22 August 2012, Sadegh Sistani, “US State Department: When Its Enemy Becomes its Savior,” Global Politician.

An article in the Global Politician describes Sadegh Sistani as a “political prisoner who escaped Iranian dungeons in April 2011 and has endured 17 years and 8 months of torture and interrogation by the Iranian Intelligence service.”

Appeasing the Ayatollahs and Suppressing Democracy: U.S. Policy and the Iranian Opposition, IPC

The Sistani article makes an interesting case for the U.S. State Department to refrain from appeasing the Iranian regime by placing its main political opposition that rejects clerical rule on the Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. In this respect, Sistani reinforces the argument made in an IPC book, Appeasing the Ayatollahs and Suppressing Democracy. One reviewer states that the book provides:

“an excellent discussion of how the past policies of appeasement and engagement with the Iranian regime have only made it more aggressive. The book provides many examples, especially for the Khatami (the “moderate” president) era and the U.S. administration’s attempts to appease the mullahs, hoping for reforms and moderation inside Iran.”

“The result was exactly the opposite. The Iranian mullahs internal repression was extended (as evident from the brutal repression of the student movements), many authors were assassinated during serial killings, substantially more women were stoned to death, Iran’s nuclear program accelerated, and guess who, after the “moderation” era, became Iran’s “president” — yes, Khatami paved the road for Ahmadinejad. The fact is: both Khatami and Ahmadinejad bow to Khamenei. Khamenei rules. There is no room for moderation.

“The only viable solution for a free, democratic Iran is to stop appeasing the mullahs, and to support the Iranian people and their resistance. The book provides a compelling argument why the Mojahedin [Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK)] cannot be ignored and the role they will inevitably have to play in the future of Iran.”

The Sistani article also discusses the siege of MEK residents by Iraqi Security Forces in Camp Ashraf as the residents await transfer to Camp Liberty and an opportunity for resettlement outside of Iraq. in this respect, the article supports the argument that the international community has a “responsibility to protect” unarmed civilians subject to harm put forth in an IPC post,

Iranian Dissidents Languish in Iraq

CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINAL ARTICLE IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon popularized the “responsibility to protect” unarmed civilians subject to harm by well-armed states. The responsibility to protect principle (R2P) holds nations responsible for shielding civilians in their midst from war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and related crimes against humanity. 

According to the secretary general, the doctrine “requires the international community to step in if this obligation is not met.” Washington is now stepping up to the plate with its offer to protect the Iranian dissidents in Iraq.

But others have shirked their roles in monitoring the situation. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) acknowledged it has not visited the Iranian oppositionists as of the end of 2011 because “the situation . . . is being monitored by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq [UNAMI].”

Yet monitoring by UNAMI has not restrained Iraqi military and police forces. They violated a signed December 2011 memorandum of understanding between the UN and Government of Iraq by mistreating Iranian dissidents during their transfer from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriya, formerly Camp Liberty, Iraq.

Since the publication of the “responsibility to protect” article, the situations in Ashraf and in Camp Liberty have deteriorated even further.

Struan Stevenson, Member of the European Parliament and President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq stated that an assault on Camp Ashraf had occurred on 27 August 2012,

 “…causing injury to 20 residents, [and] once again reveals the ominous intentions of the Iranian regime and its collaborators in Iraq. According to pictures and video clips, Iraqi SWAT forces (wearing all-black uniforms) attacked the defenceless residents, who had gathered with their personal belongings to be inspected before moving to Camp Liberty at the specific request of the US and UN.”

