NEW YORK — The Obama administration has taken a group of Iranian dissidents off the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, culminating a long-running public relations campaign by the dissidents and their supporters.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s decision to remove the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MeK) from the list will be published Wednesday in the Federal Register. The group also is known as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran.
After an exhaustive review ordered by a federal court, U.S. officials found no evidence of the group’s involvement in terrorist activity.
The MeK, which opposes Iran’s theocratic regime, was given shelter by Saddam Hussein in Iraq in the 1980s. It has since renounced violence, and in 2003 surrendered its weapons as part of a cease-fire agreement with U.S.-led forces that toppled Saddam.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has sought to shut down the group’s paramilitary base, Camp Ashraf, in a bid to expel its members from his country.
Mrs. Clinton’s decision resulted, in part, from the MeK’s cooperation in relocating from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty, a temporary location near Baghdad’s international airport.
A U.S. appeals court in June set an Oct. 1 deadline for Mrs. Clinton to decide about removing the MeK from the terrorist blacklist.
Britain and the European Union took the MeK off their terrorist lists in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
The MeK was responsible for terrorist attacks in Iran in the 1970s that killed several U.S. military members and civilians, according to the State Department. The group denies any role in the deaths of U.S. military personnel.
The MeK has sought to position itself as a democratic force in Iran; however, U.S. officials are skeptical about its qualifications.
The Clinton administration designated the MeK as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997 in an attempt to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough with the Iranian government.
A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday condemned U.S. plans to take the MeK off the terrorist list.
“The United States’ double standard in dealing with terrorism and instrumental use of these groups for political gain is not a new issue,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by Iranian state media.
“If the U.S. government goes ahead with this move, then it will be accountable for the blood of thousands of Iranians and Iraqis spilt by this cult and it weakens world efforts in combating terrorism,” he said.
The MeK, whose leadership is based in Paris, invested a lot of money in an intense and expensive campaign to get itself off the U.S. terrorist blacklist. The group has prominent Republican and Democratic supporters, some of whom have admitted taking money to speak on behalf of the group.
The MeK asserts it now is working to overthrow Iran’s Islamic regime through peaceful means.