How 'Terrorists' Become 'Freedom Fighters'?: Tom Tancredo and the Iranian Mujahedin
How 'Terrorists' Become 'Freedom Fighters'?: Tom Tancredo and the Iranian Mujahedin
by Evan Herzoff
Over the past few months neoconservatives in Denver, Colorado, have been exploiting a political window of opportunity opened by two unrelated events, one in Iran and the other in Iraq, using the publicity surrounding the events to subtly reiterate their hawkish call for war against Iran.
Americans Against Terrorism (AAT), the same organization that held demonstrations in Denver to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, has joined with a little-known charity called Colorado’s Iranian-American Community (CIAC), and a former congressional representative and current chair of the conservative Rocky Mountain Foundation think tank, Tom Tancredo (R-CO), along with a number of other pro-Israel hardliners and neo-cons alike.
Their aim has been to use the unrest following the June elections in Iran and the July 28 police crackdown on Camp Ashraf, Iraq, as propaganda in support of a group the State Department calls terrorists.
The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), also known as the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), among several aliases, has been the subject of desire by neoconservative lawmakers in the West, in recent years, to use as a proxy army for a "regime change" in Iran, developing another angle of pressure on US President Barack Obama. The MEK has been listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the US State Department since 1997.
The group, at first, appeared to be demonstrating for "Democracy For Iran," as displayed by their signs at the Colorado State Capitol building quite noticeably on Saturday, August 8, the “International Day of Solidarity with Camp Ashraf,” as AAT representative Ana Sami called it. The group has been holding these demonstrations at the State Capitol "regularly, as [they] see fit," she said.
They claim that the Iraqi police crackdown on Ashraf, during which 36 people were arrested and 12 allegedly killed, with hundreds injured, was in compliance with the government of Iran, however, they consistently over-emphasize the protests against the results of the last Iranian election, which is not related to the crackdown on Ashraf.
"Iranian Americans and Americans, of course, have gathered here today to show our support and solidarity for what’s been happening in Iran since the elections took place in June," Sami said at the August 8 demonstration.
She made that statement while standing near a large poster displaying images of the faces of MEK members allegedly killed during the July 28 police raid in Iraq.
However, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq has been noted by news reports dating before the June Iranian election as being keen on expelling the MEK, and to name one in particular, "Iraq Accuses Iranian Exiles of Plotting Attack" by Ernesto Londoño for The Washington Post ran several months prior in January (Jan. 21, 2009, p. A04).
The groups also held a panel on August 30 under the title; "The New Iranian Revolution: Done or Just Begun?" Sami sat on the panel for AAT, and it was headed by Rabbi Daniel Zucker of the group Americans for Democracy in the Middle East.
Tom Tancredo also sat on the panel and next to him was a little-known but highly active chair of CIAC and owner of the Lone Tree/Denver-based Alborz Real Estate Company, Tim Mehdi Ghaemi.
Again, just as the demonstrations hook an observer out of compassion for human rights, the panel speakers blurred the two events, and the bulk of the discussion focused not on either, rather, instead on delusional scenarios of an Iranian nuclear threat, and the notion that the MEK should be supported by the United States as a military asset against Iran, all culminating into repetitive calls for ‘regime change’ in Iran.
Zucker headed the panel with an over-the-top claim about Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions.
"One missile sent from a, uh, rogue freighter out in the Atlantic, exploding a nuclear warhead, no larger than the size of that of Hiroshima" could theoretically be used by Iran, or for that matter anyone, to cause "magnetic resonance" by detonating the warhead in the atmosphere, Zucker explained.
Tancredo further illustrated Zucker’s imagination by asserting that in the event of a ‘magnetic resonance’ attack "200,000 people would fall out of the skies immediately," due to the effect on computer chips in airplanes, he claimed.
"Then a dark age descends upon that area affected by it," Tancredo hyperbolized, putting the icing on the cake of this bourgeoning false dilemma presented by the panel.