For additional IPC commentary on the situation in Camp Liberty at the end of August 2012, see:

Iranian American Community of Northern California: Bi-Partisan Panel lauds Iranian dissidents in Iraq, urges Secretary Clinton to de-list the Iranian opposition, MeK, and ensure the peaceful resettlement of all Camp Ashraf residents in third countries

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

Iran Policy Committee: Whistleblower Charges UN Collusion with Baghdad against Iranian Dissidents in Iraq

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — On 23 August 2012, the Iran Policy Committee (IPC) examined three sets of events regarding Iranian dissidents in Iraq, who are members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) and concluded in a press release that certain actions are necessary to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe as well as to correct wrongs. These events include: 1) A 21 July interview with as well as a 22 July article by a high level whistleblower who is a former official of the UN in Iraq and whose job was to monitor the condition of the Iranian dissidents; 2)  The whistleblower’s allegations and his comments on remarks made by a State Department spokesperson on 25 July about the status of the dissidents; and 3) A “goodwill gesture” offered on 17 August by the dissidents to send 400 additional residents from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty, Iraq.

Nonviolent, unarmed Iranian female dissidents resist Iraqi military forces in Camp Ashraf, Iraq

Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney (Ret), former assistant vice chief of staff, U.S. Air Force; and Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, U.S. Army (Ret), former Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army, Pacific interviewed the whistleblower, Tahar Boumedra, who had charged that actions of the United Nations against the Iranian dissidents were “a shameful story of hiding the truth and looking the other way when we knew there were violations … complicity with wrongdoers, and neglect of human rights and humanitarian responsibilities.”

Because the Boumedra accusations are in accord with research on Iraq that McInerney and Vallely conducted, they said, “We concur with the allegations of Boumedra and condemn the UN for failure to protect the unarmed innocent civilian Iranian dissidents; going beyond Boumedra, furthermore, we charge the Department of State with colluding against the unprotected to curry the favor of Baghdad and Tehran.” McInerney and Vallely called for “an independent investigation of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), to look into the allegations by Boumedra with special reference to discovering if prosecutable offenses may have occurred under international humanitarian law.”

American-made Iraqi Humvees patrol within Camp Liberty, as if Iranian dissidents were prisoners instead of asylum seekers to be protected

As 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, interviewed Boumedra and said, “I concur with the call for an investigation of UNAMI in light of specific charges by one of the most senior UN officials in that part of the world.”

General McInerney applauded the “goodwill gesture” on 17 August by the dissidents to send 400 additional residents from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty, Iraq. “What is not clear,” McInerney added, “is whether there would be a reciprocal move by the State Department regarding the designation of the MEK on the Department’s foreign terrorist organizations list.”

Professor Raymond Tanter, President of the IPC and former senior member of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration, stated that, “Although IPC research shows that linkage of designation of the MEK to non-statutory criteria, such as cooperation in Iraq, is not in accord with the June 2012 Federal Appeals Court ruling ordering the Secretary of State to make a determination on the status of the MEK by 1 October 2012, the Department of State has an opportunity to act now, and do what some 100 bipartisan Members of Congress have asked it to do, i.e., to delist the MEK,” added Tanter.

Tanter asked Boumedra for a response to remarks of 25 July by the State Department spokesperson. Victoria Nuland who stated, “The Government of Iraq has recently taken constructive steps … On July 15, it transported from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriya [Liberty] a cargo convoy of 300 additional air conditioners, several large water tanks, additional generators, and other goods to improve the residents’ quality of life at Camp Hurriya … We commend the Government for these positive measures and for its stated commitment to a peaceful resolution of this issue, which is the only acceptable outcome.”

Boumedra responded by saying, “Such statements contradict Iraq’s officially announced policy of making lives of Ashrafis ‘unbearable.’ Documents are available. It also does not correspond to my own firsthand experience of three and a half years dealing with this matter.”

Boumedra added, “Furthermore, whatever improvement registered, if any, during the last six months in Camp Liberty, they did not happen thanks to the generosity of the Iraqi Government. They are the achievements of Ashrafis at their own expense, despite imposed restrictions on their freedom of movement and contact with the outside world.”

State Department and UN officials concede that living conditions at Camp Liberty are significantly lower than that of the former home of the dissidents in Ashraf. On 1 August 2012, however, the State Department claimed, “Allegations of dire humanitarian conditions at Hurriya [Liberty] are inconsistent with observations made by U.S. Government officials who have visited Hurriya, as well as reporting from UN monitors. Based on these reports, and other information, it is clear that the quality of life at Hurriya exceeds accepted humanitarian standards.”

