Clinton’s diplomatic missile launched at Tehran

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By Raymond Tanter, Ivan Sascha Sheehan
03 October 2012

Clinton revoked the US terrorist designation of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), causing much dismay in the Islamic Republic.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blasted Tehran with a diplomatic bombshell that is ricocheting throughout the mosques and bazaars of Iran: Clinton revoked the US terrorist designation of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), causing much dismay in the Islamic Republic. Iran’s foreign ministry strongly condemned the decision to revoke the designation and stated that it held the United States responsible for terrorist acts of the MEK in the “past, present, and the future.”
IN CONTRAST, dozens of major Iranian-American organizations hailed Secretary Clinton for her decision to de-list the group. Because the MEK is the main Iranian dissident group that rejects Iranian clerical rule, Tehran pays the most attention to it and dislikes the MEK more than all other opposition organizations combined, according to one study. The de-listing does little to disabuse the regime of their dislike and, in fact, stokes its fears.
It is no coincidence that human rights organizations indicate that most of those sentenced to death or executed after the 2009 summer uprising in Iran belonged to the MEK. A reason the regime pays so little attention to other oppositionists is that they toe the line with Tehran. Consider a leader of the so-called Iranian “Green Movement” faction, Mir Hossein Mousavi, whom many in the West misconstrue as a moderate. Mousavi not only accepts clerical rule in Iran, he also has a history of anti-Israel activities, such as calling for it to be “annihilated.”
And according to documents of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supplied to the organization by Tehran, Mousavi also approved the secret purchase of centrifuges for Iran’s covert nuclear program when he was prime minister in March 1987. At the time he noted that the “consequences of giving up the country’s nuclear program would be ‘irreparable.’”
In contrast to Mousavi, the MEK opposes an Iranian nuclear capability or weapon; and to back up its words, the MEK has revealed Tehran’s covert activities to procure uranium enrichment and weaponization materials. If the organization wanted to keep open the option of developing such arms, it would hardly disclose intelligence about them.In issuing blockbuster information on Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapons capability, moreover, the MEK and its parliament in exile, the National Council for Resistance of Iran (NCRI) laid the framework for international inspections of Iran, according to the Center for International and Strategic Studies.In response to the revocation of the terrorist listing, Maryam Rajavi, president- elect of the NCRI, states in no uncertain terms, “We propose a nonnuclear Iran.” And in Rajavi’s 10 Point Platform for a Future Iran, she writes, “We want the free Iran of tomorrow to be devoid of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction.”Consistent with such statements, during August 2002, NCRI intelligence exposed a secret nuclear facility near the City of Natanz. An independent think tank, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), confirmed the revelation, identified the site as a uranium enrichment facility, and released imagery of Natanz in December 2002.

NCRI intelligence was the source of several other critical revelations, including in August 2002, a heavy water production facility at Arak, Iran.

The ISIS stated, “The existence of this facility was first revealed publicly by the Iranian opposition group, National Council of Resistance of Iran in August 2002. ISIS then located the site in commercial satellite imagery after a wide-area search. By United Nations Security Council Resolution 1737 (2006), Iran was to suspend all work on heavy water-related projects.”

NCRI intelligence exposed a nuclear facility at Lavizan-Shian, Iran. Again working independently from the NCRI, the ISIS wrote: “This site first came to public attention in May 2003 when the Iranian opposition group, National Council for Resistance of Iran, announced… the site.”

In December 2005, intelligence disseminated by the NCRI revealed a nuclear site near the city of Qum: Tunneling activity in the mountains was initiated in 2000 to construct an underground nuclear facility; the Western allies publicly acknowledged the Qum site in September 2009.

NCRI intelligence revealed, during September 2009, two additional sites in and near Tehran, where the Iranian regime may be working on detonators for nuclear warheads. The matter became a point of dispute between the IAEA and Tehran and also in the nuclear negotiations involving the P5+1.