Tancredo and Zucker gave credit to the MEK for being a valued source of intelligence on Iranian nuclear weapons programs, claiming they had proven their credibility with reports of a clandestine weapons program in Iran in 2003, which did prompt an investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but has turned up no violations of any weapons treaty or nuclear non-proliferation treaty, thus Iran’s nuclear facilities are perfectly legal.
According to Gareth Porter’s article "Iran nuclear leaks ‘linked to Israel’," for Inter Press Service (IPS), dated June 5, 2009, the so-called "alleged studies" documents that the IAEA has been investigating ever since, may very well be as fake as the evidence of Saddam Hussein’s desire for uranium from Africa, used as a justification for invading Iraq in 2003. The IAEA accepted evidence from the MEK, allegedly fabricated by their allies in Israel, with whom they have had relations since the early 1990s, according to Porter’s article.
A more recent article by Porter, also for IPS, dated September 14, titled “IAEA Conceals Evidence Iran Documents Were Forged,” explains that the IAEA has been ignoring evidence, brought to the agency’s attention by Iran, that the documents upon which the agency has premised the past several years of vigorous inspections were fabricated, which creates the illusion in the press that Iran has not been fully cooperative, but how cooperative should they be when they have presented evidence that the premise is bogus, which the IAEA has ignored?
Pressed with this question the panel speakers would have simply accused Iran of misinformation because it's Iran, a fallacy they consistently recommitted on August 30.
The panel did not hold back at all from framing Iran as a miniature evil empire, for example the claim that mass graves were found near Tehran was asserted by Mehdi Ghaemi at one point during the panel.
The overall focus was ‘regime change’ in Iran and not human rights.
The part that focused on Camp Ashraf was mostly a presentation of Youtube videos of the July 28 police raid. The footage showed crowds of people being beaten by riot police in a variety of uniforms, wielding large, 2-x-4 wooden sticks as batons, and wrecking fences and buildings with bulldozers. They also showed several enlarged, and full-color, photographs of the bodies of 11 members of the MEK who they say were killed by the Iraqi police.
They also mentioned a hunger strike underway in Washington DC to pressure the Obama administration, and have lately been claiming online that some of the hunger strikers have died in the midst of the strike, although I could find no independent support for that information.
At both the rallies and the panel it quickly became very clear that the victims of violence in both Iran and Iraq, to the hosts of these events, are nothing more than propaganda.
At the August 8 rally Sami shamelessly evoked the identity of Neda Soltan, a young woman shot in the chest during the election unrest in Iran, and whose death the world witnessed via social networking websites. Sami spun her death into propaganda for the MEK within but a few words.
"The Iranian government is, uh, an incredibly oppressive government and there’s been a lot of bloodshed since that time. I think the world has gotten to know the image of Neda, who was the female who got shot by a sniper in the chest … and I think the world was so touched, and I think the voice of Iranians really [is] what’s symbolized by Neda’s … death," Sami said, shortly before saying, "since the election the unrest has not been able to be silenced … and in addition to that you have an opposition that has been fighting for 30 years. It’s time we support them."
By ‘them’ she is obviously referring to the MEK, which is not part of the democracy movement said to be growing among the youth of Iran today, and there is no relationship between the two even in some vague, ideological sense.
However, when one so bravely questions whether or not the Iranian people, even those who protested against the election results in Iran, who are average Iranian’s like Neda herself was, would support the MEK, the panelists of this estranged bed-fellowship claim that anyone who believes otherwise has somehow fallen under the spell of the Iranian government.
Responding to a comment by one very skeptical audience member, Zucker said, "I think that the image of the MEK being unpopular in Iran is part of the Iranian regime’s very successful disinformation campaign." This claim prompted the audience member to shake his head in rejection.
Tancredo responded to the comment as well.
"You may have a different [opinion], and certainly then if you do then I would think … that I can totally understand your unwillingness to have the United States do anything that would, that would cause the present regime [of Iran] some degree of heartburn, and this would, taking them off the list would certainly do that," said Tancredo.
