piper, for its work to get the MEK unbanned, the protection of its members in Iraq and human rights issues. Ghaemi's brother, Mehdi, who is president of the Colorado group, paid $14,000 to fly a member of Congress, Bob Filner, to meet MEK leaders in Paris and attend the group's rallies. In the weeks before Filner spoke at an event in support of delisting the MEK last year he was the recipient of several thousand dollars in donations from Iranian Americans living outside his district.

    • The Iranian American Community of Northern California. It paid $400,000 over the past year to a Washington lobby group, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, to work on Capitol Hill to work for the removal of the MEK from the list of foreign terrorist organisations. The company assigned several former members of Congress to the account. The IACNC has also organised events in support of unbanning the MEK with appearances by Ros-Lehtinen and other prominent members of Congress as well as former White House officials.

    Its director, Ahmad Moeinimanesh, has made personal financial donations to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chair of the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee even though her congressional district is on the other side of the country in Florida, as well as to her reelection committee. She has accepted more than $20,000 in political contributions from activists who support the MEK's delisting.

    The IACNC's registered address is at a photocopying shop in Albany, California, owned by Behnam Mirabdal who has made financial donations to Ros-Lehtinen and Dana Rohrabacher, a subcommittee chairman who is among the most vigorous proponents of unbanning the MEK.

    • The Iranian Society of South Florida (ISSF). The group came to the notice of US authorities eight years ago as one of the sponsors of a fundraiser in Washington ostensibly to help victims of the Bam earthquake which killed 30,000 people. The FBI concluded it was a front for raising funds for the MEK.

    The ISSF's president and vice-president, Bahman Badiee and Akbar Nikooie, have for years made regular donations to Ros-Lehtinen. The Florida congresswoman boasts on her website of receiving an award from the ISSF.

    Nikooie also spent at least $130,000 in 2009 to pay a lobby firm, DLA Piper, to promote "human rights" in Iran, including pressing for the unbanning of the MEK in the US. Badiee contributed $3,200 to Ros-Lehtinen. He gave $2,000 to congressman Mario Diaz-Balart in March the day after he made a speech in Congress in support of the MEK.

    The principal lobbyist on the account was the former leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, Dick Armey, who a decade ago wielded considerable power and played a major role in the Republican takeover of Congress. He went on to head the Tea Party-supporting group, Freedom Works.

    Armey used his relationship with sitting members of Congress five years ago to press them to urge the then secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to unban the MEK and to support legislation that would effectively have resulted in US sponsorship of the group. He also lobbied the Pentagon, the White House and the state department in support of unbanning the MEK.

    • The California Society for Democracy in Iran. Its founder and president is Nasser Sharif who has called for the US government to "engage the Iranian people and their organized resistance". Sharif is listed as donating thousands of dollars to Rohrabacher and Filner.

    Sharif called the MEK's banning an "injustice" in an article in the Orange Country Register in which he quotes Rohrabacher in support of his cause. He has organised events at which the speakers include Ros-Lehtinen, Rohrabacher, Filner and Poe.

    Several of the groups also poured money into persuading leading politicians and former administration officials to speak on behalf of unbanning the MEK. Among those who have addressed meetings arranged by the Iranian American Community of Northern California are the former Democratic presidential candidate, Howard Dean; the former FBI director, Louis Freeh; the ex-attorney general, Michael Mukasey; and Tom Ridge, the former homeland security secretary. They have been joined by members of Congress including Ros-Lehtinen, Poe and Jackson Lee.

    Sharif's California Society for Democracy in Iran has organised meetings at which John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the UN; Andrew Card, President George W Bush's chief of staff; Mukasey, Ros-Lehtinen, Rohrabacher and other members of Congress have spoken. Several prominent former officials have acknowledged being paid significant amounts of money to speak about the MEK. The former Pennsylvania governor, Ed Rendell, has accepted more than $150,000 in speaking fees at events in support of unbanning the MEK.

    Among others who have spoken in support of delisting the group are two former CIA directors, James Woolsey and Porter Goss. Some speakers have been flown to Paris and Brussels.

    The US authorities have at times scrutinised efforts in support of unbanning the group, including launching investigations in to whether they breached laws against financial dealings with banned organisations or legislation barring material support for terrorism.

    Three years ago, seven people in California pleaded guilty to "providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organisation", and a parallel conspiracy charge, after fundraising for the MEK. Among other things the seven admitted to raising several hundred thousand dollars in collections at Los Angeles airport and other public locations in the name of a charity, the Committee for Human Rights.

    Following an investigation by the FBI's joint terrorism task force and the convictions, the US attorney's office said "the CHR was simply a front organisation for MEK fund-raising operations in the United States" and that the money was going in part to support the group's "terrorist activities".

    "We cannot allow any terrorist organisation to fundraise on our shores or to steal money from our own citizens so that they can finance their own terrorism operations," said the prosecuting US attorney, Thomas O'Brien.

    In 2004 Bush administration officials examined whether a fundraising event at a Washington DC convention centre, ostensibly on behalf of victims of the Bam earthquake, was in fact a cover for collecting money for the MEK. The organisers, the Iranian-American Community of Northern Virginia, described the $35 a head event as a "night of solidarity with Iran" and a "referendum for regime change in Iran".

    Among those paid to speak at the event was Richard Perle, at the time a defence adviser to the Bush administration and a strong advocate of invading Iraq. Perle later said he was unaware of any connection to the MEK.

    The organisers claimed the money was going to the Red Cross but even before the event was held the Red Cross said it did not want the proceeds because the fundraiser was political. The FBI concluded that the Iranian-American Community of Northern Virginia was a front for the MEK and the treasury department froze the funds raised by the event.

    Those groups cosponsoring the fundraiser included several that the FBI described as MEK front organisations or as linked to prominent supporters. These included Iranian Society of South Florida, the Iranian-American Society of Texas and Colorado's Iranian-American Community.

    The Iranian-American Society of Northern Virginia is now defunct.

    Soudjani pointedly said that the money was not intended to support the MEK but it's unbanning "in the name of freedom and justice".

    "The MEK is supporting a free Iran. That is what we are supporting," he said.

    Sharif makes a similar argument.

    "None of us are involved in illegal activities. All we're doing is bringing the issue to the attention of members of Congress," he said.

    Asked if his donation to Filner, who has a district about 2,500 miles from where Sharif lives, was because of his position on Iran and the MEK, Sharif said that it was.

    "Yes. If you see members of Congress with a good position on Iran, you can support them. This is a voluntary thing. Members of the community do this. If they feel like members of Congress have a good position in supporting these issues they are willing to support those members of Congress".

    Moeinimanesh and several other leaders of Iranian American organisations did not respond to questions. Neither did Ros-Lehtinen and other members of Congress did not respond to questions. But Rohrabacher did speak to the Guardian.

    The California congressman said he is comfortable accepting donations from MEK supporters.

    "If they want to contribute to me because I believe strongly in human rights and stand up in cases like this, that's fine. I don't check their credentials," he said.

    Rohrabacher said he is not concerned at potentially being at odds with the law.

    "When you have a person or an organisation that has been legally labelled something that is not just then you should take that label off. It doesn't undermine efforts to label terrorists when they are indeed committing acts of terrorism," he said.

    The congressman also denounced the treasury investigation of payments to speakers in support of the MEK.

    "It seems to be me this is an example where somebody's challenging a government policy and the government is trying to intimidate those who don't believe in the policy into closing their mouths. Because someone is advocating a certain position, and it goes against government policy, it doesn't mean the government should start focussing on them and try to find something they can hurt them with. That's a damper on freedom of speech," he said.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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