The Politicization of Terrorism and the Role of the Neocons

It’s pretty obvious by now that whom we deem a “terrorist” is largely political. You would think after some of our disastrous foreign policy blunders such as arming the Mujahadeen, aka Al Qaeda and Bin Laden, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, being best friends with Saddam for a period when it suited our economic (read: oil) interests, our support for Latin American right wing dictators, our overthrow of the Iranian government in the 1970’s and instilling the corrupt, brutal dictator, the Shah of Iran, that we would be a bit more cautious regarding who we support going forward.

Well, that’s not the case. When George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the neocons decided long before September 11th that they wanted to invade and occupy Iraq in order to access it’s vast oil reserves, build a military base of operations which would allow us to NOT have to use Saudi Arabian military installations for our escapades in the region and of course, to use an American-occupied Iraq as a buffer for Israel.

So what did Bush and Congress and the media do? They aligned themselves with shady Iraqi expats such as Ahmed Chalabi, who hadn’t lived in the country for decades and who were willing to tell them anything they wanted to hear in order to justify an invasion. It was Bush’s intention to then place on of these American puppets at the helm in Iraq, although that didn’t work out so well and a result of our bungled invasion of Iraq, Iran has more influence than ever.

But Washington is the place where no one is held accountable, ever. And now we have determined that talking to the Taliban is A-Ok, but talking to Hamas is verboten. I actually think it’s smart to talk to the Taliban and I don’t really see what other choice we have, but the same goes for Hamas. But apparently we care more about Israeli sensitivities than the security of U.S. service-members currently being killed by the very same Taliban we are so eager to talk to.

Now we have Iran in our cross-hairs, again, largely due to pressure from Israel. And who is our government joining forces with? The terrorist group known as MEK. In fact, MEK is given the red carpet treatment by the Israel Lobby and members of Congress despite being on the State Department’s list of terrorist groups. And yet who is the State Dept. threatening with offering aid to terrorist groups? The peace activists on the Freedom Flotilla.

Trita Parsi has a very good article over at HuffPo about this obnoxious double standard. Here’s an excerpt but definitely go read the whole thing:

In the 10 years that I have lived in Washington, I have never seen lobbyists for al-Qaeda parade through the halls of Congress. I have not seen any events on Capitol Hill organized by Hamas. And I have not seen any American politicians take campaign contributions from the Islamic Jihad.

But the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an organization with the blood of Americans and Iranians alike on its hands, freely does all of these things, despite being a designated foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

And in a matter of weeks, this terrorist group may succeed in getting removed from the terrorist list — not as a result of any change of heart — but as a result of an unprecedented multi-million dollar media and lobbying blitz.

If al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization were holding fundraisers in DC, lobbying Congress, or holding press conferences at the National Press Club, the FBI, Homeland Security, and local law enforcement would be all over it.

Not so with the MEK. There, law enforcement seems nowhere to be found. In fact, a prominent spokesperson for the MEK terrorist group was hired by Fox News in the mid-2000s to serve as their on-air terrorist analyst. Go figure.

Since early January 2011, the MEK has spent millions of dollars on lobbyists, PR agents and communications firms to build up pressure on Secretary Hillary Clinton to take the group off of the terrorist list. Their argument is that the MEK rejected violence and terrorism in 2001 and as a result should be de-listed.

But this is not true, according to the FBI. A recently disclosed FBI report from 2004 reveals that the group continued to plan terrorist acts at least three years after they claimed to renounce terrorism.

No one should be surprised — not even DC’s “unwitting members of Congress” — as the FBI calls the group’s supporters on Capitol Hill. The State Department has documented the MEK’s disturbing record: killing Americans and Iranians in terrorist attacks; fighting for Saddam Hussein against Iran and assisting Saddam’s brutal campaign against Iraq’s Kurds and Shia; its “cult-like” behavior; the abuses and even torture it commits against its own members; and its support for the U.S. embassy takeover and calls for executing the hostages.


The State Department’s review of their terrorism status, which is due to be completed by August of this year, must be conducted without the essentially illegal pressure tactics the MEK currently is employing through lobbyists, lawmakers and hired former officials.

If the group is taken off the list, not as a result of an objective review, but by virtue of their lobbying prowess, several repercussions can be envisioned.

First, the desire to de-list them in Washington seems partially driven by gravitation towards covert military action against Iran. Neither sanctions nor diplomacy have yielded the desired results on the nuclear issue, and some in Washington are advocating using the MEK to conduct assassination and sabotage campaigns inside Iran.

As one former State Department official put it, the “paradox is that we may take them off the terror list in order for them to do more terror.”

Much like Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, the permanent leader of the MEK, Maryam Rajavi, seeks to return from decades of exile as the anointed President of Iran. And freed of the terrorist designation, there is little reason to believe the MEK won’t turn its lobbying apparatus — which puts Chalabi’s to shame — to obtain U.S. funding and to promote war with Iran. In fact, some members of Congress already refer to the MEK as the “real Green movement.” Even more shocking is that top former U.S. officials have called on the U.S. to recognize Rajavi as the rightful President of Iran.

The irony of our support for the MEK is that despite our oft-stated concern for the people of Iran, and the Green Movement in particular, the Green Movement hates the MEK. Salon wrote an excellent article in March about this, detailing why Hillary Clinton should NOT remove the MEK from the list of terrorist organizations:

At the same time, within the Iranian Diaspora, some have sought to usurp leadership of Iran’s indigenous pro-democracy movement. This has alarmed the leaders of the Green Movement in Iran. Mir Hossein Mousavi warned against “international surfers” seeking to wield their own axe in the furnace of the Green movement in his last communiqué that was issued before he was put under house arrest on Feb. 29.

