Washington Times – Editorial: As the debate rages over a realistic response to the critical threat that Iran poses to our national security in Congress, in the Bush administration and between the candidates who hope to preside over the next administration it’s time to finally unwind a major policy contradiction that has unnecessarily tied us in knots when it comes to facing down the threat from Tehran. The Washington Times
By Dick Armey
As the debate rages over a realistic response to the critical threat that Iran poses to our national security in Congress, in the Bush administration and between the candidates who hope to preside over the next administration it’s time to finally unwind a major policy contradiction that has unnecessarily tied us in knots when it comes to facing down the threat from Tehran.
With a stroke of a pen, the secretary of state could, and should, remove the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) from the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
This simple but resolute step would turn the tables on the Iranian regime and, at the same time, send a strong signal to freedom-loving Iranians that we support a moderate, secular and democratic Iran.
Too often, our options regarding Iran are cast in terms of either trying to “engage” the mullahs of Tehran in fruitless diplomacy or embarking on another costly war. Overlooked in these tired arguments is the far more effective alternative of supporting Iran’s fledgling pro-democracy movement by removing the leading Iranian resistance organizations from the terrorist list, where they never belonged in the first place.
In an impressive and decisive action, the Bush administration in October unveiled a sweeping package of sanctions against Iran. The centerpiece of the initiative was the long-awaited designations of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its elite Qods Force as a supporter of global terrorism.
These unilateral U.S. sanctions put the Iranian regime on notice that we are serious about confronting its dangerous nuclear program and support for terrorism that has claimed among its many victims American troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, it is time “to increase the costs to Iran of its irresponsible behavior.” But so far, the Iranian leadership has been dismissive of the new sanctions, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been openly contemptuous, and it’s a safe bet we won’t be able to count on China’s cooperation. So, short of a military strike, how can we turn the screws a little tighter, to say to the mullahs in Tehran, in the words of that pervasive TV commercial, “Can you hear us now”? For starters, we should do what we can to empower our natural allies (or at least the enemies of our enemies), namely, Iran’s pro-democracy opposition movement.
Who are the MEK and the NCRI? And why has the Iranian regime gone to such lengths to try to shut down and discredit them? Since the beginning of the Iranian revolution, the MEK has opposed the regime’s extremist policies with its own consistent message of democracy, moderation and reform a message the ruling mullahs don’t want the Iranian people to hear. But in a bizarre twist of U.S. policy, the MEK has been labeled by our State Department as a foreign terrorist organization, originally placed on the list in 1997 by the Clinton administration, in what turned out to be a futile concession to “moderates” in the Iranian government and at the insistence of Tehran.
The MEK is one of our principle sources of intelligence on the Revolutionary Guards and the Qods Force. Even while they were hobbled by the “terrorist” designation, they still managed to supply information to our intelligence agencies.
Despite being the victims of the undeserved “terrorist” designation, the MEK has consistently served U.S. interests in the Middle East. The group has been credited by the Bush administration for first revealing the existence of the secret Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz. More recently, our military forces in Iraq have appreciated the intelligence provided by the MEK about Iranian meddling that, in the words of one U.S. officer, has “saved Coalition lives.” As just reported, the MEK was instrumental in a petition campaign in which 300,000 Shi’ite Muslims from southern Iraq signed a petition condemning Iran for fomenting violence in Iraq. And the MEK and the NCRI are working mightily, through their extensive network in Iran, to promote a message of peaceful democratic change.
There is something here that defies rational thinking. The United States has now declared the IRGC and the Qods Force as its enemy. Yet, at the same time, it continues to list the pro-U.S., freedom-loving MEK/NCRI as “terrorists.” Thus, in the strange ways of Washington, our good friends are equated to our worst enemies.
The MEK and the NCRI have consistently fought against the Revolutionary Guards and the Qods Force, and have suffered greatly for it, with over 20,000 MEK members, mostly young men and women, murdered by the Iranian regime.
By following up the recent designation of entities of the Iranian regime with the removal of the MEK and the NCRI from the “terrorist” blacklist, we would show that we recognize who our foes are, and who our friends are.
Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey is chairman of FreedomWorks Foundation.