Lobbyists for listed Iranian terror group face new scrutiny
Retired US politicians, generals, and officials have been lobbying on behalf of the Iranian group MEK, listed as a terrorist group by the State Department.
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Will any of this lead anywhere? Probably not. It's hardly news that US law is applied unevenly when it comes to lobbying and connected retired officials. As for the MEK coming off the terrorist list? They remain there today as much as anything to avoid complicating negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, with many US officials concerned that a positive gesture to the group would do more harm than good to US interests. The status quo seems likely to prevail, at least under this administration.
Former presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is one of the MEK and Ms. Rajavi's greatest admirers, and made the case for her group at its annual conference in France this June, which was attended by a passel of former US officials.
Mr. Gingrich referred to the MEK leader as "President" Rajavi, and told her enthusiastic supporters he was wowed by one of her recent speeches.
He said he hoped "that some people in the State Department might see the reality that this is a massive, worldwide movement for liberty in Iran and not anything like the State Department's descriptions and I think what you did yesterday was historic and extraordinary and needs to be driven home so that everybody that makes foreign policy decisions in the United States understands just how big this movement is getting ... and how bipartisan the American support for it is."
It's been a very long time since the MEK has carried out a terrorist attack, and it hasn't murdered a US citizen since the mid-1970s, when they killed two US officers attached to the US embassy in Tehran and four American contractors working in Iran. But the group worked closely with Saddam Hussein during his war with Iran in the 1980s, and was involved in the crackdown against his Kurdish and other domestic political opponents.
It retains an unsavory, cult-like reputation in many circles. Camp Ashraf in Iraq, its base of operations when the MEK was in business under Saddam Hussein, was for many years controlled entirely by the group. Former members have complained of being ordered to dissolve their marriages (because they distracted them from supporting Rajavi and her husband), to give up their personal property to the group, and of being physically prevented from leaving the organization by her loyalists.
Newt Gingrich's bow to Rajavi was more than a little ironic. While the gesture, as it generally is, was gracious, he hasn't been shy about making politics over other people's body posture in the pass. When he was still running for president in March, Gingrich released an ad attacking Obama for bowing to the king of Saudi Arabia.