Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
WASHINGTON — Call it the coalition of the baffled — a diverse group of prominent public figures who challenge the U.S. government’s logic of keeping on its terrorist blacklist an Iranian exile organization that publicly renounced violence a decade ago and has fed details on Iran’s nuclear programme to American intelligence.
On the U.S. Department of State’s list of 47 foreign terrorist organizations, the Mujahedin-e-Khalq is the only group that has been taken off similar lists by the European Union and Britain, after court decisions that found no evidence of terrorist activity in recent years. In the U.S., a court last July ordered the State Department to review the designation. Nine months later, that review is still in progress and supporters of the MEK wonder why it is taking so long.
The organization has been on the list since 1997, placed there by the Clinton administration at a time it hoped to open a dialogue with Iran, whose leaders hate the MEK for having sided with Saddam Hussein in the Iraq-Iran war.
Calls to hasten the delisting process rose in volume after Iraqi troops raided the base of the MEK northeast of Baghdad, near the Iranian border, in an operation on April 8 that left at least 34 dead, according to the United Nations Human Rights chief, Navi Pillay. In Washington, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, called the raid a “massacre.” Video uploaded by the MEK showed gut-wrenchingly graphic images of dead and wounded, some after being run over by armoured personnel carriers.
The raid drew cheers from officials in Iran, where the group is also classified as terrorist, one of the few things on which Washington and Tehran agree. The word schizophrenia comes to mind here. Iran is one of four countries the U.S. has declared state sponsors of terrorism. The MEK’s stated aim is the peaceful ouster of the Iranian theocracy. Isn’t there something wrong with this picture?