Iranian dissident group is viable opposition: U.S. congressmen

By Nicholas Vinocur

PARIS (Reuters) - Four U.S. congressmen met an Iranian dissident leader on Sunday and urged President Barack Obama to treat her group as an alternative to Tehran's government, four months after its removal from a list of terrorist organizations.

The bipartisan group pressed Obama to talk to the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) rather than Tehran, after Iran's highest authority rebuffed an offer of talks by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

"The Administration should be talking to members of the Iranian opposition, as our delegation did today, instead of fruitless talks with the Iranian rulers," the delegation from the House Foreign Affairs Committee said in a statement.

Biden signaled U.S. willingness to hold direct talks with Tehran to try to break the impasse in the long-running dispute between the West and Iran over the country's nuclear program. Iran says it is enriching uranium for peaceful energy only, but the West fears it is developing a nuclear bomb.

With Iran holding its own presidential elections in June, hopes of progress on the issue before then are limited.


The encounter at a Paris hotel marked the first time members of U.S. Congress met officially with NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi since the U.S. State Department dropped her group from a list of terrorist organizations last September.

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, was among U.S. congressmen who pressed for its removal in the wake of a bloody attack on its members at Camp Ashraf in Iraq in 2011.

He urged Iraq's government to explain its failure to protect Iranian dissidents who came under attack again on February 9 in a camp near Baghdad where some 400 refugees had been relocated.

"The mullahs couldn't do it on their own so we know that Prime Minister al-Maliki must be working with the Mullah dictatorship to accomplish this end," he told journalists.

Iraqi police sources said five people were killed when rockets hit their base in the former U.S. military compound "Camp Liberty". The NCRI, also known as the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI), said seven people were killed.

Rohrabacher accused Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of having allowed Iranian agents to carry out the attack and said he would seek a resolution in Congress naming Iraq a state sponsor of terrorism if another attack occurred.

Rajavi, whose group is an umbrella bloc of five opposition groups in exile that seek an end to Shi'ite Muslim clerical rule in Iran, said the attack showed that residents of the camp were in danger and urgently needed to be relocated.

"We need an immediate solution since a similar attack can take place any day and any minute," she told journalists.

Rajavi said solutions included the return of residents to Ashraf while they awaited resettlement in third countries and their immediate recognition as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

(Reporting By Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Stephen Powell)


Act of Cowardice

Iran's ruling tyrants have executed yet another political prisoner in flagrant violation of international law.  READ MORE

The rush to Tehran amidst rise in executions

World leaders should halt these visits and link any deal with Iran to its human rights record.  READ MORE

Arming a dictator

What if President Obama ordered the sale of arms to Syrian dictator to massacre his opponents? READ MORE

Slaughter intensifies under Rouhani

231 executions have occurred since the presidential election in June which brought to power Hassan Rouhani. READ MORE

Silence is not the answer

Iran: Bloody crackdown targeting dissidents aims at terrorizing the people into submission. READ MORE

Iran’s Murder Machine

The wheels of Iran's Murder Machine turn in tandem with its nuclear machine. READ MORE

What now?

The West must drop the dangerous pretence that talking to a regime not interested in listening constitutes the winning strategy. READ MORE

A facelift

This cosmetic facelift should not dupe the West into thinking that there are fresh prospects for a nuclear deal. READ MORE

An Act of Cowardice

The terrorist attack against Iranian exiles at Camp Liberty, Iraq, is another sign of Iranian regime's weakness. READ MORE

Much atalk about nothing

In Istanbul they merely agreed to talk about talking later in May in Baghdad, of all places. READ MORE

An unholy alliance

The brutal state-imposed bloodbath in Syria deserves uncompromising reproach. READ MORE

Iran cries for freedom

The clerical regime in Iran has predictably unleashed another wave of terror against the citizenry since the outburst of the latest string of mass protests beginning on 14 February. READ MORE

A new Iran policy

The latest round of nuclear talks had an all-too-familiar result: more time for Tehran and less time for the international community to prevent a nuclear-armed theocracy. READ MORE

Murder overlooked

What would the rest of us do if a mad gunman was in our midst, systematically murdering our fellow human beings in front of our eyes? The responsible amongst us would not look the other way, because that would serve as a source of encouragement for the murderers to carry on with their heinous acts unchecked. READ MORE

Standing up to Iran's executioners

The Iranian regime's malicious noose has yet again taken an innocent life. Political prisoner Ali Saremi, 63, was hanged in Tehran's infamous Evin prison after a lifetime of peacefully espousing human rights and democracy. READ MORE