Ever since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Iranian MEK (short for Mujahedeen-e Khalge) has been a thorny spoil of war for the United States. Originally an armed anti-Shah movement, they came to fight the clerical regime they helped impose only to move on to supporting Iraq in its war against the ayatollah and his minions. Having targeted and killed several prominent Americans during their heyday in the 1970s, they are on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. Now, about three thousand members of the group—seasoned in fighting the Iranian regime and stationed by Saddam in a place called Camp Ashraf—are American captives in Iraq. In the last few years, their fate has been the subject of constant squabbles in Washington and between Washington and Baghdad. With an apparently endless supply of funds at their disposal, MEK members have repeatedly and unsuccessfully petitioned the federal government to have their names taken off the terrorist list. In a few days, Secretary Clinton will have to decide how to answer their pleas.
And so their remarkably well-oiled machine of PR firms, powerful American politicians (all handsomely paid for services rendered) and other pressure groups is now at it again. These advocates repeat what the MEK and its many front organizations claim: The group has jettisoned its violent past and is now, in its new incarnation, a key component of the democratic movement.
At the same time, another equally well-oiled machine, this one even including lobbyists paid for by the clerical regime in Tehran, is working against delisting MEK, calling the group a dangerous cult with Iranian, Iraqi and American blood on its hands. Many in Iraq (either taking their cues from the current leadership or with an eye toward the days when MEK was an enforcer for the Saddam regime) are opposed to the group’s continued residence in their country.
(photo credit: john)