Prompted by such publicity, the Iranian regime admitted in September of that year existence of a uranium enrichment facility about 20 miles north of Qum. And by January 2012, Iran stated it had begun enrichment at the heavily fortified site, the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant.

IN VIEW of such prior revelations, the Iranian regime is rightly concerned that the terrorist revocation of what it calls “Enemies of God,” will jump-start their intelligence collection activities. It will.

Unburdened by the need to allocate scarce resources to getting off the US terrorist list – and especially after the issue of Camps Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq are resolved and Camp Liberty is stabilized – the NCRI and its largest unit, the MEK, can accelerate exposing Tehran’s progress toward becoming a nuclear-armed state. At the same time, de-listing provides an avenue to empower Iranian dissident organizations to work in tandem against the regime.

Clinton’s diplomatic missile launched at Tehran has unleashed the Iranian regime’s main opponents that reject clerical rule at a time when Israel and the United States are in dire need of independent sources of information about Iran, as well as an internal counterbalance to keep the regime in check.

This is the time to align with the MEK, which has a proven capacity to obtain “lead intelligence” from its sources on the ground in Iran. Such insights can, of course, be compared with information collected via other sources and methods.

To paraphrase the great Rabbi Hillel, “If not now, when? If not the MEK, who?” Now is the time, and the MEK is the movement. As a part of the diverse opposition coalition of the NCRI, they can grow by incorporating other groups that reject clerical rule. Together, they can deter and facilitate regime change in Iran before the clerics get the Bomb.

Prof. Raymond Tanter served on the senior staff of the National Security Council in the Reagan White House, is a frequent visiting professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and is president of the Iran Policy Committee.

Prof. Ivan Sascha Sheehan is director of the Negotiation and Conflict Management graduate program in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore.

Revocation of the Terrorism Listings of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK)

An Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, published the article below, Now the cards are on the table, on 28 September 2012 in its online and print editions as an insert in the International Herald Tribune in Israel. On the same date, the U.S. State Department formally announced revocation of the designation of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq and related groups from its Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. Likewise, the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control revoked comparable designations from its Specially Designated Nationals List.

The State Department announcement included the following:

Property and interests in property in the United States or within the possession or control of U.S. persons will no longer be blocked, and U.S. entities may engage in transactions with the MEK without obtaining a license. These actions will be published in the Federal Register.

Below is the article commenting on the revocations by Professors Tanter and Sheehan.

Now the cards are on the table

In the wake of Secretary Clinton’s decision, Jerusalem and Washington should reset their Iran policy by embracing regime change there as a priority.

By Raymond Tanter and Ivan Sascha Sheehan
28 September 2012

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Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s September 21 announcement that she will remove the Mujahedeen-e Khalq from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations is an important step toward correcting Washington’s Iran policy and an occasion for Jerusalem to adopt a fresh approach toward the Iranian opposition.

Delisting Iran’s primary opposition organization that rejects clerical rule is, in and of itself, a threat to the Iranian regime. Removal from the list is therefore an opportunity to assess and reset American and Israeli policy toward Tehran.

Removing the MEK’s terror designation plays on Tehran’s suspicions that an “unholy alliance” of Jerusalem, Washington and the MEK is colluding to launch covert attacks against Iran’s nuclear program. If there were such an alignment, it would also contribute to deterrence of Iranian assaults against Israeli diplomats and serve as a check on Iranian aggression.

In a September 23 Washington Post article that proposed a fictive scenario involving an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, analysts imagined how Israel might be accused of working with the MEK. They speculate that the MEK will be widely perceived as reinforcing Israel’s air assaults with military operations on the ground in Iran: “Within hours, Twitter is alight with reports of explosions in various parts of Iran. All seemingly can be traced to one source: the Iranian opposition group Mujaheddin-e-Khalq.”

