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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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The State Dept. official, who is familiar with the speech contracts, explains the mechanism: “Your speech agent calls, and says you get $20,000 to speak for 20 minutes. They will send a private jet, you get $25,000 more when you are done, and they will send a team to brief you on what to say.”

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"Top-level national security officials never heard about the MEK; it never rose to their level until now," says another US official. "So when MEK representatives show them a political platform comprised of the '15 greatest ideas of Western civilization,' it looks pretty compelling."

The contracts can range up to $100,000 and include several appearances. They sometimes explicitly state, according to the State Dept. official, that "We are not a front organization for the MEK."

The speaking events have created some extraordinary spectacles, including that of US heavyweights sharing the stage with the MEK's self-declared "president-elect" Maryam Rajavi. At a mid-June MEK rally in Paris, for example, Mrs. Rajavi was flanked by five rows of former top US and European officials. The noisy throng of thousands of well-orchestrated MEK supporters, draped in yellow vests and waving flags, banners, and balloons as clouds of confetti fell, looked like an American political convention.

Rajavi said the US had "shackled the main force for change in Iran through an unwarranted label," which had "acted as a barrier to Iranian people's freedom." The MEK leader called on the US government to "heed" senior former officials demanding delisting and "recognition of the Iran resistance."

Those former officials lined up in Paris to voice their support for the MEK, and to criticize Washington's Iran policy:

  • "How about we follow an Arab Spring with a Persian Summer?" asked Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, during his speech, as an American flag waved on the screen behind him. "We need regime change in Iran, more than we do in Egypt or Libya, and just as we need it in Syria."

It wasn't Mr. Giuliani's first time speaking at a pro-MEK event: “Appeasement of dictators leads to war, destruction and the loss of human lives,” Mr. Giuliani told a similar gropu of Iranian exiles in Paris last December. “For your organization to be described as a terrorist organization is just really a disgrace.”

  • Michael Mukasey, the former US attorney general, declared: "There is one organization and one alone, that stands for immediate democratic change in Iran, and that is the MEK."
  • Andrew Card, former White House chief of staff under George W. Bush, told the crowd the gathering was a "great reflection of support for the people of the MEK. It is truly time ... for the people all over the world who care about democracy to stand with the Iranian people and the MEK in the struggle for democracy."
  • Tom Ridge, the former US homeland security chief, also took the podium: “It’s an extraordinary honor for me, and a great privilege for my colleagues from the United States," Mr. Ridge said, “to have the opportunity…to work with an individual that we believe clearly is one of the most inspirational, great leaders of the 21st century: Viva Maryam!"
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