News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqMEK status on US blacklist may hinge on Iraq...

MEK status on US blacklist may hinge on Iraq camp


Reuters: The United States sent a strong signal on Wednesday that dropping the Mujahadin-e Khalq (MEK) from a U.S. terror blacklist may hinge on the Iranian dissident group’s cooperation in closing its Camp Ashraf base in Iraq. WASHINGTON, Feb 29 (Reuters) – The United States sent a strong signal on Wednesday that dropping the Mujahadin-e Khalq (MEK) from a U.S. terror blacklist may hinge on the Iranian dissident group’s cooperation in closing its Camp Ashraf base in Iraq.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the group’s cooperation in moving residents from Camp Ashraf would be a “key factor” as the United States weighs whether to remove it from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.

The group, which calls for the overthrow of Iran’s clerical leaders and was supported by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, is no longer welcome in Iraq under the Shi’ite-led government that came to power following Saddam’s downfall in 2003.

Also known as the People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran, the MEK led a guerilla campaign against the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran during the 1970s, including attacks on U.S. targets.

As a result, the United States placed it on the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations. The group has said that it has renounced violence.

“Given the ongoing efforts to relocate the residents, MEK cooperation in the successful and peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf, the MEK’s main paramilitary base, will be a key factor in any decision regarding the MEK’s FTO status,” Clinton told U.S. lawmakers.

The continued presence of MEK supporters at Camp Ashraf has become a thorn in the side for the Iraqi government, which has forged closer ties with its Shi’ite neighbor Iran since the U.S. invasion that ousted Saddam.

Iraq on Feb. 18 evacuated an initial batch of 400 Iranian dissidents of the 3,000 at Camp Ashraf as a first step towards expelling their entire group from Iraqi territory.

The dissidents are being moved first to a “transit site” at a vast former U.S. military base in Baghdad.. The group has argued that conditions are substandard at the site.

A senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Clinton’s remarks were a deliberate signal to the MEK.

“One of the reasons we wanted to get out this message is the MEK’s cooperation so far has been spotty and inconsistent,” said the U.S. official, saying Washington wanted to show the MEK that there was a cooperative way forward on closing Camp Ashraf.

“If they decide to have a confrontation, they need to do so knowing that we regard their behavior as a key factor in the FTO decision,” he added. “This was done carefully and with a lot of thought,” the U.S. official said.

The Iranian opposition group earlier this week asked a U.S. appeals court in Washington to order the State Department to either remove MEK from the terrorist list or require action within 30 days on its request to delist the group.

Earlier on Wednesday, a group of prominent former U.S. government officials, including former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former FBI Director Louis Freeh, filed a brief with the court supporting that effort. (Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Anthony Boadle and Paul Simao)

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