That the group stokes the regime’s fears by mobilizing broad political support in the expatriate community and holding massive rallies around the world does little to quiet the regime’s anxieties. A 2005 study found that the MEK was given 350 percent more attention by Iranian state-run media than all other opposition organizations challenging the regime.

The disproportionate number of protesters who were arrested or sentenced to death during the 2009 uprising because of their association with the MEK is also indicative of the regime’s intent to block the group’s political influence on the Iranian street.

The MEK is the largest dissident organization in the Paris-based de facto parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran. It has long failed to meet the statutory criteria necessary for terror tagging under U.S. law. That it remained on the list can be attributed to persistent lobbying by the Iranian regime and miscalculation by successive U.S. presidents that concessions would appease Tehran’s theocrats and eliminate state-sponsored proxy violence.

If Clinton had failed to delist, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington would in any event have removed the organization from the list on October 1. By taking the initiative rather than hiding behind the judiciary, Washington signals to Tehran that regime change from within is on the table. Iran has threatened to curtail its negotiations with the West when it takes actions that favor the MEK; Clinton’s removal of the group’s designation thus acknowledges that engagement with Iran is no longer a top priority, although sporadic and unproductive nuclear talks might continue.

Removal of the terror designation in the midst of a hotly contested presidential election confirms that U.S. counterterrorism policy remains unpoliticized. Strong bipartisan support for the MEK on Capitol Hill, where Israel also commands strong backing, is further indication that the shift was not partisan.

American and Israeli officials should follow the delisting of the Iranian resistance with efforts to empower the opposition and support calls for democratic change. Free of the terror label, supporters can now put their money where their mouth is and embrace the opposition in its campaign for democracy.

In light of last week’s announcement by Secretary Clinton, here’s what can be done to help reset policy toward Tehran.

First, the worldwide pro-Israel community can help push back against the Iranian regime’s disinformation campaign against removal of the MEK from the State Department’s terror roster. The Iranian lobby in Washington is as well funded as it is deceptive and the opposition is enemy number one. Consider the unsubstantiated allegation made by Mohammad Javad Larijani, a senior aide to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. On February 9, 2012, Larijani alleged to NBC-TV News that the Mossad and the MEK were jointly responsible for the targeted killing of Iranian scientists. Though never backed up with evidence, this sensational accusation was frequently repeated to justify the group’s terror designation in the lead-up to the delisting.

Second, because the heat will be turned up by the pro-Iranian Iraqi government on the 3,000 MEK dissidents housed at Camp Liberty in Iraq, the pro-Israel community should speak publicly about the safety of the residents and press humanitarian concerns.

Third, in the wake of Secretary Clinton’s decision, Jerusalem and Washington should reset their Iran policy by embracing regime change in Iran as a priority. Support for the Iranian opposition would give further credence to threats to take military action and complement sanctions meant to coerce Tehran. Unless the survival of the regime is on the table, Iran will continue to pursue its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons as well as threaten Israel and the United States. The removal of MEK’s terror classification rings an alarm bell among the theocrats in Tehran that their illegitimate reign is coming to an end.

__________________

Prof. Raymond Tanter served on the senior staff of the National Security Council in the Reagan White House, and is president of the Iran Policy Committee. Prof. Ivan Sascha Sheehan is director of the negotiation and conflict management graduate program in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore.

Iran Policy Committee: Removal of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) from U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organizations List

Press Release
For Immediate Release
25 September 2012

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Washington DC—On 21 September 2012, U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, informed the Congress of her intent to remove an Iranian dissident group, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. Upon publication in the Federal Register in about 7 days from her announcement, the delisting becomes official and all the consequences of sanctions embodied in the designation will also be lifted by different U.S. Government agencies.

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment in the Reagan and Bush administrations and member of the Advisory Board of the Iran Policy Committee, William A. Nitze stated,

“I concur with Secretary Clinton’s announcement to delist the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) as a long-overdue recognition that as the largest dissident organization in the Iranian parliament in exile—the National Council of Resistance of Iran—the MEK did not meet the statutory criteria necessary for terror tagging under U.S. law.

