The State Department announced Friday that it has removed the Mujahedin-e Khalq, an Iranian exile group known as the MEK, from its list of foreign terrorist organizations.
The move follows an intense, years-long, and well-funded lobbying push by the group and its supporters, in which numerous high-level former U.S. officials and politicians participated. It also comes closely after the resolution of efforts to relocate several thousand MEK members in Iraq. In addition, a federal court ruled in June that the State Department had until Oct. 1 to decide whether or not the MEK still belonged on the terror list.
“With today’s actions, the Department does not overlook or forget the MEK’s past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of U.S. citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on U.S. soil in 1992,” the State Department said in a statement. “The Department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organization, particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members.”
The statement added that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decision “took into account the MEK’s public renunciation of violence, the absence of confirmed acts of terrorism by the MEK for more than a decade, and their cooperation in the peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf, their historic paramilitary base.”
To welcome the news, MEK supporters planned a celebration outside the State Department for Friday afternoon.
Earlier this month, the State Department announced that the last major convoy of MEK members had moved from Camp Ashraf, which was set up as an MEK base in 1986 under Saddam Hussein and where the group had been consolidated since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, to another a former U.S. base now called Camp Hurriya, which the U.N. considers “a temporary transit location.” The Iraqi government considers the MEK to be in the country illegally, and 34 Ashraf residents were killed in a clash with Iraqi security forces in April 2011. But the relocation ran into several problems and, in July, U.S. officials came forward to hint that Clinton’s terror list decision would be affected by the Ashraf-Hurriya situation.
TPM has covered the role that former U.S. officials and lawmakers have played in the MEK’s lobbying efforts. Marquee names from both major political parties — including Michael Mukasey, Patrick Kennedy, Rudy Giuliani, Andy Card, Howard Dean, Lee Hamilton, Bill Richardson, Tom Ridge, Wesley Clark, Fran Townsend, and John Bolton — have spoken out on behalf of the MEK in recent years. Many of those, and others, have received tens of thousands of dollars for their participation at MEK events, a fact that earlier this year drew the attention of the counterterrorism arm of the Treasury Department.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com