Tancredo also mentioned that he had signed a letter once to have the MEK removed from the terrorist list, which provoked a critical response from the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News. He stopped just short of accusing the Rocky of being influenced by the Iranian government.
"I do not know the extent to which the influence of the regime in Tehran, um, actually extends, but I know it’s, it is enormous … they’ve used the money that they have; oil revenues; to influence politicians throughout the world," he said.
Tancredo then went on to explain that whether or not the MEK is popular does not concern him.
Tancredo said that he is "mostly concerned right now with Ashraf."
"That’s [his] immediate concern, trying to do something to protect these people who are truly being held hostage."
However, he also said; "I’m really not concerned with whether or not they win the vote in Iran."
"It’s a murky world out there," he said, "but I am convinced that these people are who they say they are. They are dedicated to the overthrow … of this Islamic Republic."
"To me [the MEK] are allies."
And alas! The truth of Tancredo’s view peeks out from behind the façade of concern:
"I believe that our interests, the interests of the United States of America; by the way, I think Western Civilization, to tell you the truth; are advanced, by, by using the advantage, by using the things that are available to us in the fight against radical Islam."
According to Dokhi Fassihian, an expert on Iranian-American affairs, with the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), the notion that the MEK is supported by anyone inside Iran is not even realistic. Most Iranians inside Iran and elsewhere detest the MEK, and in the case of dissidents inside Iran it is even likely that they hate the MEK more than the Ayatollah.
Part of the reason it would be a human rights violation and in error of international law to allow the repatriation of the MEK to Iran to such an unquestionable extent is that not only would the government persecute them but they could face mobs and lynching among the population as well.
According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Amnesty International (AI) has reported that Neda’s fiancé was just released from prison in Iran, after being arrested during the protests, and allegedly the Iranian authorities attempted to coerce him into signing a statement blaming the MEK for her death.
Fassihian explained to me almost a week prior to that AI report that in the face of the threat posed by the MEK, among average Iranians, feelings of support for the leadership and patriotism ensue, just as in any society. To blame the MEK for Neda’s death would, therefore, be Iran’s attempt to preserve what popular support it still has. The government may be repressive but it has defended the country since the revolution against threats like Saddam Hussein and the MEK.
World-renowned critic of US foreign policy and host of the popular syndicated radio program Alternative Radio, David Barsamian, also said that the MEK is far from popular in Iran and is commonly misconstrued as being so only by hardliners while beating the drums for further ventures of US imperialism. In fact Barsamian explained that when such advocates of these types of policies use terms like "democracy," or "freedom," they often mean just the opposite.
The way Sami used the terms ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ at the August 8 demonstration in explaining what an MEK-run Iran would look like certainly imply that this is the case.
"The way freedom and democracy works in America is not necessarily the way it might look in Iran, but still, there are some very, very basic, core elements that exist everywhere that we deem to be a free or democratic … society," she said.
The term ‘regime change’ was repeated again and again by the panelists on August 30, overemphasized to say the least.
The story of the MEK is tragically bizarre. The organization formed after the political dissolution that followed the United States-sponsored a coup d’état against the democratically elected leader, Mohammad Mosaddeq, in 1953, which reinstalled the Shah, Reza Pahlavi. The brutal repression of the Shah, under the control of the West (the US and western Europe at the time), led to a large opposition movement of dissidents from most if not all sectors of Iranian society, which possessed a great deal of ideological diversity as a whole before the revolution that ousted the Shah in 1979.
In the US the event is commonly marked only by mention of a hostage crisis that played out in the media at the time at the US Embassy in Tehran, and according to the US State Department website’s FTO-list description of the group, "the MEK assassinated several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians working on defense projects in Tehran and supported the violent takeover in 1979 of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran" (updated 2007).