“The MEK only carried the terrorist label due to persistent lobbying by the Iranian regime and miscalculation by successive American presidents that concessions would appease Tehran’s clerical rulers and diminish state-sponsored proxy violence.”

Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, (Ret), former Assistant Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force stated,

“Now that the terrorist tag has been removed from the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) by Secretary Clinton, collection of dissident information as lead intelligence can accelerate and complement that of western intelligence services to bolster sanctions against Iran. Origins of international sanctions against Tehran came from blockbuster intelligence revelations of the MEK and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the parliament in exile of the Iranian resistance.”

Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, (Ret), former Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army, Pacific joined General McInerney in welcoming the announcement by Secretary Clinton and stated,

“As the guns of war with Iran are becoming louder for a post-American 2012 presidential elections conflict scenario, research of the Iran Policy Committee (IPC) suggests how important it is for the Washington to refrain from hamstringing the MEK with a terrorist designation. By delisting the organization, it can increase its role in facilitating political change in Iran.

“Delisting the MEK should jumpstart intelligence revelations at a critical time when such information can be useful in demonstrating Tehran’s propensity to cheat on its obligations to the United Nations and potential targeting of Iranian nuclear sites, if military force has to be used as an option of last resort.”

Captain Charles “Chuck” Nash, U.S. Navy (Ret) welcomed the Clinton announcement to remove the terrorist label on the MEK. Nash stated,

“Like other former military officers, I am very concerned about the exposure of unarmed civilian members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) who suffer at the mercy of their jailers in Baghdad. Because of the pushback by Tehran against the removal of the MEK terrorist designation, its members in Iraq will be subject to recrimination. The Iranian press abounds with statements against delisting, perhaps prelude for Tehran to order Baghdad to launch a third assault on the MEK members like those in 2009 and 2011.”

Founder and President of Global Initiative for Democracy (GID) and former Freedom House Executive Director, Bruce McColm, said,

“With the delisting of MEK, which was the most distinct yardstick for the policy of appeasing Iran, the focus must now shift to assisting the Iranian people as they endeavor to bring down their oppressive rulers. The MEK can certainly play the role of the catalyst in utilizing its enormous political and organizational wherewithal to this end.”

Professor Raymond Tanter, President of the IPC and former member of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration said,

“It is encouraging that commitments made by the United State were reiterated on 29 August 2012, when Victoria Nuland, State Department Spokesperson, said the Department urges the Government of Iraq to continue steps to address humanitarian concerns raised at Camp Liberty by its residents [now some 3,000 members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq).”

Specifically, Nuland said,

“The United States…reiterates its commitment to work towards resolution of humanitarian issues at … [Liberty], including sustainable means for the continued supply of water and electricity. The United States also reiterates its commitment to support the safety and security of the residents throughout the process of their relocation outside of Iraq.”

“The United States will have to monitor implementation of such commitments,” stated Tanter.

Dr. Daniel Pipes, President of the Middle East Forum, has published over a dozen articles and given several interviews in multiple languages about the MEK, including on Iranian expatriate communities whose annual rallies in Paris are events attended by tens of thousands of supporters of the MEK. Concerning the announcement by Secretary Clinton to remove the MEK designation, Dr. Pipes stated, “A special vote of thanks to all those analysts, led by the indefatigable Raymond Tanter, who established that the MeK is not terrorist and that relations with it serve the national interests of the United States.”

MeK, Iran, and the War for Washington

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by Raymond Tanter
The National Interest
September 16, 2011

Note: The author has not received any compensation whatsoever from the MeK or related groups.

