State Department Uses Josh Rogin to Justify Bogus Blacklisting of MEK
Last week, the United States Department of State stooped to a new low in its attempt to justify its nearly fifteen-year-old misguided policy of regarding the pro-secular, pro-democracy Iranian resistance organization known as the Mojahedin e-Khalq (MEK) as a terrorist organization. This time, State decided to use Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin to publish a canard against the MEK.
In an article entitled "Are the MEK's U.S. friend its worst enemies?," published by Foreign Policy on Thursday, March 8, 2012, Mr. Rogin quotes an anonymous State Department official to throw mud at the MEK. Avoiding context, Rogin starts his article by calling the MEK "a State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization." A more accurate description would have noted -- as did Norman Kempster of the Los Angeles Times -- that the State Department's designation of the MEK as a "foreign terrorist organization" was made for political reasons. Kempster put it this way: "One senior Clinton administration official said inclusion of the People's Moujahedeen was intended as a goodwill gesture to Tehran and its newly elected moderate president, Mohammad Khatami." After fifteen years, it's clear how totally unsuccessful that Albright-Clinton "goodwill gesture" has proven to be.
Rogin continues his inaccuracies when he describes the MEK's twenty-seven-year base at Camp Ashraf as "its secretive Iraqi home." Camp Ashraf has never been secretive at all; in its independent existence before the Multi-National Force-Iraq invasion of March-April 2003, under the leadership of MEK theoretician Massoud Rajavi, Ashraf was open to everyone. Indeed, Mr. Rajavi invited Human Rights Watch director Christopher George to visit when HRW accused the MEK of human rights violations1, something George and his successor, Joe Stork, did in 1992, 1997, and 2005. Each set of allegations was met by an invitation to visit, but HRW never bothered to accept. From May 2003 until January 2009, Camp Ashraf was controlled by the U.S. Army, and many friends of the MEK, as well as Iraqis of all ethnic and religious backgrounds, visited the camp, as did journalists from around the world. Indeed, this writer was invited by the MEK to visit in the spring of 2009 but was denied a visa by the government of Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki. The only thing "secretive" about Camp Ashraf has been the al-Maliki government's cooperation with Iran's Qods Force to isolate and suppress the residents of Ashraf.
Rogin says Martin Kobler of the UNAMI worked tirelessly to assist in making arrangements to move the residents of Ashraf to Camp Liberty outside Baghdad. Agreements made in December between Mr. Kobler and MEK concerning conditions were not met, and indeed, the Iraqi government, assisted by agents of the Iranian Qods Force, made sure to make conditions at Camp Liberty unlivable -- much like in the two-and-a-half-year campaign launched against Ashraf, which has seen the Iraqi regime cut off all water, gasoline, and oil supplies; restrict food supplies; and deny medical supplies, as well as access to medical treatment, to the residents of Ashraf.
Rogin implies that it is the MEK which made the negotiations difficult; the opposite is true. It has been the government of Iraq that has consistently been intransigent. Rogin alleges that members of MEK may be armed; after living under U.S. Army control for five and a half years, having voluntarily disarmed in May 2003, and then being surrounded by units of the Iraqi Army since January 2009, twice being invaded and assaulted by the latter, with scores of fatalities and nearly 1,000 casualties with no MEK use of weapons to defend themselves, from where would these alleged weapons magically materialize?
Rogin sites a State Department official for his information but fails to supply a name or notes to back up his claims. The State Department under Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton has not been exactly impartial in everything concerning the MEK and Camp Ashraf. The Washington Circuit Court, after hearing the State Department's case against the MEK on January 11, 2010, ordered the State Department on July 26, 2010 to review its case within 180 days. The State Department stalled until recently ordered to comply with a deadline of March 26, 2012. Mrs. Clinton, aware of the current conditions at Camp Liberty -- in which the space allotted to the MEK by the December 2011 agreements has been diminished by over 95%, and units of the Iraqi army and Qods Force agents enter Camp Liberty to harass the Ashraf contingent, the majority being women -- has said that compliance with the move will help determine the Department's decision about the MEK staying on the FTO or not. A more blatant power-move to force the MEK to comply with conditions that allow for its suppression by pro-Iranian regime Iraqis is hard to imagine.
Rogin cites a New York Times advertisement of March 3 which decries conditions at Camp Liberty. He quotes an unnamed Obama administration official who allegedly works on the issue claiming that it is the MEK that is trashing the camp. Yet Rogin doesn't name his source or provide photos or video to back up his story, and he relies on an official who I suspect works for the State Department but has been to neither Iraq nor either Camp Ashraf or Camp Liberty.
Accusing the lengthy list of dignitaries who support delisting the MEK, including former FBI Director Louis Freeh, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, National Security Advisor General James Jones, CIA Director Porter Goss, and a variety of generals of not doing their homework on the subject is disingenuous in the extreme. All of these former government officials have testified that there is no evidence to link the MEK to terrorism and that it is the Stare Department's Iran-appeasers who are insisting on keeping the MEK tied up with the false "terrorist" label. It is the Obama administration that failed to do its homework about the Iranian regime, failed to support the June-July 2009 "Green Revolution," and allowed the Iranian regime to murder thousands of its freedom-seeking youths without a word of rebuke for the regime's brutality or a word of encouragement to those seeking freedom.
As regards Rogin's description of Maryam Rajavi and her close advisers in the National Council of Resistance of Iran, it is clear than Rogin bought his source's portrait "hook, line, and sinker"; such a description comes straight out of the propaganda machine of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (VEVAK), and his anonymous source shows an uncritical acceptance of Iranian disinformation. Rogin clearly did not check whether such material was accurate or a screed by contacting the NCRI for an interview. Had he done so, he would have written an entirely different piece.
And finally, as regards the question of a possible move to the Jordanian side of the Iraqi-Jordanian border, Rogin once again misrepresents the situation completely by calling the suggested camp "militarized." For the nth time, the MEK voluntarily disarmed and has remained disarmed since its agreement with the U.S. Army in May 20032.
Rabbi Dr. Daniel M. Zucker is founder and Chairman of the Board of Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East. He may be contacted at contact@ADME.ws.
1 See footnotes 199 through 213 of the report, and the text that they support.
2 See the letter of Lt. Col. Julie S. Norman, MP, JIATF, dated 24 August 2006 "TF-134-JIATF," presented as Appendix B in Lawrence E. Levinson, et al., Iran: Foreign Policy Challenges and Choices, Empowering the Democratic Opposition, DLA Piper, Washington, D.C., November 2006, pp.103-104.