The War Lobby Marches On

On Friday it was reported that MEK will be removed from the US terrorist list, after several leading Washington figures from both parties whored themselves out to lobby for it. Seeing Howard Dean back terrorism against another country is quite something. Giuliani has always been a corrupt money-whore. For me, it would have been like the US removing the IRA from a terrorist list in the 1970s. It's a real sign of how powerful the Iran war lobby is in Washington, how money perverts everything in Washington – and another attempt by the neocons to create a casus belli. Greenwald rightly fumes:

[H]ere we have a glittering, bipartisan cast of former US officials and other prominent Americans who are swimming in cash as they advocate on behalf of a designated terrorist organization. After receiving their cash, Howard Dean and Rudy Giuliani met with MEK leaders, and Dean actually declared that the group's leader should be recognized by the west as President of Iran. That is exactly the type of coordinated messaging with a terrorist group with the supreme court found, in its 2010 Humanitarian Law v. Holder ruling, could, consistent with the First Amendment, lead to prosecution for "material support of terrorism" (ironically, numerous MEK shills, including CNN's Townsend, praised the supreme court for its broad reading of that statute when they thought, correctly, that it was being applied to Muslims).

Richard Silverstein examines the formal rationale for the delisting:

The Obama administration isn't even claiming the MEK has renounced terrorism. If it did, it knows that it's likely such a statement would rebound should the MEK's activities become exposed. The chief argument offered in defense of the change of heart is that the group has agreed to relocate from Camp Ashraf, where it's been a thorn in the side of the Iraqi Shi'ite led government, to a US facility, from which the residents would be relocated to foreign countries. 

So, we're removing a terror group from the list not because it's stopped being a terror group, but because it's agreed to leave Iraq, where it had been a destabilizing influence. That's not a principled position. It's a position based on pure political calculation.

But Bob Wright worries:

I've argued before that such a "delisting" of MEK would empower hardliners in Iran who want to block a negotiated solution of the nuclear issue. After all, not only is MEK devoted to overthrowing the Iranian government, and not only did it side with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war–MEK has recently, according to NBC News , served as Israel's proxy in murdering Iranian scientists. So America's delisting of MEK will be used by Iranian hardliners as evidence that America is too hostile to be a reliable negotiating partner–just as American hawks highlight evidence of Iranian hostility to argue that negotiations are futile.

NIAC's Jamal Abdi fears the worst, calling the decision a "gift" to the Iranian regime:

The decision opens the door to Congressional funding of the MEK to conduct terrorist attacks in Iran, makes war with Iran far more likely, and will seriously damage Iran’s peaceful pro-democracy movement as well as America’s standing among ordinary Iranians.

Spencer adds more context:

[The decision] will leave the organization free to fundraise and operate without attracting the attention of the FBI. The impact on U.S.-Iranian relations may be marginal, but the symbolism is enormous: As tensions with Iran over its nuclear program remain high, the Obama administration is wiping away the stigma from a cultish group that wants to overthrow the Iranian regime so badly it has attacked Iranian and other civilians to advance its agenda. And it comes after a long and deep-pocketed lobbying effort attracted a host of Washington politicos to advocate for the group. 

Larison also calls out MEK's often well compensated supporters here in the US:

We shouldn’t discount the possibility that the decision to remove them from the FTO list will be exploited by the same pro-MEK advocates in the U.S. that lobbied for them until now. If they are removed from the FTO list now, it will probably be just a matter of time before Iran hawks begin agitating for funding, training, and eventually arming them to use against the Iranian government.

Paul Pillar's reaction sums up the thoughts of many analysts:

No good will come out of this subversion of the terrorist-group list with regard to conditions in Iran, the behavior or standing of the Iranian regime, the values with which the United States is associated or anything else. The regime in Tehran will tacitly welcome this move (while publicly denouncing it) because it helps to discredit the political opposition in Iran—a fact not lost on members of the Green Movement, who want nothing to do with the MEK. The MEK certainly is not a credible vehicle for regime change in Iran because it has almost no public support there. Meanwhile, the Iranian regime will read the move as another indication that the United States intends only to use subversion and violence against it rather than reaching any deals with it.

Although the list of foreign terrorist organizations unfortunately has come to be regarded as a kind of general-purpose way of bestowing condemnation or acceptance on a group, we should remember that delisting changes nothing about the character of the MEK. It is still a cult. It still has near-zero popular support in Iran. It still has a despicably violent history. As for more recent chapters of that history, given how public the delisting issue became with the MEK, it probably would have been appropriate for the Department of State to address publicly the press reports, sourced to U.S. officials, that the MEK has collaborated with Israel on terrorist assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. But that, of course, would have required the politically inconvenient act of publicly addressing Israeli terrorism.

Previous Dish MEK coverage here.