There is an escalating war for influence over U.S. policy toward Iran: It is a dispute among university scholars, think-tank analysts and former American officials. Reverberations of this war are not confined to the Washington beltway but have profound significance for the Middle East. As Arab republics like Egypt and Tunisia fall from popular protests, internally inspired regime-change scenarios abound. While largely peaceful protests brought down regimes in Cairo and Tunis, state suppression resulted in violent pushback in Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Although Arab republics are the immediate targets of their populations, Arab kingdoms like Bahrain, and to a much lesser degree Jordan and Saudi Arabia, are feeling the heat of popular unrest. Because there is generally a lack of consensus on how to transfer power in Arab republics, they are less stable than kingdoms. “The king is dead; long live the (new) king,” does not easily translate into “The president of the republic is dead; long live his son.”

Just as conflicts over succession occur among the Arab republics, so a succession crisis is likely to arise in the Islamic Republic of Iran. We should use the lens of such a conflict in Iran when viewing the war in Washington about an Iranian dissident organization—the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MeK). Saddam Hussein’s takedown by foreign militaries highlights the need for a homegrown antidote to Iranian rulers because external regime change is off the table in the aftermath of the Iraq War.

Secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton is poised to announce the MeK designation in fall 2011, a decision long overdue. Nothing is likely to be more decisive in reducing the strategic threat from Tehran than having a vigorous democratic opposition in Iran; it is critical to have a coalition of prodemocracy dissidents working together to weaken the regime from within and replace it; the MeK can play an enhanced role in the prodemocracy movement if it is removed from the State Department terrorist list. But above and beyond the potential international benefit of facilitating internal regime change for Iran, the MeK simply deserves to be delisted on the basis of facts and law alone.

A search of U.S. government and private electronic and media sources by scholars in the Iran Policy Committee reveals an absence of evidence to support the inference that the MeK engages in terrorist activities or terrorism or has the capability and intent to do so. The databases are: the U.S. Worldwide Incident Tracking System, which the National Counterterrorism Center no longer publishes; Department of Homeland Security-sponsored Global Terrorism Database; and U.S. government-supported RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents. In these major databases, there are no confirmed associations of the MeK with any military action after 2001.

Given the absence of unclassified evidence of MeK involvement in terrorist activities during the course of nine years (2001-2010), any countervailing evidence in the classified record should be viewed with skepticism and subject to scrutiny for credibility. An assumption here is that terrorist incidents are too public not to appear in databases or in newspapers of record.

On 4 December 2008, the Court of First Instance of the European Communities issued a judgment annulling the MeK designation, and the European Union cleared the MeK of terrorist conduct in January 2009. The United Kingdom removed the group from its list of proscribed organizations in June 2008. In addition, the French judiciary dismissed all terrorism and terrorism-financing charges against the group in May 2011.

Two issues before the American court have been whether the State Department provided due process of law to the MeK and credibility of evidence in support of allegations against it. In a July 2010 ruling regarding a MeK appeal of its continued designation in January 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC circuit faulted the decisionmaking process of the secretary of state.

The court questioned the credibility, sources and legal relevance of evidence in the Secretary’s January 2009 decision to maintain the designation and ordered the State Department to give the MeK an occasion to rebut some of the declassified material used in the re-designation. On 20 May 2011, the department released ten documents. Five were unclassified, mostly wire service reports from the Associated Press, Radio Farda and Azeri Press Agency. They concern allegations, such as MeK’s “cult-like” behavior and supposed lack of popular support within Iran. Such false, nonlegal allegations are no grounds on which to base a terrorist tag.

For the MeK to be re-designated absent any terrorist activity or terrorism, the State Department has to demonstrate that the group has both the capability and the intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism and that it either threatens U.S. national security or the security of American citizens.

In the Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism (CRT) 2007, 2008, 20092010, and 2011, a CRT 2006 accusation that the MeK “maintain[s] the capacity and will to commit terrorist acts” does not recur. And there are no terrorist activities or terrorist events cited during the legally relevant period of two years prior to the last re-designation decision of January 2009. In fact, no such actions are alleged in Country Reports since 2001.