Notwithstanding Department of State claims, Boumedra said in an interview that the head of the UN in Iraq had “directed his staff to cover up the prisonlike conditions of a relocation camp for Iranian dissidents in reports to the world body.”

On a broader note, Boumedra said, “Camp Ashraf residents have been evicted from their settlement residence of 26 years without due process of law. It is an arbitrary eviction. UN rules on this matter hold that when an eviction takes place, it should be done according to due process, and the State must compensate with similar standards or higher—in any case not lower.”

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.”

Outside View: Nuclear Revelations and Nuclear Talks with Iran

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Mehdi Abrishamchi, chairman of NCRI’s Peace Committee

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2012

After a brief wave of optimism, talks with Iran slowed as senior inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog, said they had made no progress in gaining access to Iranian restricted sites suspected of being used to test potential triggers for nuclear warheads. On one hand, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator stated the next round of talks, set to open in Moscow June 18-19, could end in failure. On the other hand, European Union officials announced that Iran agreed to discuss a proposal from the six world powers to curb production of high-grade uranium in Moscow, seemingly deescalating tensions ahead of the talks.

Irrespective of the flip-flopping by Tehran, the story behind the story is how the international community gains information on such sites: Iranian nuclear intelligence comes from a variety of sources, including Tehran’s opposition.

In December 2005, one dissident group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), revealed a nuclear site near the city of Qom: Tunneling activity in the mountains outside of Qom was initiated in 2000, with the goal of constructing an underground nuclear facility; the United States and its allies publicly acknowledged the Qom site in 2009. And the NCRI revealed in September 2009 two additional sites in and near Tehran; there, the Iranian regime may be working on detonators for nuclear warheads.

In a seemingly unrelated story, which was the main input to calls for congressional inquiries, The New York Times reported that upon coming to office in 2009, President Obama gave the order to speed up a wave of cyberattacks against Iran. The article states, “Tehran sensed his vulnerability, resumed enriching uranium at an underground site at Natanz, one whose existence had been exposed just three years before.”The Washington Post, however, credited, “An exiled opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, [which] first publicly revealed the existence of Iran’s much larger uranium facility at Natanz in 2002.”

And the NCRI revealed in September 2009 two additional sites in and near Tehran; there, the Iranian regime may be working on detonators for nuclear warheads.

But the NCRI and its largest unit, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), are designated on the U.S. terrorist list, although the U.S. judiciary increasingly sees the listing as illegal; similarly, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey in the George W. Bush administration finds the designation both unwarranted and unwise. And President Bush even credited the NCRI with revelations that led to inspections of and sanctions against Iran.

The ill-advised designation diverts MEK resources from undermining the regime internally and collecting intelligence to struggling with consequences of designation. Although constrained, the resistance has made blockbuster revelations that helped make the case for international sanctions against Iran. The Center for Strategic and International Studies states, “The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) revelations about Iran’s secret nuclear program did prove to be the trigger point in inviting the IAEA into Tehran for inspections…”

In August 2002, the NCRI exposed a secret nuclear facility near an Iranian city called 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.

The NCRI made several other critical revelations, including:

  • August 2002, a heavy water production facility at Arak

ISIS stated, “The existence of this facility was first revealed publicly by the Iranian opposition group, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), 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.”

  • A nuclear facility at Lavizan-Shian

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.”

  • August 2004 laser enrichment facility at the Center for Readiness and New Defense Technology (known as Lavizan 2), built with equipment removed from the Lavizan-Shian site, kept off limits to international inspectors since its revelation by the NCRI

Regarding the validity of these Iranian resistance revelations, Dr. Frank Pabian, Senior Nonproliferation Analyst at the U.S. Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, stated, ‘They’re [the NCRI] right 90 percent of the time. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect, but 90 percent is a pretty good record.” Even if the NCRI and MEK did not have such an impressive track record, intelligence, especially those from resistance sources, is at least a “lead” to compare with information using other sources and methods.

