WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A number of top-level Bush administration officials and Iran scholars on Friday urged the Obama Administration to take an Iranian opposition group off the terrorism blacklist and to support regime change in Iran.
The officials spoke in a symposium moderated by former Congressman, Tom Tancredo, and entitled “Iran’s Nuclear & Terrorism Threats; the Opposition’s Role: What Are US Policy Options?” was organized by the ExecutiveAction, LLC.
Michael Mukasey, former Attorney General; Tom Ridge, former Secretary of Homeland Security; Frances Townsend, Former Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Prof. Ruth Wedgwood of Johns Hopkins University; Professor Raymond Tanter, former senior NSC staff member; and Dr. Neil Livingstone, a terrorism expert, told a standing room only audience that time had come for the United States to change its wrongheaded policy of trying to engage with the Iranian regime and instead reach out to the organized opposition in order to thwart Tehran’s nuclear and terrorist threats by encouraging regime change by the Iranian people.
Attorney General Mukasey said, “It is pretty openly acknowledged that the reason MEK was placed on the list by the Clinton administration was to curry favor with Iran, and to use the designation as a way of entering into dialogue with the Iranian regime. And I am sorry to say that even during the administration that I served in, it is reported that the MEK continued to remain on the list for the same misguided reason – that if we kept MEK on the list of terrorist organizations … then somehow the Iranians would be more willing to engage in constructive negotiations to end their nuclear program.”
Underlining that the designation of the MEK had been prompted by the notion that it might enhance dialogue with Tehran, Mr. Ridge emphasized, “One of the most significant things we can do is delist as the UK has done, and the European Union has done. They did consolidate. They did disarm. They were a source of considerable intelligence for us, and if we were to look for peaceful means of encouraging a regime change, it seems to be one of the first and most significant steps we could take.”
Recalling that the Iranian opposition had “disarmed and renounced violence,” Ms. Townsend said, “The United States should take the MEK off the list.” She added, “They ought to be able to be their own advocates, right now we are their advocates but they are entitled to make their own case in front of the American congress and the American people.”
Regarding the nuclear program of Iran, Ambassador Bolton emphasized that “these are publicly available pieces of information that shows what the regime is up to, much of which has come from the MEK. But much of the information was made public by the MEK, an activity that continues in these recent weeks and month and it shows the extend of the contribution that the MEK has made for the public understanding of the regime’s nuclear program and frankly to enhancing the United States government as we tried to deal with it.”
Discussing the impact of the terrorist designation on the situation of 3,400 PMOI members in Camp Ashraf, Prof. Wedgwood said, “Anybody who cares about the region should be concerned. Ashraf is now like the Alamo… It is utterly important that the Ashraf residents are not returned to a regime which will kill them, are not sent to a desert detention center that is uninhabitable. Conventions are at stake, the Geneva is at stake.” Regarding the FTO designation of the MEK, Prof. Wedgwood said, “organizations that have committed themselves to be democratic and peaceful should not be on the list.”
In part of his speech, Dr. Livingstone, which made public a report entitled, “Conflicting Objectives: An Analysis of the U.S. State Department’s Assessment of the Mujahedin-e Khalq,” noted that the blacklisting of the PMOI had “undercut the efficacy of the list and, in many respects, crippled the effectiveness of one of the leading members of the Iranian opposition, which supports democracy and human rights in Iran.” “It is inexcusable and immoral, it is downright stupid, that we continue to blacklist the enemies of the anti-American, anti-Semitic, and anti-Western regime in Iran, in the vain hope that this will somehow facilitate an accommodation with Ahmadinejad and his cohorts,” he added.
Prof. Tanter discussed the results of his research into terrorism incidents around the world and said that in none of the databases that record such data was there any evidence of MEK being involved in any acts of terrorism since 2001. He said that interestingly, some of the false reports disseminated by the Iranian state media against the group had found its way into the U.S. classified database, but was dismissed by the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals, the D.C. Circuit as being implausible.
In July 2010, a U.S. Federal Court of Appeals ruled that the 2009 FTO designation of the MEK was in violation of the due process and remanded the case to the State Department to review the group’s designation. A bi-partisan H.Res.1431, co-sponsored by 112 House members has invited Secretary Clinton to delist the MEK.