Foreign Policy Chat - Lobbying Paves The Way For Delisting Of Terrorist Group

It appears that the MeK - a dissident Iranian terrorist group currently based in Iraq - is about to win a major concession from the U.S. Government; Being removed from the official list of designated terrorist organizations. Most objective analysts find this decision surprising given that no one at the Department of State or in the broader intelligence community has ever argued that the group doesn't continue to sponsor terrorism and seek to conduct more terrorism in the future. The MeK was originally designated a terrorist organization because of their role in assassinating American officials in Iran during the 1970s. The fact that Saddam Hussein was harboring the MeK was even used, originally, as part of the official case for invading Iraq. And though the group officially renounced terrorism in 2003, they have continued to support and sponsor the assassination of civilian nuclear scientists inside of Iran. And therein lies part of the story as to why the government is considering delisting them. In addition to a successful - and likely illegal - lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill, the MeK is now the enemy of an enemy. Adam Serwer's assessment seems just about right:

MEK has American blood on its hands, but today the group is reportedly a huge help to Israel in assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists-perhaps part of the reason it is being delisted. Memo to terror groups: If you want to get off the US terrorism list, make sure you kill the "right" civilians and offer generous speaking fees. 

This whole affair hints at a double standard in enforcement: High profile politicians can advocate for listed terror groups without fear, but someone like Tarek Mehanna, the Bostonian who was convicted of material support for terrorism in part for posting Al Qaeda propaganda on the Internet, can look forward to long prison terms.

And who exactly received those speaking fees? The payola flowed to a bipartisan group of influential former Administration officials, including Howard Dean, Fran Townsend, Wesley Clark, Ed Rendell, Rudy Giuliani, and Tom Ridge.

The State Department is, of course, reluctant to state the obvious reality of this situation - that Washington, DC is open for business if international terror organizations want to spend enough money on lobbyist and start killing people who are politically unpopular. Instead, they have suggested that the "State Department was looking favorably at delisting MeK if it continued cooperating by vacating a former paramilitary base inside Iraq, called Camp Ashraf, which the group had used to stage cross-border strikes into Iran." So the Administration's position is that the decision to delist the group is based off of their potential willingness to relocate to a more convenient location. It's entirely unclear to me, however, why the location of a group's headquarters would be the relevant factor in determining whether or not they are a terrorist organization; Especially given that the State Department admits that they continue to stage cross-border terrorist activities. Call me crazy, but I'm of the view that terror designations should be the result of objective intelligence analysis rather than lobbying and payola; A minority opinion, apparently.