Regarding sources of intelligence revelations, a U.S. Federal Court informed the State Department that the Court will delist the MEK (and the larger coalition, NCRI) unless State acts to continue the listing or remove it before October 1, 2012. The bottom line is that the MEK designation hampers the resistance from pursuing its opposition against the Iranian regime and harms intelligence collection on Tehran’s nuclear progress, let alone cyberattacks and military operations against Iran.

———-

Raymond Tanter served on the White House National Security Council senior staff in the Reagan-Bush administration, and is Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan.

Iran Policy Committee: Violations of Human Rights of Iranian Dissidents in Iraq and the Unwarranted Terrorist Designation of Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK)

Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Department of State, Ambassador Daniel Benjamin

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WASHINGTON, July 17, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — On 17 July 2012, the Iran Policy Committee (IPC) issued a press release. A State Department teleconference on 6 July 2012 prompted the release. Briefing the media were Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Ambassador Daniel Benjamin as well as Special Advisor to the Secretary on Camp Ashraf, Ambassador Daniel Fried. They briefed on the situation at Camp Ashraf, Iraq and the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) designation. Developments over the past few days also stimulated the release.

Regarding human rights, Ambassador Benjamin stated, “The Iraqi Government and the United Nations continue to encourage the secure, humane relocation of residents to Hurriya [Liberty] for refugee status determinations by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.” Benjamin added that because no other convoys of the residents of Camp Ashraf have relocated to Liberty since early May, “…the patience of the Iraqi Government is wearing thin.”

Special Advisor to the Secretary of State on Camp Ashraf, Ambassador Daniel Fried

Three former U.S. military officers of the IPC issued a joint statement taking issue with Ambassador Benjamin’s assertions about Baghdad and the UN encouraging secure and humane relocation: 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).

McInerney, Vallely, and Nash stated, “As former members of the U.S. military, we are concerned that Ambassador Benjamin’s statement will be read as a signal by Baghdad to launch a third attack against Iranian dissidents in Ashraf. Based on IPC research, we believe the Government of Iraq is engaged in serious violations of the human rights of Iranian dissidents in Ashraf and Liberty, Iraq. With the acquiescence of U.S. diplomats, dissidents’ rights as asylum seekers in their quest for refugee status are being violated on a systematic basis by Baghdad.”

Founder and President, Global Initiative for Democracy and former Freedom House Executive Director, Bruce McColm joined Professor Raymond Tanter, President of the IPC and former member of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration to comment on the situation of the dissidents in Ashraf and Liberty.

Ambassador Fried described the relocation of the residents of Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty as “successful,” because during the transfer there were no “roadside bombs or attacks.” Ambassador Fried added, “I’m more impressed by the progress that has been made than concerned by the problems that remain. This is Iraq…we’re doing all right so far.”

Tanter said, “Such a statement by Fried is in stark contrast to remarks of 71 Members of the Iraqi parliament, who find, ‘Conditions at Liberty are far from humane and have every character of a forced relocation.'”

Tanter  stated, “On 30 June 2012, the Deputy Prime Minister and General Secretary of the Iraqi National Movement informed the UN Secretary General that Camp Liberty was a ‘prison’ for the residents because they are collectively punished with their deprivation from basic humanitarian needs at the behest of the Iranian regime.”

On the basis of IPC research, McColm pointed out examples of necessary equipment to ensure basic human rights, especially for the disabled and to solve the water shortage in Liberty:

Transfer of specially-designed vehicles and specially-designed trailers for the disabled from Ashraf to Liberty and about 50 passenger cars, which would mean one car for about every 40 residents, a minimum in the hot weather for wounded and disabled residents

Permission for construction, including the building of pavements, porches, canopies, ramps, special facilities for the disabled, and permission to build green areas and recreational facilities

Removal of large power generators owned by the residents from Ashraf to Liberty, an adequate number of forklifts to Liberty, and ability to sell their movable and immovable assets in Ashraf to fund their relocation and resettlement abroad

“Having the residents to deliver water on a daily basis from 12 kilometers away by tankers was not a way to meet minimum humanitarian needs,” said McColm.

