THE HILL (Congress Blog), 16 September 2011, By Lord Corbett – President Obama is in a quandary over what to do about Iran. News headlines over the last few weeks illustrate this:
• “IAEA: Increasing concerns about Iran’s warheads designed to deliver nuclear payloads.”
• “U.S. Treasury Department: Iran is aiding Al Qaeda.”
• “Top al-Qaeda ranks keep footholds in Iran.”
• “Iran continues to harbour and refuses to hand over bombers of Argentine Jewish charities.”
• “Senior U.S. officials: Iran transferred lethal new munitions to Iraq and Afghanistan for attacks on U.S. troops.”
The Iranian regime has become brazen in its defiance of multiple UN resolutions and continues to thumb its proverbial nose at the entire international community.
Another news headline, this time from August 26, gives a clue as to what excites the mullahs:
• “Thousands of Iranian expatriates demonstrate outside the State Department, calling for protection of Ashraf and removal of PMOI/MEK from the State Department’s terror list.”
The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) is the principal Iranian opposition movement, and Ashraf is home to 3,400 of its members, 40 miles north east of Baghdad.
While historical changes are sweeping throughout the Middle East, the U.S. misguided, and outdated policy, has put the mullahs’ mind at ease about potential change from within by shackling Tehran’s most organized opposition and possible nemesis. This outdated policy puzzled many in 2009, when the Iranian people’s nationwide uprising against the stolen presidential election rocked the foundations of the tyrannical rule of Ali Khamenei. The U.S. response was silence at first and then offering lip service to the demonstrators. That was it. America’s silence was bluntly criticized by millions demonstrating in the streets of Iranian cities when they chanted: “Obama, Obama, Ya Ba-una, Ya Ba-ma!” [Obama, Obama, either with them or with us!]
And there has not been any serious improvement on the part of Washington since then. As a result Iran is fast reaching its goal of building nuclear weapons and mechanisms for their long-range delivery.
The incoherent policy of the U.S. is nowhere more evident than the way in which Iranian dissidents have been treated.
The PMOI/MEK was blacklisted in 1997 as part of the US and West’s appeasement policy. In 2010, the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. reviewed the terrorism designation of PMOI/MEK by the State Department, found serious flaws with it, and ordered the State department to review this designation.
More than 100 members of the U.S. congress in a bipartisan initiative have called for delisting. Dozens of prominent American officials in the past four administrations have added their weight in favour of MEK. On August 26, thousands of Iranian-Americans demonstrated in front of the State Department echoing the same demand.
Iranian-Americans want the U.S. to observe its commitment to protect residents of Ashraf. Since, under the paramount influence of Iran, the Iraqi government has attacked Camp Ashraf twice, killing 47 defenceless residents and wounding more than 1,000. Their excuse for the massacre? The designation of the MEK by the State Department.
On the other side of Atlantic, in 2009 the European Union’s High Court, ordered the EU to remove thePMOI from its terror list because it found no evidence to support such a designation. This ruling followed a thorough procedural and contextual review by the highest judicial authority in the UK in 2008, which found the designation of PMOI/MEK as a terrorist organization totally unjustified and called it “perverse.”
Meanwhile, the Iranian regime’s lobbyists who realize the delisting of MEK will be the beginning of the end of an appeasement policy have launched a propaganda blitz, trying to discredit the MEK, and urging the State Department to maintain MEK on its list.
While the whole Middle East is turning upside down, it is high time President Obama executed a U-turn on Iran policy too. U.S. policymakers must reject the defunct policy of appeasement of Iran and get on the right side of the history.
The U.S. has the opportunity to correct its mistakes vis-à-vis the Iranian people. If it is serious about fighting terrorism and stopping Iran’s nuclear bomb, it must begin by removing the PMOI/MEK from its black list and fulfill its written commitment to protect residents of Ashraf.
The Arab Spring is a wakeup call to President Obama and he should see the important signal this policy change would send to those millions in Iran who cry freedom.
Corbett is a British Labour Party politician and is chairman of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom