By Jamie Crawford
The United States warned an Iranian dissident group that it may have "over-interpreted" recent events, and should not presume its removal from the U.S. terror list is guaranteed.
The Obama administration has told Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) an orderly departure from its base Camp Ashraf inside Iraq will be a central condition to any decision regarding the group's removal from the list.
From Camp Ashraf, the residents travel by convoy under United Nations and Iraqi government auspices to a former U.S. base in Iraq where they can be processed and eventually re-settled to countries in Europe and elsewhere.
Some 2,000 MEK members have left Camp Ashraf since the process began, but none have moved since May 5. Some 1,200 to 1,400 still remain at Camp Ashraf.
"Constructive offers must be met with a constructive spirit, and not with refusals or preconditions to engage in dialogue," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said in a written statement. "Recent publicly declared conditions for cooperation, including calls for the Department to inspect Camp Ashraf as a precondition for further relocations to Camp Hurriya, are an unnecessary distraction."
Nuland also called on the Iraqi government to "intensify its efforts to fulfill its commitment to provide for the safety, security, and humanitarian treatment" of Camp Ashraf residents.
"The residents’ request for the US to inspect Camp Ashraf, which Ms. Victoria Nuland has described as unnecessary in her June 18 statement, is to prevent the Iraqi government and the Iranian regime’s operatives in Iraq from stage managing of finding ammunitions and explosives at Camp Ashraf once the residents leave," said Shahin Gobadi of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a group that supports the MEK. "For this reason, the representative of the residents of Ashraf wrote to [State Department Special Advisor on Camp Ashraf] Amb. Dan Fried on June 17, 2012 that if no inspection of Ashraf is possible, he should issue a statement as a confidence building measure. He is yet to receive [sic] a response."
MEK has waged a widespread, well-publicized campaign for enforcement of a 2010 ruling by a federal court ordering the State Department to review the group's status on the terror list.
Earlier this month, a federal appeals court ordered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to make a decision by October 1, or the court would issue a so-called writ of mandamus to set aside the designation. The State Department has said it will comply with the ruling.
On a conference call with reporters Monday, a senior administration official said MEK may have "over-interpreted" the court ruling, and may believe that Clinton has no choice now but to de-list the group. The official said that belief would be "quite plainly, wrong."
Clinton "retains complete discretion on this matter," the official said. "The court has told her to deliver a decision one way or the other. They have not told her to de-list."
The administration says it is incumbent for MEK to realize that Camp Ashraf's existence is coming to a rapid close.
"The Iraqi government is committed to closing it," the official said on the call with reporters, "and any plan to wait out the government in the hope that something will change it - change its mind - is really quite dangerous."
The Iraqi government has said it would like to see Camp Ashraf closed by July 20, the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
A second senior administration official on the same call said that MEK may also have "over-interpreted" Iraqi politics and the possibility of a no-confidence vote against Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as a reason to cease cooperating in the eventual closure of Camp Ashraf.
"We believe the MEK may indeed calculate that a change of government in Iraq could rebound to their advantage, and they may be able - and they might be able to stay," the second official told reporters. MEK are "gravely mistaken" to think any Iraqi government "would, in fact, allow them to remain as a paramilitary organization in Iraq," the official said. "We think that their time in Iraq is over."
The official said the push for a no-confidence vote on Maliki appears to be receding.
MEK was placed on the terror list in 1997 because of the deaths of Americans during attacks in the 1970s against the U.S.-backed shah of Iran.
The U.S. says MEK engaged for years in terrorist activities in Iran, launched from bases in Iraq, including assassinations of high-level Iranian officials and attacks in Iran with heavy weaponry. The group was granted refuge in Iraq by Saddam Hussein during and after the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.
MEK supports the overthrow of the Iranian theocracy.
The terrorist designation prohibits Americans from providing material support to the organization, but a number of high-profile former U.S. officials have taken up the cause of the MEK and called for it to be de-listed. Some of them have received speaking fees for that support.
The Treasury Department currently is issuing subpoenas to some speakers bureaus for information on the source of those funds.
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If Camp Liberty was good enough for our troops, it is more than appropriate for a bunch of cultish terrorists who want to replace the current dictatorship in Iran with their own. To support a group that fought against its own country/people when a neighboring Arab country invaded seeking to acquire Iranian territory is disgusting. Let the MEK rot in hell.
Every country has it's share of troublemakers and Iran evidently is no exception.
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Thank you, nancy. I've been waiting all day to read your post above. Let's all forget about the Iranian M.E.K. After all nancy, they're just a bunch of troublemakers!!!!!
It seems that the MEK leadership is afraid that they will lose control if the Camp Ashraf residents are dispersed. The MEK has supposedly renounced violence but the insistence upon retaining Camp Ashraf as a cohesive paramilitary unit suggests otherwise.
If MEK is forced back to Iran they will be tortured, imprisoned, killed, etc...
And your point is? Hahahahahahahahaha
good. Hopefully all of the above, they deserve it
You don't say that the HIGH profiled people haven't given in to the treasury or the state department and they are fighting against that despite that they can lose a lot on this, because they are true Americans and have integrity whilst many in the state department clearly don't have that word in their dictionary.
US are calling for the residents to move to this Hell hole called Camp "Liberty" to pursue the court ruling and to take them off the list. I say forget it. Who would believe in the US anyway? I mean how many times have they actually said something and then done it. It's a disgrace that the US has turned out like this. Instead of helping the Iranian Opposition it's aiding the regime.
FOR GOD SAKE! Look at the people backing the MEK. Patrick Kennedy, Louis Freeh. Rudy Giuliani and many more. I think you should start thinking because the history is not on your side.
Another thing is these American officials without names. I mean it can be anyone. Why can’t you be brave and say who you are. It just makes it more ridiculous.
Its not really the people backing the MEK, it is the money. If you throw money at a politician, they will say ANYTHING you want them to say.
No you are wrong Mr journalist. I have my family in Camp Ashraf and Liberty and they tell me the reason for them not moving out it that the Iraqi government is not complying with what they promised. They are not even allowing them to have clean water and obstruct them from daily living necessities. Whatever happens with the court ruling the US gov. knows this is a great farce and in the end it will go down in history that they helped the theocratic regime in Iran. Quote: " All it takes for the EVIL to flourish is for the good man to do nothing ". The US clearly is not on the good mans side.
For what they did to the Iranians, Iraqi Kurdish and Shia civilians they dont deserve clean water or any necessities. Have maryam joon send money, I hear she has as much as her brother Khamenei.
What was the court decision on Mek appeal:
The cout decision mocked the Obama administration’s claim that the Secretary of State has been too busy to be able to decide on the designation after 600 days. It points out the fact that Congress was fully aware of the Secretary’s demanding agenda when they gave her only 180 days to decide. The court also makes no connection between the evacuation of PMOI members from Ashraf and the blacklist, contrary to Ms Clinton’s insistence.
The court deciion on MEK appeal :
The court decision mocked the Obama administration’s claim that the Secretary of State has been too busy to be able to decide on the designation after 600 days. It points out the fact that Congress was fully aware of the Secretary’s demanding agenda when they gave her only 180 days to decide. The court also makes no connection between the evacuation of PMOI members from Ashraf and the blacklist, contrary to Ms Clinton’s insistence.
“The US blacklist has enabled the Iraqi authorities, pushed and cajoled by their sponsors in Tehran, to psychologically torture and bully the 3200 men and women in Ashraf and to pressurise them into moving to a new location – Camp Liberty – next to Baghdad Airport,” Struan Stevenson, the President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq, said at the meeting. “More than 2,000 PMOI refugees are now crushed into an area measuring less than half a square kilometre, with dilapidated sewage systems, no facilities for the disabled and inadequate supplies of water and electricity.”
“They were persuaded to move to Camp Liberty on the pledge of the United Nations Special Representative, Martin Kobler, that this was simply a Temporary Transit Location (TTL) which would be their home for only a few weeks. Some have now been there over four months in unbearable conditions. The good name of the UN is being besmirched by their association with and apparent indifference to such blatant ill-treatment and repression. They must declare Camp Liberty as a long-term refugee facility and not a TTL and they must then insist on the full humanitarian provisions appropriate to a refugee camp.”
Mrs Clinton now faces three choices:
One: Do nothing and let the court remove the designation after four months; a humiliating scenario for the State Department.
Two: Decide to remove the designation before the lapse of the deadline and save face.
Three: Decide to maintain the designation, which will of course embolden Tehran to increase internal repression and to accelerate its nuclear weapons project. It can also be interpreted as a green light to the Iraqi government to launch new brutal attacks against the defenceless refugees in Ashraf and Liberty; an embarrassing situation for Obama’s foreign policy in the wake of the upcoming presidential elections.