|The leader of the Iranian group Mujahedin-e Khalq told the Wall Street Journal that her organization is seeking recognition as the legitimate political opposition to the government in Tehran.
Days after the group was delisted as a terrorist organization by the State Department, MeK leader Maryam Rajavi said in an interview at the European Parliament building in Brussels that the removal presents new opportunities.
“We have this opportunity to let the world and the governments know us through our own voice rather than the perspective of our enemies. So far, we have been denied that choice with the terrorism label,” she said to the Journal.
The MeK was placed on the list of foreign terror organizations in 1997 because of its alliance with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and an assassination campaign it launched against U.S. officials in Tehran prior to the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979.
U.S. officials, according to the Journal report, think the MeK has little popular support inside Iran, where it is widely viewed as an extremist cult—assertions that Rajavi described as Tehran-inspired propaganda. Some analysts cited in the Journal story said the MeK’s delisting might discredit domestic political opponents of the current government.
MeK engaged in an aggressive lobbying campaign in Washington over the past two years — enlisting officials from both major political parties – to win its removal from the State Department’s list. It paid speaker’s fees of up to $40,000 to those who lobbied on their behalf.
The list of U.S. officials speaking for MeK ranged from Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic Party, to Newt Gingrich, a Republican former speaker of the House of Representatives. Some journalists even spoke for them.
In the interview with the Journal, Rajavi called for Western governments to further tighten sanctions, which she said wouldn’t hurt the Iranian people, only those close to the regime. She urged governments to sever diplomatic relations with Tehran.
Iran condemned Washington’s decision to remove the Paris-based group from the terrorism list. The Associated Press reported Iranian state television as saying the delisting “shows America’s double-standard policy on terrorism.”