I don’t claim to know much about American law, but under British law I think that some of Ambassador Butler’s comments on the American supporters of the People’s Muhahedeen of Iran/Mujahedeen-e-Khalk (PMOI/MeK) would count as libel.
Not only is it insulting to suggest that concern for human rights must be motivated by money, but it is also far-fetched: where is a struggling political organisation supposed to have found a million dollars? Over 50 distinguished American National Security, military, diplomatic and intelligence officials in the last four administrations, both Democrats and Republicans, have been calling for the MeK to be delisted. These include, to name just a few, two joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces, the first Homeland Secretary of the United States, and people who were formerly Commander of NATO, National Security Advisor to the President, Attorney General, Director of CIA, US Ambassador to the UN, White House Chief of Staff, Commander of the Marine Corps, Policy Planning Director of the State Department, and Director of the FBI, as well as dozens of the most senior members of Congress, especially in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It is beyond belief that anyone could afford to bribe them all.
Ambassador Butler claims that they look like a paramilitary organisation. As he should know, the US gave written agreements that the MeK members would be protected, in return for which they voluntarily submitted to disarming and cooperating with the US forces in Iraq. Those agreements should be honoured. Were they? On April 8 Iraqi forces attacked the MeK residents of Camp Ashraf with tanks and machine guns, slaughtering dozens and wounding hundreds (of whom several have since died, because of Iraqi obstructions to the provision of the medical supplies they needed to survive). If US policy does not change, there is nothing to stop this happening again. All the signs are that it will, with Terhran’s support: Ahmadinejad sent a message of congratulation to Iraq on their last attack.
It is easy to see why the Iranian regime wants to discredit the MeK, and what an effective way it has found: claiming that they are not the real opposition, which is somewhere else. This provides the US with an excuse to keep it on the list of terrorist organisations in which it was included during the Clinton administration in order to appease Tehran with a policy of negotiations, incentives and limited, targeted sanctions. Recognising the opposition was sidelined in order not to interfere with this. Where has this policy of appeasement got the US? Nowhere. Consequently, there is increasing pressure from both American political parties to abandon it.
The United Kingdom removed the PMOI/MeK from its own list of terrorist organisations in 2008, the European Union in 2009 and only a few months ago the French Government dropped all charges against it. (Isn’t it significant that supporters of the listing have to quote events from the 1970s, presumably because there is nothing more recent that they could mention?) A review of the listing was ordered by a court in Washington DC and after 400 days it is still proceeding.
Meanwhile, the Iranian regime is forging links with Al Qaeda, whose terrorism is not in doubt, and pressing ahead with the development of nuclear weapons. No US government can possibly want this quest to succeed, but the longer the main Iranian opposition body is handicapped by “terrorist” status, the more chance it has of succeeding.
When a policy is intellectually and morally bankrupt, it is an old gambit to discredit anyone who criticises it: in other words, shooting the messenger who brings bad news. The NIAC’s attempt to discredit the MeK raises several questions: what is the NIAC? As its head is not an American, why is he so concerned about American interests? Could it be because its real concern is the interests of Tehran?
For thirty years the Iranian regime has been saying that the MeK was financed by Israel, the UK, the US, the former Iraqi government and the former Soviet Union. Now exactly the same case is being made the other way round. This, to put it mildly, seems strange.
The MeK has been described as a cult. That is not true: they are working for a secular Republic. It is also claimed that they want to make war on Iran: also untrue. They want democratic change from within. Mrs Maryam Rajavi, its leader, is accused of being determined to rule, but she has said she will only rule if democratically elected, and will stand down if the electorates prefer someone else. All they are asking for is freedom to live and express their opinions: the same rights given to any free citizen of a free society such as, for instance, the United States. Instead of shooting the messenger, let’s hear the message. It’s about time.