Tehran hates the message so is now shooting the messengers. Cronies of the Iranian dictatorship have claimed that the many high-profile US and EU public figures speaking out over the plight of the disarmed Mujahidin-e Khalq Organisation of Iran (MEK/PMOI) – living at Camp Ashraf in north east Iraq – are doing so just because they are on its payroll.
Or is a less cynical explanation more likely to be the case? That these figures are attempting to avoid the humanitarian catastrophe that would result if a US plan to relocate the 3,400 residents deeper inside Iraq goes ahead, placing them at risk of further harassment and attack by Iraqi military in league with Tehran.
To claim that US figures such as including former homeland security secretary Tom Ridge, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former congressman Patrick Kennedy are on some sort of pay-for-hire basis for an organisation still listed by the US as “terrorist” is extremely derogatory to people of their reputations and standing. It is merely saying that they are open to being bribed, and in a highly blatant fashion. This is unacceptable propaganda and the National Iranian American Council should hang its head in shame.
Giuliani and his like are not alone in their support for the protection of Camp Ashraf by the US or UN and their calls for the MEK to be delisted from the US list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Many members of Congress are also sympathetic – the House of Foreign Affairs Committee has signed an amendment to continue to protect Camp Ashraf, which is covered by the Fourth Geneva Convention, while more than 50 of the most senior US national security, military, diplomatic and intelligence officials in the past four administrations recognise the peril facing camp residents.
At the core of this controversy is the precise current nature of US foreign policy in the region. That’s well known, isn’t it? The US regards the Iranian regime as the principal destabilising factor in the Middle East, primarily through its nuclear ambitions, and its fomenting of anti-Western sentiment and terrorism.
The Obama administration recently reported that Iran was helping al-Qaeda funnel cash and recruits into Pakistan. The Treasury Department has accused Iran of facilitating a support network for al-Qaeda that transfers large amounts of cash from Middle East donors to the terrorist group’s leaders in tribal regions.
Iran, furthermore, has played an evasive strategy with the international community over its nuclear program. Since then, Iran has ignored every warning, every deal and every ultimatum put before it by the UN and the US. If the UN and the US have already confronted Iran before only for their warnings to be ignored, that leaves the unarmed residents of Ashraf extremely vulnerable.
Iran then is no friend of the US. And there is growing acceptance in Washington among former national security officials and Congress that a policy of dialogue, incentives and limited sanctions with the mullahs of Tehran is at a dead end. So why concede anything by ignoring the vulnerability of the MEK?
The MEK has long renounced terrorism and is the foremost voice of indigenous opposition to the Tehran regime. It is without any doubt in sync with US strategic interests in the area. That is why these high-profile US figures are supporting it. The US only blacklisted the MEK as a terrorist organisation as part of a Bill Clinton goodwill gesture towards Tehran. Today, there are only three nations left (the US, Iran and Canada) that have not recognised the MEK as a legitimate opposition party. The UK and France, as well as the EC, have delisted the MEK and politicians and diplomats are supporting it as it rallies Iranian exiles the world over. Now a Washington court is reviewing the listing, and one can only hope that justice and compassion will prevail.
After all, is this not what the US proclaims all too often about its foreign policy – that Reaganite proclamation about freedom and democracy. And what does the MEK want? Very simple: freedom as human individuals and freedom as a legitimate, democratic and peaceful opposition recognised internationally for its struggle against a religious fascism.
The attempt by Tehran to shoot the messengers, with precious little evidence to substantiate its derisory claims, merely underlines just how much it is running out of arguments against the MEK. Delisting the Iranian resistance is the only way to send a strong message to Tehran that there is an organised opposition capable of generating widespread international support. Respecting the credibility of MEK’s US supporters is essential to building up a headwind in the US that will persuade Washington to do so.
And then Giuliani, Kennedy and Ridge can congratulate themselves on a job well done, and on the validation of their principled, honest stands. The messengers should not be shot but praised. Lives depend on it.