|Because all material dealings with the MEK are serious felonies, the Treasury Department has recently issued subpoenas to some of its key US supporters.|
Has any other maxim led to greater error and remorse than the twisted logic that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend?” Yet the irony is that this malevolent cliché is actually the most charitable interpretation for why a large and bipartisan group of prominent Americans is currently lobbying on behalf of the bizarre Iranian terrorist cult the Mujahedeen e-Khalq, or MEK.
This unlikely coalition is pressuring the US government to change its policies towards the main MEK base, “Camp Ashraf,” in Iraq and thwart American and Iraqi plans for resolving that issue. More ominously, the group is pressuring to have the MEK removed from the list of designated foreign terrorist organizations.
The somewhat less charitable explanation is that many of the American MEK supporters have been paid tens of thousands of dollars for speeches and other services. Because all material dealings with the MEK are serious felonies, the Treasury Department has recently issued subpoenas to some of its key US supporters, including former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, former Department of Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge, former FBI Director Louis Freeh, and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton. Rendell’s office, for example, admits he has received $160,000 for such efforts over the past year.
Other prominent MEK supporters include Republican notables such as the former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend, former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, many of whom are self-styled anti-terrorism crusaders. On the Democratic side, MEK backers include former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and former Senior Allied Commander of NATO Wesley Clark.
The MEK is on the terrorism list for good reason. According to a State Department report published in 1997, the organization “assassinated at least six American citizens, supported the takeover of the US Embassy [in Tehran], and opposed the release of the American hostages.” Since then, the organization has been implicated in numerous terrorist attacks inside Iran and elsewhere, and for many years its main sponsor was Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
A further, and more disturbing, motivation for this indefensible championing of the MEK was recently revealed by NBC News. It reported that US officials said “deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group [the MEK] that is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service.”
For some, it seems, although the MEK may be a terrorist group, it has the “right targets,” and therefore should be supported rather than banned.
But the MEK is not simply a run-of-the-mill dissident group employing terrorist tactics. It is a bizarre and dangerous cult run by a strange and fanatical couple, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, that reportedly keeps its members in total isolation, forbids marriages and imposes divorces, and engages in disturbing “self-criticism” sessions. Its ideology is a twisted syncretism of Shia fundamentalism, Marxism and feminism run amok. Numerous observers have aptly compared its mindset to that of the Khmer Rouge.
While the MEK opposes the foul dictatorship in Tehran, its own structure and practices reveal disturbingly similar undemocratic practices, and indeed far worse. For a simple primer on how the MEK conducts itself, readers should consult Elizabeth Rubin’s 2003 New York Times report, “The Cult of Rajavi.”
The Treasury Department is to be commended for launching a long-overdue investigation into the MEK’s well-funded US lobby, as well as its large payments to exceptionally prominent Americans who certainly ought to know better. Some have claimed ignorance about the MEK’s history and practices. However, any 10-year-old with an Internet connection could discover the truth about this nefarious organization within minutes of casual browsing.
Were the State Department to de-list the organization as a terrorist group, the official American approach to international terrorism would be shorn of any pretense of principle. Moral clarity on terrorism would be abandoned in favor of the logic of “they’re our terrorists, so they’re acceptable,” simply on the basis that their targets are the repulsive regime in Tehran and its nuclear program, possibly under Israeli state sponsorship.
For far too long, MEK front organizations have operated with impunity in the United States. Prominent Americans have accepted cash payments that with regard to other designated terrorist groups would have long since led to major prosecutions. Rather than de-listing the MEK from the terrorism list, the United States government should vigorously pursue its investigation into those Americans who have accepted payments from its front organizations.
By legitimizing the MEK, Washington would lose almost all credibility when it comes to opposing terrorism. The enemy of my enemy is by no means necessarily my friend. That way madness lies.