Throughout the 1970s the MEK carried out attacks against the government of the Shah and the United States, targeting civilian contractors in some instances, as well as military personnel. Following the 1979 revolution it wasn’t long before this Marxist-Islamic and feminist organization, that sprang from the far-left wing of the Iranian political spectrum, fell at odds with the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran who took power after Pahlavi’s departure.
The Ayatollah began purging the left-wing factions of the revolution, and honed in rather intensely on the MEK, whose members were subsequently persecuted and killed until the group was exiled in the early 1980s. They relocated to France and set up near Paris, and they established a military base in Ashraf, just north of Baghdad, Iraq, at the invitation of the government of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. The MEK carried out attacks on Iran from numerous bases in Iraq prior to the escalation of the Iran-Iraq war (1981-1988), and during the war became an elite military force close to Saddam Hussein himself. The MEK was also utilized by Saddam to repress Kurdish and Shiite communities in Iraq.
In 1997, while the MEK was still working for Saddam Hussein, the US State Department put the MEK and its political wing in France, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) on the list of FTOs. The listing was upheld again in 2001, and again in 2003, under the Presidency of George W. Bush, and they remain on the list today under President Barack Obama. The US Treasury Department listed the NCRI as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) organization under Executive Order 13224 in August of 2003, and their assets were subsequently frozen by the US Treasury Department.
In March of 2003 the US military carried out Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and occupied Iraq, ending the rule of the Baath Party, and during this operation engaged in combat with the MEK when coalition forces approached Camp Ashraf, bombing the camp and leaving several MEK members dead.
The Department of Defense (DOD) was ordered to have the group disarmed and failed to do so at the time. The MEK signed a disarmament agreement after repeated attempts for DOD compliance by the State Department, finally, once they were guaranteed status as "protected persons" under Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, even though they remain on the State Department’s FTO list.
The DOD declined to respond to my inquiry for this report.
After the US installed the government of the current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and in June of 2009 began withdrawing troops from Iraqi cities, the responsibility for protection of the residents of Ashraf was handed over to the Maliki government.
The Maliki government is dominated by Shiites like himself and is thought by many to be friendly with Iran. In a July 31 press release Human Rights Watch (HRW), Joe Stork, deputy director of the HRW Middle East and North Africa division said the MEK "has made lots of enemies among Iraqis with their support for Saddam Hussein." Stork’s comment was part of a call on Iraq to conduct "an independent investigation into the deaths of at least seven Iranians during [the] police raid on Camp Ashraf" on July 28, 2009.
However, the status of ‘protected persons’ does not legitimize aiding covert terrorist activities.
According to a May 2005 report by Human Rights Watch called No Exit: Human Rights Abuses Inside the Mojahedin Khalq Camps, the MEK has a history of human rights violations against its own membership. The RAND Corporation said in a 2009 report, The Mujahedin-e Khalq in Iraq: A Policy Conundrum, that many of the MEK’s members were people who fled Iran not expecting to be smuggled to an MEK camp, any one of several, in Iraq, and the report implied the that that the group’s popularity even among Iranian dissidents fleeing the country is highly questionable.
"Although the exact figure is not known, it is estimated that approximately 70 percent of [MEK] members now in Iraq joined the group after its relocation there and subsequent decline in popularity. Many of them were victims of these fraudulent recruiting practices," (original RAND emphasis) the report reads (RAND, 2009, p. xvi).
The loyalty of the membership to the leaders of the MEK, Maryam Rajavi and her at-large husband Massoud, last seen in Iraq, is merely a result of the group’s cultish practices, far from its roots in popular and rational ideologies like Marxism, Political Islam and feminism. This implies that there very well may be a legal requirement under the protection agreement and the Geneva Conventions to protect the MEK membership from the MEK leadership.
In the January 17, 2007, broadcast of BBC Newsnight, Tim Whewell aired interviews with former MEK members who described the organization as a deceptive group that uses "psychological manipulation" to enforce a "system of control," Whewell narrated.
