Foreign Affairs

Iran Solution: Empower This Opposition Group

While Americans are busy choosing their next President, the incumbent has been touring the Middle East in the hope of establishing peace and promoting democracy.  But peace and stability in that troubled part of the world are not possible for so long as Iran is ruled by a regime that uses terrorism to pursue its ambition of establishing and leading an Islamic empire.  Whomever sits in the Oval Office next year will have to figure out a way of neutralizing the threat posed by the lethal cocktail of terrorism and nuclear weapons pursued by Iran’s fundamentalist regime.

The theocratic oppressors of the Iranian people have for years wreaked havoc across the entire Middle East.  The countries in that region all, regardless of their differences, look to Washington and London for support and assurances of a firm policy towards Tehran, as they lie in the way of the mullahs’ expansionist ambitions.

The unspoken reality is that the West’s weak and appeasing attitude vis-a-vis Tehran’s tyrants has sent shivers down the spines of the leaders of the moderate Arab countries who have to deal with Tehran supported Islamic fundamentalist groups in their own backyard. 

Tehran’s mullahs fully understand the West’s deafening silence in the face of barbaric punishments and daily public hangings in Iranian streets.  A similar message is sent by the vacillation in imposing a new set of UN Security Council sanctions following the clerical regime’s non-compliance with previous resolutions. But nowhere is the West’s feeble position more evident than its attitude towards the principal Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI).

The West agreed to blacklist the PMOI in the late 1990s at the behest of Tehran and as a major part of its aim of finding moderates within the Iranian regime. The Clinton administration designated the PMOI a “foreign terrorist organization”, blocking any cooperation with it. Following the 1997 US designation of the PMOI, an unnamed senior Clinton official told the Los Angeles Times that, “The inclusion of the People’s Mujaheedin was intended as a goodwill gesture to Tehran and its newly elected moderate President Mohammad Khatami.”  Later, the former US Assistant Secretary of State, Martin Indyk, told Newsweek that the designation was part of the Clinton administration’s strategy and was due to “the White House interest in opening up a dialogue with the Iranian government.”

The West was led on a merry dance by the mullahs and made to look like fools.  As the West danced to Tehran’s tunes by acceding to demands and making concessions, the Ayatollahs were using the time to advance their nuclear programs.  Having not been able to find anyone who met the definition of the "moderate mullah", the West is now faced with a monster whose madness they cannot measure.  Ahmadinejad talks of a wave of Islamic revolution soon reaching the entire world and of a final war between Islam and the West.
If the terrorist designation of the PMOI was to support the illusory moderate mullah — and not based on a substantive reason — why does the designation remain?

The PMOI has mass popular support.  It has spent over 40 years struggling for social justice, basic freedoms and a secular democracy in Iran.  It was instrumental in overthrowing the Shah, but after the revolution, the organization and the Iranian people fell out with Tehran’s new fundamentalist regime.  For this the organization paid a very heavy price, including the execution of 120,000 of its members and sympathizers. Despite massive repression, the PMOI did not desist from its goals.  

In recent years, the PMOI has proven itself to be an ally of the West and an invaluable source of information on the nuclear and terrorist threats posed by the mullahs.  The PMOI were the first to expose the regime’s nuclear weapons program in 2002.  The organization has also revealed extensive information about the personnel and operations of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.  Earlier this month, the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on a key General in the Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guards. Brig. Gen. Ahmad Forouzandeh had gone unnoticed until his role in arming Shiite militias to attack Coalition troops in Iraq was exposed by the PMOI.  At the same time, the organization has revealed the details of 32,000 agents of the Iranian regime operating in Iraq, the sites of factories in Iran producing improvised explosive devices, and the locations of terrorist training camps in Iran.

In recent years, the injustice of the terror tag against the PMOI has been proven in the Courts.  In December 2006, Europe’s highest Court, the European Court of Justice, rebuked the EU for its unlawful inclusion of the PMOI in its list of terrorist organizations.  This was followed on November 30, 2007 by a specialist British Court, which ruled that the PMOI is not a terrorist organization.  In a judgment, handed down after hearing nearly two weeks of evidence, the Court ruled that the decision of the British government to maintain the PMOI in its proscribed list was "flawed" and "perverse".  For this reason it ordered the British government to remove the PMOI from its proscribed list.  This judgment should represent the end of the PMOI’s terrorist designation and the beginnings of change in Iran brought about by the Iranian people and their organized resistance. 

In November 2007, the Council of Europe’s Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee adopted a text which criticized the EU for defying the ruling of the European Court. The EU “is no longer following the rule of law. … The [EU] has not only breached its obligations under the EU Treaty, but defied the Court of First Instance as well. PMOI’s fundamental rights continue to be violated”, said the text which had been written up by Swiss lawmaker Dick Marty. The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly is expected to approve Mr. Marty’s report on Wednesday.

The regime is terrified of the PMOI’s ability to organize the hundreds of thousands of women, students and labor groups that have taken part in anti-regime protests chanting "Death to the Dictator" and taking on the Revolutionary Guards in the streets.  As such, the West’s attitude towards the PMOI has become the litmus test of its resolve in confronting Iran.  If the incumbent President intends for his talk of Iran being "the most active state sponsor of terrorism" and representing a "threat", being taken seriously, then he should free up Iran’s opposition to lawfully resist this threat.  If he does otherwise, his words will be treated by all, but most importantly in Tehran, as no more than hot air. 


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