In view of the convergence of historical circumstances and the law in favor of delisting, consider the political origins of the MeK designation. The roots are in the Iran-Contra affair of the mid-1980s: In exchange for release of American hostages held in Lebanon by one of Tehran’s proxies, Hezbollah, the State Department alleged without evidence that MeK members used terrorism and violence as “standard instruments of their politics.” Thus began the use of that designation primarily as a tool to achieve foreign-policy aims rather than antiterrorism goals.

Martin Indyk, who served as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs in 1997, said one of the reasons the MeK was put on the terrorism list was part of a “two-pronged” diplomatic strategy. It included increasing pressure on Saddam Hussein by linking him to a “terrorist group,” the MeK. The other “prong” was the Clinton administration’s interest in opening a dialogue with Tehran. On 8 June 1997, Mohammad Khatami was elected president of Iran, and the administration viewed him as a moderate. Clinton officials saw cracking down on the MeK as a way to strengthen Khatami at the expense of so-called hardliners. But this political use of the terrorist designation failed; Tehran pocketed the concession without reciprocity.

Because law and facts converge for removing the designation of the MeK, those who oppose delisting fall back on political grounds buttressed by vague factual allegations for a continuation of the terrorist tag. There is an unfounded claim that the MeK is unpopular within Iran because of “numerous terrorist attacks against innocent Iranian civilians.” Then there is an invalid policy conclusion: “Removing the MeK from the Foreign Terrorist Organization [sic] list and misconstruing its lack of democratic bona fides and support inside Iran will have harmful consequences on the legitimate, indigenous Iranian opposition.” The allegation of MeK unpopularity is false. Support within the expatriate Iranian community suggests popularity in Iran; no other dissident organization can mobilize similar numbers of expat supporters.

Some who believe delisting would limit Washington’s ability to reach out to the Iranian street are wrong; the disproportionate number of protestors arrested and hanged because of association with the MeK indicates the organization’s significant presence on the Iranian street. Those who oppose delisting the MeK and hold a dim view of the effectiveness of Iranian dissidents to bring about regime change weaken their opposition to removal of the tag on the MeK. An argument in support of delisting on foreign-policy grounds is that it would reinforce the democratic opposition in Iran.

In most of the arguments opposed to delisting the MEK, no statutory fact is presented. So opponents of removing the terrorist tag resort to irrelevant non-legal arguments to overshadow lack of evidence of its engagement in terrorist activities or terrorism. In effect, those in favor of maintaining the MeK listing want Secretary Clinton to disregard the facts and the law entirely. With a simple signature delisting the group, Secretary Clinton would not only bring her Department in line with law and facts; she also would help empower the Iranian people to change the regime and open a political option between failed engagement and ineffective sanctions, on one hand, and problematic military action on the other.

Raymond Tanter served on the senior staff of the National Security Council and as personal representative of the Secretary of Defense to arms control talks in Europe in the Reagan-Bush administration. He is currently an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan.

Image by Harald Dettenborn

Members of the U.S. Congress Recommend State Department Press Baghdad for Humanitarian Conditions for Iranians at Ashraf and Liberty, Iraq, says Iran Policy Committee

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — In the course of research on Iranian dissidents, the Iran Policy Committee (IPC) reviewed letters sent by a Senator and Members of the House of Representatives to the Secretary of State on the status of Iranian dissidents in Iraq. IPC also participated in a briefing by Members of the House. IPC research is consistent with views expressed in these letters and at the briefing.

In a June 12, 2012 letter, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to express his dismay over the lack of action by the Department of State to reach a decision on the status of a revocation petition filed by the main Iranian opposition group that rejects clerical rule, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq. Senator Levin wrote: “I have requested repeatedly that the Department of State proceed expeditiously to make a determination regarding the designation of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) as a foreign terrorist organization…” The Senator is the latest among U.S. lawmakers to criticize the delay by the Department on the status of the MEK. The Senator also questioned the process that the State Department pursues to determine the status of the petition by the MEK.