As the MEK is largely made up of women, the lure of feminism perhaps, the freedom of women in this group amounts to a rigid obligation against any sexual pleasure or relationship, regular arbitrarily enforced disclosures of everything in their personal lives, and the group even issued a "decree" forcing all married members to divorce. Equality of men and women in the MEK is merely equality of total devotion to the leader, Maryam Rajavi, who lives in France and heads the NCRI.
In a March 30, 2007, a report on an AhlulBayt Islamic Mission (AIM) TV program called Dateline, entitled "US Intelligence on Iran & the MEK," which can be viewed on the AIM website, two former MEK members explained that the group’s internal practices are "like a cult."
Tom Tancredo has apparently fallen under their sway, enough to argue that they are nice and friendly people, supporting this notion with an alarming, and somewhat incriminating anecdote in which he admitted to having traveled to France and meeting Maryam Rajavi on two occasions in Auvers-sur-Oise, a little town just north of Paris.
However, Mr. Tancredo is not alone.
According to the November 8, 2007, report, "Breaking Stories: Paris Sojourn" by Matt Potter, for the San Diego Weekly Reader, Tancredo’s former colleague and co-chair of the US Congressional Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus (IHRDC), Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), had also traveled to France to make a speech to the NCRI, and his travel expenses of almost $8,000, were covered by Ghaemi’s charity, CIAC.
A March 15, 2005 report compiled for the Center for Policing Terrorism (CPT), Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) Dossier, by Nicole Cafarella, reveals on page 11 that the MEK demonstrably uses front groups to raise money and support. Among these groups, according to the CPT report, is the Iranian-American Community of Northern Virginia (IAC-NV), which held a fraudulent fundraiser for the victims of the Bam Earthquake in Iran, but was a fundraiser for the MEK, and the quake victims never saw a penny. According to the report several agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) attended the fundraiser and the US Treasury Department has since frozen the IAC-NV’s assets.
The FBI press agent for the Denver branch office took my questions regarding their possible concerns about similar front groups in Colorado, namely CIAC, but they have thus far not responded.
The MEK description on the State Department website, regarding their funding, is in agreement with the CPT report that they have resorted to front groups for fundraising more and more following the 2003 occupation of Iraq, and before that they relied mostly on material support from Saddam Hussein (MEK description, "External Aid," in "Country Reports on Terrorism 2006" on the US State Department website).
An article in National Journal, dated January 19, 2008 (Vol. 40, Issue 3), titled "Touting ‘Terrorists’," by Julie Kosterlitz, raised the notion that CIAC may well be one of those front organizations for the MEK.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s office told me that they had no record of even the existence of CIAC, and a search on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) online listing of businesses and charities revealed nothing as well.
It is possible that the organization operates on a budget under $25,000, thus making them exempt from disclosures or registration at the Secretary of States office, a representative explained, but the fact that the IRS has no information either is a bit suspicious.
AAT is also an organization with a spotty record to say the least. The group was originally founded in Colorado by a Real Estate lawyer from Boulder named Matt Finberg, whom according to a DC Journalism Collective report, "Not All Politics Is Local: A Colorado Race And the International Kahanist Network" (August, 2008), is a staunch follower of the right-wing fringe ideology of Meir Kahane, and in 2007 moved to Israel to live in an "illegal settlement" in the Palestinian West Bank. The report said that AAT disbanded in September of 2004.
The current chair of AAT is Finberg’s former AAT director and co-founder, Dr. Neil Dobro, who coordinated the August 30 panel.
According to the DC Journalism Collective article AAT, implicated in an attack ad campaign against a Republican legislative candidate, Rima Sinclair; attacking Sinclair using anti-Islamic defamation (she is Palestinian American); in favor of her Republican competitor Joshua Sharf; the alleged Kahanist founder of AAT is tied to another organization whose name appears on the very same State Department FTO list, and is on a similar Israeli government list, the extremist Israeli Kahanist group known as Kach, or Kahane Chai. Kach was the subject of a 2005 Frontline documentary on PBS called "Israel’s Next War?"
