Delisting MEK: Really Not Helpful
If the Obama administration is at all serious about a diplomatic solution to the strife with Iran, it's really good at acting like it's not. The Washington Post is reporting that the State Department is about to remove the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from the its list of designated terrorist organizations. The move to delist the MEK will most certainly not help advance the trust necessary to reach a diplomatic accord.
The MEK was formed in the 1960's as a Marxist-Islamist student organization to counter the US-backed Shah's ruling regime. The organization assassinated three US citizens and three US Army officers in the 1970's and supported a number of other anti-US operations, including the 1979 embassy seizure. After a confrontation with the Khomeini regime int he early '80's, the Islamic Republic became the MEK's primary target. The group claims to have renounced terrorist in 2001, and according to the Washington Post piece, the administration's decision to delist the MEK came about because the organization "should be rewarded for renouncing violence and providing intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program." But a 2009 report from RAND suggested that the MEK did not give up violence. Furthermore, reports in NBC News in February and the New Yorker in April suggest that the MEK has been involved in the recent assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists.
Meanwhile, Iran's Green Movement has spoken out against the potential delisting, stating that such a move would embolden Iran's leaders to crack down on dissent, which includes home-grown reform movements like the Greens.
The big money the MEK has thrown at prominent US officials to lobby on its behalf probably helped in its removal; otherwise, it is hard to see what benefit the Obama administration expects to reap from this move if it does indeed seek a diplomatic solution. The overwhelming message this sends to the world is that terrorism is okay—as long as the target is Iran. And that sure ain't gonna make Iran happy.
So, kudos to Obama for killing two birds with one stone: peace and democracy are now that much further from being realized. Really, way to go.