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Iranian group's big-money push to get off US terrorist list

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: A roster of influential former US officials is speaking at rallies in support of removing the MEK, an Iranian opposition group with a violent anti-American history, from the US terrorist list. A decision is expected within weeks.

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Such groups are familiar to US agencies as a means for MEK supporters to raise and spend funds, despite the terrorist designation. The State Dept. has described how the MEK “has formed associated groups with benign names” to raise cash and sympathy.

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"I am not aware of any activities they undertake that are not MEK-related," says one US official about these regional organizations. "I couldn't begin to count them all.... They've got so many shells and fronts among their organizations that we can't keep up with them all."

Camp Ashraf

But a top priority for speakers at pro-MEK events is Camp Ashraf and its 3,400 occupants, who after years of military training during the Saddam era were disarmed with a promise of protection from US commanders.

The camp – due to be closed by the end of the year – has largely cut itself off from the outside world, with restricted access to telephones, Internet, and satellite television. MEK members, their identity documents long ago confiscated by the MEK, take part in frequent self-criticism sessions and must pledge to “eternal divorce.”

"Love for the Rajavis was to replace love for spouses and family," notes the 2009 RAND report, which found that perhaps 70 percent of the people there "may have been recruited through deception" and are kept at Ashraf "against their will."

Severe gender segregation means that "lines are painted down the middle of hallways separating them into men's and women's sides," the RAND report reads. "Even the gas station at Camp Ashraf has separate hours for men and women."

Prior to 2003, all MEK members carried cyanide tablets in leather pouches around their necks, according to RAND. Since then, "the MEK frequently used the threat of suicide as a negotiating tactic or to frustrate investigations."

US officials are trying to convince the MEK to temporarily shift elsewhere in Iraq before disbanding, pinning their hopes on United Nations refugee status and resettlement elsewhere.

Mukasey told the Monitor that “What is developing [at Camp Ashraf] is another Srebrenica, with US complicity,” because Iraqi security forces – hostile to the MEK as past agents of Saddam – have several times in two years engaged in clashes at the camp, most recently in April when 34 were killed.

Former Governor Dean told an MEK-linked audience in July: "Let's stop the name-calling and foolishness and look at this for what it is. This is genocide, and we will not have it!" Then he spoke of broader ambitions: “We will free the people of Ashraf, and we will free the people of Iran from the tyranny of the mullahs.”

Still uncertain, however, is the path that will lead there. Despite the warning by many Iran experts that the MEK belongs on the terrorism list, the high-powered campaign to resurrect the group carries on.

Also speaking in July, Shelton called the Camp Ashraf resettlement proposal a "recipe for ethnic cleansing," adding: "Wake up, State Department! Take the MEK off the FTO list today."

He said the "10-point program and human rights platform" published by Mrs. Rajavi "makes it a no-brainer."

Then Shelton posed the question: "Why would we not want to put the weight and power of this country behind an organization that we know stands for the same principles we stand for, and that is the best-organized, the best-led organization to take on the current Iranian regime?"

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