U.S. to Delist “Good” Terrorist Group

by Kevin Jon Heller

Just in case you are not yet convinced that the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policies are actually worse than the Bush administration’s:

The officials said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had made the decision to remove MEK from the list, and that it was expected to be formally announced in coming days.

The State Department said that Clinton sent a classified communication to Congress on Friday regarding the future status of the MEK, part of the formal notification process that would accompany removal from the terrorism list.


The U.S. decision comes after years of intense lobbying by the MEK, which had seen many of its members stranded in Iraq even as the group fell out of Baghdad’s favour after Saddam’s downfall.

The group marshalled the support of dozens of members of Congress as well as notable political, government and media figures.


The group, also known as the People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran, calls for the overthrow of Iran’s clerical leaders and fought alongside Saddam’s forces in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. It also led a guerrilla campaign against the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran during the 1970s, including attacks on American targets.

Critics of the group have accused it of maintaining cult-like discipline and demanding absolute loyalty to its Paris-based top leadership.

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

Public figures who have endorsed the MEK’s campaign included former CIA directors R. James Woolsey and Porter Goss, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former FBI Director Louis Freeh, and Mitchell Reiss, a former State Department official who is a top foreign policy adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Prominent Democratic Party figures who have supported the MEK have included former Pennsylvania and Vermont Governors Ed Rendell and Howard Dean. People familiar with its activities said that the MEK had paid generous fees to some of the notables who made speeches in support of its de-listing.

The MEK might have said it has renounced violence, but just this year the U.S. government claimed that the group was working with Israel to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists.  I guess, as Glenn Greenwald has so often pointed out, the use of violence to spread terror among civilians in order to influence a government qualifies as terrorism only when the U.S. likes the government in question.  Terrorizing civilians in order to overthrow a government that the U.S. doesn’t like is simply good old-fashioned diplomacy.

A couple of other notes.  First, notice the NYT’s use of “critics of the group.”  Until now, one of the primary critics of the MEK was the U.S. government.  Once MEK is delisted, of course, it will simply be a matter of opinion as to the group’s well-document violent past.  So expect to see the “critics of the group” expression — which makes it clear that what the U.S. government once believed is now open to debate — in all future articles about the MEK.

Second, there is at least one bright side to MEK’s delisting: it removes all doubt that the various Republicans and Democrats who have been paid to shill for delisting  — supporting “good” terrorists is, of course, one of the few bipartisan acts still possible in the U.S. — are guilty of providing material support to terrorists, a felony punishable by life in prison.  They will never be prosecuted, of course; now that MEK’s history of violence (all of six months old) has been consigned to the memory hole, Obama’s hypocritical “look forward, not backward” mantra automatically applies.

BONUS TRIVIA: The MEK’s lobbying firm, Brown Lloyd James, has also worked for Gaddafi and Assad.


5 Responses

  1. Euh, hang on, so a terrorist organisation that renounces violence should not be delisted for that reason? Or do you simply not believe that the PMOI have actually given up on violence? Remember, working with Israel does not count as terrorism as long as it is the Israelis that do the actual shooting. 

    PMOI used to be on the EU terror list as well, but that has been the subject of extensive litigation, and if I’m not mistaken they won every time. Obviously, this was mostly because of inadequate motivation on the part of the Council, but still…


  2. It doesn’t matter whether I believe the MEK has renounced violence (although I don’t); the US doesn’t believe it — or didn’t last February:

    “Deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group that is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service, U.S. officials tell NBC News, confirming charges leveled by Iran’s leaders.”

    Israel is not “doing the shooting” (though I fail to see why it would matter if they were, assuming that it was involved in a JCE with the MEK to carry out the targeted killings in Iran).  The MEK is.

    The MEK has been delisted for one reason, and one reason only: they are killing Iranians now, instead of Americans.


  3. Thanks for posting. It is very disturbing to read about the brainwashing and threats that go in the MEK camp. Somewhat sad to see Dean doing the shilling. Though very predictable that Giuliani is involved — he’s a total foreign policy flake for sale to any regime at a price.
    Still don’t agree Obama is worse than Bush. Greenwald et al have never proven that aside from showing convincing evidence that secrecy policies have become worse, and certain national security practices have continued on their logical trajectory.
    This is definitely cynical realpolitik but not worse than what we saw in regards to the INC and Iraq.

  4. The MEK isn’t officially designated as a terrorist group in the UK, EU, India, Russia, or Australia (assuming Wikipedia can be trusted). So the US would seem a comparative holdout.

  5. THought I’d add…The U.S. actually signed a ceasefire agreement with the MEK in Iraq (around 2005 I think…the first of its kind with a designated terrorist organization) which would indicate that the U.S. has not been treating the MEK precisely as a terrorist group for a while now.

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