Entrance Gate of Camp Ashraf, Iraq, which provided residents a serene, livable environment

Iraqi forces point guns at Camp Ashraf, where exiled Iranians are now are under siege

A letter of August 2, 2012 from Members of the House spearheaded by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA), ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade stated, “We respectfully request that the Department of State seek the Iraqi government’s agreement to and implementation of a number of humanitarian measures. Until these measures are implemented, further voluntary relocation of Camp Ashraf residents would only exacerbate the current dreadful living conditions in Camp Liberty.” A bipartisan group of 79 Members of Congress signed the letter.

During a briefing by Members of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington on August 1, 2012, Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), a senior member of Committee on Homeland Security blamed Baghdad for “lack of clean water” at Camp Liberty. Also at the briefing, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, called for removal of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), a group to which the Iranian dissidents belong, from the U.S. terrorist list to facilitate their speedy resettlement outside of Iraq, without relocation from Ashraf to Liberty.

Through independent research, the IPC determines that residents of Liberty are only seeking minimum humanitarian improvements in their quality of life. These include ensuring satisfactory access to clean water via measures to connect Liberty to the Baghdad water network and transfer of water purification equipment from Ashraf to Liberty or acquisition elsewhere of such items; improved electrical equipment to operate air conditioners, potentially through transfer of large generators from Ashraf to Liberty; authority to construct adequate ramps and related safety infrastructure for residents of Liberty, including those who are suffering from disabilities; and transfer of forklifts from Ashraf to Liberty to facilitate handling of heavy items.

Armed Iraqi police at a checkpoint inside Camp Liberty, which has a prison-like status

Three former U.S. military officers of the IPC issued a statement on implications of diplomatic maneuvering about the status of the Iranian dissidents in Iraq. Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney (Ret), former Assistant Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force; Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, (U.S. Army (Ret), former Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army, Pacific; and Captain Charles “Chuck” Nash, U.S. Navy (Ret) said, “We are concerned that statements implying Iranian dissidents in Iraq are responsible for any delay in relocating play into the hands of those in the Government of Iraq intent on forcible relocation; on the contrary, our research finds that Baghdad is responsible for such delays because of failure to provide minimum humanitarian assistance to the dissidents. In this respect, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Ambassador Martin Kobler, told the Security Council on July 19, 2012 that, “Time is running out to find a sustainable situation,…[and he urged] the Camp Ashraf residents to cooperate with the Iraqi authorities and to relocate.”

Founder and President, Global Initiative for Democracy and former Freedom House Executive Director, Bruce McColm commented on a statement of August 1, 2012 by Patrick Ventrell, Department of State Acting Deputy Spokesperson. Ventrell called on “…the Ashraf leadership to immediately resume cooperation with the relocation of residents to Camp…[Liberty].The continued intransigence of the residents’ leadership in placing preconditions and making demands prior to any agreement to relocate…[additional] Ashraf residents is unacceptable…” McColm said “Ventrell’s statement blames the victim rather than the cause of the delay—Baghdad.”

Professor Raymond Tanter, President of the IPC and former member of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan administration, inferred Baghdad’s hidden agenda for denying minimum humanitarian life support: “1) Provide a rationale for forcible relocation within Iraq of remaining Ashraf residents by the Iraqi military; 2) Wear down resolve of Liberty residents so they ‘voluntarily’ repatriate to Iran rather than resettle to friendly third countries where they can continue as a political force that threatens survival of the clerical regime in Tehran; and 3) Evacuate Ashraf but keep former residents at Liberty to give space and time for the Iraqi military to place weapons in Ashraf to reinforce the false claim the MEK maintains an intent to commit terrorism and justify its continuation on the U.S. terrorist list. Such a hidden agenda based on fabricated premises is an illegitimate basis for denying minimum humanitarian life support to individuals listed as asylum seekers by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refuges.”