Influential politicos including former Vermont governor Howard Dean have succeeded in their well-compensated lobbying campaign to remove an Iranian dissident group from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.
The State Department announced on Friday that it is formally de-listing the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), which has handsomely remunerated Dean and other high-caliber hired guns, such as former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge. The MEK even enlisted a few high-profile journalists as speakers, notably Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame and Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page.
The de-listing upset a few bloggers who side with Dean's stands more often than not. "Several leading Washington figures from both parties whored themselves out to lobby for [MEK]," Andrew Sullivan wrote in The Daily Beast. "Seeing Howard Dean back terrorism in another country is quite something. Giuliani has always been a corrupt money-whore."
Citing unnamed U.S. officials as sources, NBC News reported in February that "deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by [MEK]," which, NBC said, is "financed, trained and armed by Israel's secret service." MEK denies such involvement.
More recently, the New York Times reported that thugs apparently associated with MEK assaulted an Iranian official last week on a street near United Nations headquarters in Manhattan.
Glenn Greenwald, a widely read critic of Obama administration national-security policies, recalled last week in London's Guardian newspaper that Dean had publicly urged U.S. and European recognition of MEK's leader as president of Iran. A State Department official made clear in a briefing announcing MEK's de-listing last Friday, however, that such a step is not going to be taken.
"We do not see the MEK as a viable opposition or democratic opposition movement," the official told reporters in a conference call, according to a transcript posted online. "We have no evidence and we have no confidence that the MEK is an organization that could promote the democratic values that we would like to see in Iran."
MEK is an exile group that's been based in Iraq for more than two decades after supporting Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. It was originally designated as a terrorist organization in 1997, when the Clinton administration blacklisted the group over its role in the killing of several Americans in Iran in the 1970s.
Providing "material support" for terrorism is a felony under U.S. law. — and the U.S. Treasury Department was reportedly investigating the source of the payments to pro-MEK speakers.
Dean and MEK's other paid lobbyists in the U.S. have argued that the group has changed its ways since its addition to the terror list 40 years ago. The former governor and Democratic presidential candidate did not respond to requests for comment this week.
Dean told Seven Days last year, however, that MEK were facing increasing hostilities from Iraq's Shi'ite-led government and characterized de-listing the group as a "a human right issue — period." "The issue shouldn't be about whether I get paid to make a speech or if this group is a cult," Dean said at the time, though he declined to say how much he had been paid for his MEK lobbying.