- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2009

APPEASING IRAN

Struan Stevenson, a Scottish conservative member of the European Parliament and co-chairman of a committee to promote freedom in Iran, declared in Washington on Tuesday that he is not - repeat not - a terrorist.

Addressing an audience of Iranian dissident exiles in a basement room of the Capitol, Mr. Stevenson cited seven European court decisions that cleared the main Iranian resistance movement of charges of terrorism.

“I’m a conservative politician, and I support these people,” Mr. Stevenson said. “If these people are terrorists, then I must be a terrorist, so put the handcuffs on me.”

After examining classified documents and hearing government testimony against the resistance, the courts in separate decisions last year ordered the British government and the European Union to remove the People’s Mujahideen of Iran from the blacklist of terrorist organizations.

Both the People’s Mujahideen, formerly the military wing of the movement, and the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political wing, remain on the U.S. terrorist list. The Clinton administration, trying to open a diplomatic dialogue with Iran in 1996, placed them on the list after Iran’s theocratic government demanded the opposition be outlawed as a precondition for talks.

Mr. Stevenson - joined by David Kilgour, a former member of the Canadian Parliament, and David Matas, a renowned Canadian human rights lawyer - came to Washington to urge members of Congress to follow the European action.

More than 150 members of the House of Representatives signed a letter last year, urging both groups be legalized. However the Bush administration refused, supporting accusations that the resistance killed Americans in the 1970s in Iran.

Mr. Stevenson is hoping President Obama will change that policy, noting that every American president since Jimmy Carter has tried to “placate the mullahs.”

“The appeasement tactics have failed and failed miserably,” Mr. Stevenson said. “Iran is about repression, terrorism, xenophobia, the execution of political opponents, women and children, stoning and eye-gouging. This is the government we are trying to appease.”

Meanwhile, the Iranian resistance remains controversial because of its murky background, first in opposition to the Shah of Iran and later as a Marxist organization accused of targeting Americans. Some critics call the resistance a cult of personality built around its leader, Maryam Rajavi.

Whatever the reality, the resistance remains an irritant to Iranian rulers.

“The mullahs fear and loathe them,” Mr. Stevenson said.

ARAB KALEIDOSCOPE

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is the value of a human-sized kaleidoscope? If it is to promote a better understanding of Arabian arts, some might say it is priceless.

The exhibit by Lebanese artist Lara Baladi is one of the featured pieces at the Kennedy Center’s festival, “Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World.”

At a private opening Monday night, men in tuxedos and women in evening gowns put slippers over their shoes and walked into a tunnel of glass triangles that ended with swirling images that gave them the feeling of being inside a kaleidoscope.

Guests also viewed a sample of performing arts that included an orchestra from Qatar, a children’s choir from Syria and traditional musicians playing bamboo flutes and double-sided Moroccan drums.

“This festival can present the American public with a better understanding of the Arab world,” Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, said at a dinner after the show. “The Arab world looks forward to strengthening ties with the United States and with Barack Hussein Obama.”

Mr. Moussa noted that the festival, which runs through March 15, features 800 artists from the 22 nations of the Arab League.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison.

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