Alana Goodman is correct to highlight the current battle between Attorney-General Eric Holder and a bipartisan array of prominent former U.S. officials who have accepted hefty honoraria from Mujahedin al-Khalq (MEK) front groups, even though the State Department lists the MEK as a terrorist group. While cultivating prominent endorsers is one front in the group’s public relations battle, the largest war – and the reason the MEK has spent millions on former American officials – is for their support in its battle to be delisted as a terrorist entity.
There is no doubt that in the past, the MEK engaged in terrorism against Americans and that it has embraced a fiercely anti-Western ideology. Proponents of delisting the MEK, however, argue that the group has not engaged in terrorism against the United States or its interests for decades. The State Department may eventually be forced by the letter of the law to delist the MEK. That does not mean the group is entitled to any American support. The group’s culpability in recent terrorist attacks in Iran is murkier. Still, it would be a mistake to boil the MEK issue—and the question of U.S. support—down to the terrorism listing, however. Working with the MEK is simply bad policy.
Military action against Iran would delay the program only by a few years. True, the same estimate was made before Israel’s strike on the Iraqi nuclear reactor and Saddam Hussein never managed to rebuild his program, but it would be foolish to assume the same would occur. After all, the Iranians will not be stupid enough to invade Kuwait.
The problem in Iran today is not simply the regime’s nuclear ambitions, but rather the regime itself. To use the military to delay Iran’s nuclear program—effectively kicking the can down the road—would be an irresponsible use of the military unless there is a policy in place to take advantage of the time won in any strike.
The problem with those who would embrace the MEK is that it would undercut the chance for regime collapse. To ally the United States with the MEK would be as shameful as President Obama’s moral inaction during the 2009 protests.
Iranians living under the regime’s yoke hate the MEK. That is not regime propaganda; it is fact, one to which any honest analyst who has ever visited Iran can testify. Ordinary Iranians deeply resent the MEK’s terrorism, which has targeted not only regime officials, but also led to the deaths of scores of civilians. During the Iran-Iraq War—a conflict that decimated cities and led to tens of thousands of civilian deaths—the MEK sided with Saddam Hussein. No Iranian will ever forgive that treason. Iranians see the MEK in the same manner that Americans view American Taliban John Walker Lindh.
If the MEK is delisted, let the MEK celebrate. But whether listed as a terrorist group or not, it would be wrong and counterproductive to embrace the group unless, of course, the goal of those for officials on the group’s payroll is simply to aid the current regime in its efforts to rally its subjugated masses around the flag.