Dobro told me verbally that AAT is a 501c3 non-profit organization, however, the person I spoke with at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office said that if they are operating on a budget at or above $25,000 then "they are out of compliance with our office."
I formally requested a disclosure, IRS Form 990, from AAT via e-mail and have thus far not received any response. AAT was collecting donations at a table during the August 30 panel.
Current co-chair of the IHRDC, who took Tancredo’s position, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), has also been an outspoken supporter of the MEK, and along with Filner, signed a letter from the IHRDC to President Obama to demand that Ashraf residents be protected.
Rohrabacher’s career has long been funded by billionaire Charles Koch, according to his profile on SourceWatch, a website run by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), and during his career he has been known to cozy up with some of the world’s most dubious names, including the Afghani Mujahedin (no relation to the MEK) that fought the Soviet Union, existed under the protection of the Taliban, and bore the notorious Al Qaeda, which allegedly carried out the most extreme terrorist attack ever in history on September 11, 2001. Rorhabacher was no supporter of Al Qaeda at that point, however, his knack for fraternizing with such groups over the years is nothing new.
The Koch family is known to be funding the whole network of anti-Obama town hall-meeting disruptors and anti-tax rallies via FreedomWorks, a think tank now headed by another long-time supporter of the MEK, former US House Majority Leader, and former policy adviser to the Bush administration, Dick Armey (R-TX), according to Kosterlitz (2008). In fact, the lobbying firm that formerly employed Dick Armey was hired by Tim Ghaemi’s brother, Saeid, to lobby alongside the Iran Policy Committee, founded by a former member of the staff to President Ronald Reagan, Raymond Tanter, for removing the MEK from the State Department’s FTO in the past few years, the Kosterlitz (2008) article revealed.
Charles Koch is brother to David Koch, and the two run Koch Family Foundations, and own Koch Industries, a company that operates pipelines for energy resources according SourceWatch.
The Koch family has long supported figures like Rohrabacher and Armey, but there is little to indicate much support for Tancredo.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) website OpenSecrets, Tom Tancredo’s campaign for the Republican ticket in the last presidential race left him over $2,000 in the red, and he only raised about $20,000 during the 2007-08 fundraising cycle.
His campaign was based almost entirely on anti-immigrant rhetoric, and a comment he made about bombing Islamic sacred sites garnered a great deal of criticism, among the critics was the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado (IAC). I spoke to someone with IAC and they said they remembered the attack campaign against Republican candidate Sinclair, involving AAT, and criticism of Tancredo’s incredibly offensive comments about bombing sacred sites, however IAC does not get involved in international politics and for this reason was not familiar with AAT and their activities.
Barsamian explained to me that none of these MEK pseudo-advocates actually care about the people they claim so strongly to support, and in reality they only do it for political gain.
The MEK sits now between a rock and a hard place as they are ‘protected persons’ only in Camp Ashraf, according to the State Department website, and they are not afforded that protection as the NCRI in France, which the State Department, the Treasury Department, the FBI, and the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals maintain is but an alias of the MEK, according the State and Treasury Departments’ websites under Executive Order 13224 and the July 9, 2004, case of the National Council of Resistance of Iran v. Department of State and Collin L. Powell, Secretary of State (No. 01-1480) at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
According to Joshua Holland’s article, "The Quiet Oil-for-Food Scandal," posted on Alternet.org November 4, 2005, Koch Industries was implicated in the now-famous 'Oil-for-Food' (OFF) program, about which an independent investigative committee said was a source of illegal revenue for Saddam Hussein, and according to the State Department’s website the MEK was one of the recipients of OFF revenues via Saddam.
AAT demonstrated in support of trusting Ahmed Chalabi of the exiled Iraqi National Congress as a source for intelligence against Iraq in 2003, just as they now do for trusting the MEK against Iran, and they rallied for the ousting of Saddam Hussein using the same arguments in 2003 that they are repeating now in favor of overthrowing the government of Iran. However, their position toward the current US President is one of dissent, and this is a significantly different situation.