McColm also stated, “Connecting Liberty to a municipal water network, which was repeatedly promised by Iraqi officials and confirmed by the State Department and UN representatives, would be one solution to the water shortage problem.”

“To improve the life support infrastructure of Camp Liberty to an acceptable level is an absolute necessity for the State Department to live up to its promises made to every resident of Camp Ashraf and deprive Iran from its desire to wear down its opposition into submission in prison-like conditions at Camp Liberty,” said IPC president, Professor Raymond Tanter.

With respect to the terrorist designation of the MEK, on 6 July 2012, Ambassador Benjamin said, “With such a [violent] history, cooperating fully with the UN’s efforts in Iraq would be a tangible demonstration that the MEK has left its violent past behind and that it no longer retains the capability and intent to engage in acts of terrorism.”

Tanter stated, “IPC research shows that linkage of designation of the MEK to non-statutory criteria, such as cooperation in Iraq, is not in accord with the June 2012 Federal Appeals Court ruling ordering the Secretary of State to make a determination on the status of the MEK by October 2012; the Court ignored or rejected such linkage when presented by the State Department representative in briefs and oral argument prior to the June ruling.”

In addition, Tanter said, “Legal criteria for inclusion on the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list are that a group must be a foreign organization; engaged in terrorist activity or retain the capability as well as intent to engage in terrorist activity; and that activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or its national security. Thus, cooperation in a relocation process is not a legal criterion for designation or continued listing.”

Tanter also stated, “The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 holds that even if an organization is engaged in terrorist activities or terrorism or retains the capability and intent to do so, national security considerations may warrant removal from the terrorist list. The law, however, does not provide for the reverse—that is, maintaining a designation for non-terrorist reasons. Relisting the MEK because of alleged noncooperation in Iraq would be an example of a non-statuary rationale and legally impermissible.”

McInerney, Vallely, Nash, McColm, and Tanter concluded, “Violations of the human rights of Iranian dissidents in Iraq and linkage of their relocation within Iraq to what several national and international courts have found to be an unwarranted  terrorist designation of the organization to which they belong—the MEK—is a recipe for another violent crackdown by Iraq on the Iranian oppositionists. As the 20 July unilateral Iraqi deadline for perhaps forcibly evacuating the remaining dissidents from Ashraf to Liberty approaches, the international community has a responsibility to pressure Baghdad to improve humanitarian conditions so they can safely relocate within Iraq as prelude to humane resettlement in friendly countries.”

Empowering Iran’s Opposition for Regime Change from within

CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINAL POST FROM HAARETZ, AN ISRAELI NEWSPAPER

8 June 2012

To facilitate regime change from within Iran, it is critical to remove the terrorist designation from the MEK, and to protect and resettle its members.

To bring about regime change from within Iran requires a dissident organization with the kind of leadership skills that helped create a coalition to overthrow the shah of Iran. Only one viable group that rejects clerical rule in Iran remains from the days of the Islamic Revolution – the Iraq-based Mujahideen-e-Khalq, the largest group within the National Council of Resistance of Iran (the Paris-based parliament-in-exile ). Although primarily based in Iraq and France, both groups exercise considerable influence within Iran.

In a study of several formal Iranian opposition organizations during 2005, the Iran Policy Committee concluded that the MEK and the NCRI have the expertise and means to join and lead a coalition for political change in Iran; and in a follow-up study, the IPC found that despite the law and facts, these two dissident groups were hampered from doing so because of being tagged as terrorist organizations by the U.S. Government. In addition, the terrorist tag harmed the ability of the MEK and NCRI to collect intelligence on the Iranian regime, information that had been instrumental in bringing about international inspections and sanctions.

Regarding the origins of the inspections-sanctions link, The New York Times reported that upon coming to office in 2009, President Obama gave the order to speed up a wave of cyberattacks against Iran. The article states, “Tehran sensed his vulnerability, resumed enriching uranium at an underground site at Natanz, one whose existence had been exposed just three years before.” But, in fact, The Washington Post correctly credited, “An exiled opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, [which] first publicly revealed the existence of Iran’s much larger uranium facility at Natanz in 2002.”

