Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week pressed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on her failure to remove the Iranian resistance from the U.S. list of terrorist groups.
They warned that the lives of more than 3,000 dissidents living in a camp in Iraq are in danger because of the State Department’s refusal to take them off the list. The Iraqi government has even used the list as an excuse to attack the unarmed dissidents, one committee member said.
Rep. Ted Poe told Mrs. Clinton that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki last year cited the U.S. terrorist designation as a reason to refuse to allow a congressional delegation to visit the rebels of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) in Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad.
Mr. Poe, Texas Republican, recalled that Mr. Maliki said his government treats the people there as a terrorist group because the United States lists them as such.
“So he dumped it back on our designation as the reason he was treating them the way he was treating them,” he said.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher warned Mrs. Clinton that the rebels are “in grave danger.”
“There are 3,000 Iranian exiles who have been residing in Iraq … because they are enemies of the Iranian mullah dictatorship,” the California Republican said.
Mrs. Clinton defended her department’s handling of the group’s nearly 4-year-old request for removal from the list. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rejected the request from Camp Ashraf in 2008, but a federal appeals court two years later ordered the State Department review the request.
Attorneys for the PMOI this week increased pressure on the State Department by filing a request that the federal appeals court in Washington order Mrs. Clinton to remove the group from the terrorist list.
Viet Dinh, a former top Justice Department lawyer now representing the resistance, noted that Mrs. Clinton has recognized the group’s reunuciation of violence and is “legally bound to delist their organization.”
“She cannot pocket veto PMOI’s application for revocation of its terrorist status,” he said.
The group operated as an armed resistance against the Iranian regime from the Iraqi base as a guest of dictator Saddam Hussein, a bitter enemy of Iran’s.
The rebels surrendered their weapons to U.S. forces who toppled Saddam in 2003. The U.S. later declared them protected persons under international law, but Washington turned them over to Iraq on Jan. 1, 2009.
The resistance has been on the terrorist list since 1997, when President Bill Clinton declared them a terrorist group in an attempt to improve relations with Iran.