Fassihian explained that a political window of opportunity opened for Iran to gain some respect on the world stage, and the same event that opened that opportunity also signaled to the population that now is the time to challenge the reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Presidency in Iran. The event was the election of Barack Obama last year.
This account directly counters the claim by the August 30 panel that "appeasement" is what signaled the timing for the repression of protests, as part of their attempt to tie the MEK to the democracy movement in Iran, which is not only unrealistic, but were it successful would likely only increase the dangerous isolation Iran endured during the Bush administration years (2001-2009).
The panel speakers accused President Obama and the State Department of ‘appeasement’ toward Iran several times during the August 30 panel, which they claimed is all the FTO listing was, however, the listing has been upheld since 1997, and it is the post-9/11 anti-terrorism laws under Bush that put the MEK in their current position of being an FTO and Article 27 ‘protected persons’ simultaneously.
Tancredo specifically attacked the President with the usual burden set by Republican hardliners against Democrat moderates, namely that they are soft on the national security front.
"There are some people in our government that still don’t [believe Iran is an enemy to the United States], maybe even the President of the United States" Tancredo said, indicating further that this effort by Zucker, CIAC, Tancredo and AAT is all but a scheme to lay yet more pressure on the President from the right-wing fringes.
After all the current Secretary of State is Hillary Clinton, the wife and former First Lady of the President whose administration placed the MEK on the FTO list in the first place, Bill Clinton. They have no chance at swaying the current administration perhaps, but with their allegations of ‘appeasement’ the rightist rabble could certainly cause President Obama a headache or two.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Tancredo’s dance with the devil is that he maintains that the MEK could never be a threat to the United States in the future.
I asked Tancredo after the August 30 panel what his response is to the State Department’s online statement that the "MEK leadership and members across the world maintain the capacity and will to commit terrorist acts in Europe, the Middle East, [and] the United States," and he responded with a question; “capable and willing, what does that mean?"
"Because they are an organization are they capable?” Tancredo inquired.
"Do we have any inclination, even the slightest bit of information that there is a desire on their part to do such a thing?" Tancredo asked.
"If they are who you suggest they are by your question, okay, why would American forces have been protecting them?"
The panelists claimed that the MEK renounced violence in 2001, and have since become a strictly political group, however the State Department’s website says that French authorities arrested 160 MEK members on suspicion of financing and planning terrorist attacks as recently as 2003.
A declassified US State Department report (Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. The People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, by Kenneth Katzman. Washington, Nov 1992. 6 p. Doc. call no.: M-U 42953-1 no.92-824F), which lists the names of several Americans killed by the MEK during the Iranian revolution, stated that during the Iranian revolution the MEK issued a proclamation with the title: "After the Shah, it’s America’s turn."
I’d call that an inclination to say the least, however, Tancredo’s question would probably best be posed to the DOD. In year-old report, "Preparing the Battlefield: the Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran," dated July 7, 2008, for The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh explained that it is entirely possible that the US under the Bush administration was supporting the MEK covertly through federally authorized covert financing.
The experts I spoke with agree that the only legal and humane way to deal with the anomalous situation in which the MEK currently finds itself, is for the Obama administration to disband the MEK, dissolve the organization’s structure, disperse its membership and provide them with rehabilitation to be integrated back into civilian life, and most certainly not to have them repatriated to Iran. International human rights groups have been monitoring the situation in Ashraf, and the State Department has contacted the Maliki government to pressure them to not violate the Fourth Geneva Conventions.
Perhaps the indecisiveness with which the Obama administration currently approaches the Ashraf situation is emblematic of hawkish hardliner influence in the US military. The irresponsible move of handing the duty of protecting the residents of Ashraf, all members of the MEK, which has been hated by Iraqi Shiites for many years, over to the mostly Shiite Maliki government, has created more room for vocal neo-con attacks against the President in the US, and it appears they intend to do just that.