Indeed, during August 2002, the NCRI reported the existence of a secret nuclear facility near Natanz. An independent think tank, the Institute for Science and International Security, confirmed the revelation, identified the site as a uranium enrichment facility, and that December, released imagery of Natanz.

In a 2006 study, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, (CSIS), a Washington, D.C. think tank, found that “The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) revelations about Iran’s secret nuclear program did prove to be the trigger point in inviting the IAEA into Tehran for inspections…”

Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to examine US strategic objectives towards Iran. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

On 3-4 June 2012, David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, was in Israel, where he discussed additional sanctions against Iran with the heads of both the Mossad and IDF Intelligence. On 8 June, UN nuclear watchdog agency chief Yukiya Amano met in Vienna with Iranian representatives to negotiate access for inspectors to a suspect nuclear site, but such talks failed to reach agreement and reinforced the need for sanctions to coerce Tehran to negotiate seriously. The Cohen and Amano visits highlight the nexus of inspections and sanctions.

Considering the continued blacklisting of the MEK (and NCRI), it’s worthwhile to examine essential aspects of the organization: its ideology, support within Iran, and how the group relates to Israel.

In IPC research, we have interviewed most of the MEK leaders in both Iraq and France, as well as analyzed their foundational statements and documents. We determined their positions to be consistent with democratic principles. Tehran seeks to delegitimize and link Israel and the MEK, partly because both are committed to the rule of law rather than reign by unelected clerics. We found that leaders and rank-and-file of the MEK support a two-state solution to the Palestinian problem and Israel’s right to exist. In contrast, other dissidents have called for the annihilation of Israel, as well as preservation of the nuclear program.

Abroad, no other dissident organization can mobilize similar numbers of expatriates at its rallies. (See two references to the work of Daniel Pipes below this post.) On June 23, MEK supporters will hold their 9th annual rally in Villepinte, France. The event regularly draws upward of 80,000 supporters, including many Arabs, Christians, and Jews.

Back in Iran, the disproportionate number of summer 2009 protesters arrested, sentenced to death, and hanged because of their association with the MEK also indicates the organization’s significant presence on the Iranian street. And the vast majority of an estimated 30,000 political prisoners massacred in summer 1988 belonged to the MEK. Risking one’s life to divulge highly classified intelligence is a clear indication that even in the most sensitive field of national security, there are MEK supporters.

The IPC conducted a content analysis of references to all formal Iranian opposition groups in regime media during 2005, in both Farsi and English. The team found that state-run media paid 350 percent more attention to the MEK than all other organizations combined.

And yet, since 1997, the MEK has been on the list of foreign terror organizations compiled by the State Department. The designation almost paralyzes a group that operates openly, and makes it illegal for U.S. citizens to provide it with material support. The more recent roots of this ongoing aberration go back to the summer of 1997, when a “moderate” cleric, Mohammad Khatami, was elected as Iran’s new president. The Clinton administration saw inclusion of the MEK on the terrorist list as a goodwill gesture to the new regime, with which it was hoping to open a dialogue.

On June 1, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington informed the State Department that it had until October 1 to make a decision on the status of the MEK; otherwise the court would order its revocation from the list. The Department can be expected to allow that full period to pass to delay delisting out of a desire to keep alive the moribund nuclear talks with Iran, which threatens to end talks if the MEK were delisted.

To facilitate regime change from within Iran, it is critical to remove the terrorist designation from the MEK, and to protect and resettle its members who are under constant attacks and threats from Iran and its proxies in Iraq. The Iranian people, as well as Jerusalem and Washington, all have an interest in empowering the Iranian opposition. The current policy does just the opposite; it empowers the regime in Iran.

Prof. Raymond Tanter served on the senior staff of the National Security Council in the Reagan administration, and has been a visiting professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His most recent book is “Terror Tagging of an Iranian Dissident Organization” (Amazon Kindle).