First and foremost among such groups is Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an organization that has been designated by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). But despite its obvious threat to global security, the MEK could be taken off the State Department’s Terror List within the next week. If this happens, it promises to spell disaster for the pro-democracy movement in Iran, and will be a devastating setback in the country’s attempts to move forward.

The MEK has no political base inside Iran and no genuine support on the Iranian street because it was long based in Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s patronage. It lost any semblance of credibility it might have had inside Iran due to its opposition to the Shah’s regime when its troops fought on behalf of Iraq toward the end of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. Hence, it would behoove U.S. policymakers to be skeptical of the boasts of MEK lobbyists regarding the extent of this group’s popularity inside Iran.

Since Saddam Hussein’s ouster in 2003, the MEK has been depending almost entirely on the uneven enforcement of existing U.S. laws concerning designated foreign terrorist organizations. Surprisingly, the MEK military compound in Iraq enjoys de-facto “protected persons” status, and its activities at the U.S. congress have long been unchecked. It is highly unlikely that other U.S.-designated FTOs, such as al-Qaida, would enjoy this astonishing degree of latitude in the corridors of the U.S. military, and within its executive and legislative branches.


Most importantly, MEK activities in Washington could be causing irreparable damage to Iran’s home-grown opposition. When post-election turbulence commenced inside Iran, the MEK quickly sought to join the frenzy of brewing opposition to the current government. The Ahmadinejad government promptly connected the Green Movement to the MEK in an effort to discredit the pro-democracy movement. Opposition leaders such as Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard and Mehdi Karrubi immediately pushed back. Rahnavard pointedly said, “the Green Movement is a people’s movement that is alive and dynamic and holds a wall between itself and the MEK.” Opposition leaders in Iran have good reason to erect and maintain such a wall. They see the MEK as an organization capitalizing on U.S.-Iran enmity to shed its terrorist designation and subsequently receive U.S. government funding — effectively becoming the Iranian version of Ahmed Chalabi’s infamous Iraqi National Congress.

I never fail to be amazed at how the Mainstream Media totally ignores issues like this. Salon is a great website, but it’s hardly part of the MSM. That no one asks the State Dept. or White House about the glaring contradiction in their terrorism policies raises questions about whether the media is simply helping the U.S. government pave the way for a future military campaign against Iran. In addition, the role that Israel plays in our foreign policy towards Iran is often ignored as we make the tenuous claim that Iran poses an existential threat to the United States when in fact, that’s a lie.

So, a Flotilla to Gaza is aiding terrorism but openly supporting the MEK and promoting their interests in Washington is just fine? And the very same people who are losing their minds over Secretary Clinton’s statement the other day that we will have a dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood, are promoting the MEK?

Here’s more about the hypocrisy of politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, who have actually received large sums of money from the MEK in return for their lobbying on behalf of the MEK:

…the exiled Iranian Islamist-Marxist cult Mujahideen-e Khalq — which is designated by the U.S. State Department as as foreign terrorist organization — has been able to cultivate, both in European capitals and in DC, getting people like Rudy Giuliani and Howard Dean to speak at their events.

The article notes that these speakers “wouldn’t disclose their speaking fees, but many of them charge between $25,000 and $40,000 per appearance.” Dean also said that “he has made both paid and unpaid speeches for MeK.”

As I noted back in December, such activities skirt very close to violating U.S. law in regard to “material support” for terrorism. Responding to this charge when it was raised by attorney David Cole, Giuliani and his colleagues quoted the relevant law: “Individuals who act entirely independently of the [FTO] to advance its goals or objectives shall not be considered to be working under the [FTO]’s direction and control.”

“As a result,” Giuliani et al concluded, “we felt quite secure, thank you, in relying on the protection Congress placed in the statute, backed up by the First Amendment.”

But can Giuliani and others really be said to be “acting entirely independently” of the MEK if they’re getting paid explicitly to advocate on their behalf?

So receiving money from a foreign terrorist organization and promoting their agenda in Congress is just a free speech issue but the pro-Palestinian activists are supporting terrorism? Interesting.

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About Stacy

Attorney, Publisher, Foreign Policy wonk

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5 Comments on “The Politicization of Terrorism and the Role of the Neocons”

  1. Stacy Says:

    I don’t know what all those trackbacks are about. Just sayin’



  1. Secretary Clinton Announced Willingness for Dialogue w/ Muslim Brotherhood and Neocons Heads Explode « US FoPo & the Middle East - July 2, 2011

    […] Naturally, the neocons are having a kitten. You know, they are so predictable it’s almost boring. Of course, those same people’s heads aren’t exploding over the announcement that we are speaking with the Taliban. And of course, these are many of the same people who totally support the Iranian dissident terrorist group MEK. I wrote about that here. […]

  2. Secretary Clinton Announces Administration Will Dialogue with Muslim Brotherhood and Neocons’ Heads Explode | In The News - July 2, 2011

    […] Naturally, the neocons are having a kitten. You know, they are so predictable it’s almost boring. Of course, those same people’s heads aren’t exploding over the announcement that we are speaking with the Taliban. And of course, these are many of the same people who totally support the Iranian dissident terrorist group MEK. I wrote about that here. […]

  3. Politico Runs Chicken Little Article About Dems Deserting Obama Over Israel | Taylor Marsh - - News, Analysis, Independent Political Opinion on Progressive Politics - July 2, 2011

    […] media is incredibly juvenile when it comes to covering the Middle East. Intramural political gossip substituting for serious […]

  4. Let’s Play ‘Who’s More Pro Israel?’ | Taylor Marsh - - News, Analysis, Independent Political Opinion on Progressive Politics - July 2, 2011

    […] media is incredibly juvenile when it comes to covering the Middle East. Intramural political gossip substituting for serious […]

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