- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2011


U.S. supporters of unarmed Iranian dissidents in Iraq are mounting a campaign to persuade the State Department to remove the exiles from its terrorist list and protect them from retaliation by pro-Iranian officials in Baghdad.

Prominent Iranian-American professors, doctors, scientists and scholars from Los Angeles to Miami last week appealed to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. They asked Mrs. Clinton to order her subordinates to comply with a year-old federal court ruling that ordered the State Department to justify keeping the Iranian resistance on the terrorist list.

On Monday, two top officials appointed by former President George W. Bush and one named by former President Bill Clinton accused the White House of “turning its back on the Iranian exile group whose network supplies key operational intelligence on the [Iranian] Mullahs’ Islamic nuclear bomb project.”

Allen Gerson, a former counsel to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations and now an attorney for the exiles defended his clients in an article on the Huffington Post, which carried an earlier article calling the resistance a terrorist group.

Members of Congress also are urging President Obama to appoint retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, a Democrat and former NATO commander, to serve as an envoy to the Iraqi government to negotiate the fate of 3,400 Iranian dissidents in Camp Ashraf, a compound about 40 miles from Baghdad.

Gen. Clark is among the former U.S. officials who support removing the resistance from the terrorist list.

The State Department has accused the resistance of terrorist acts for killing U.S. officials in the 1970s. The department also says it is preparing a response to the court order. President Clinton added the resistance to the terrorist list in 1997, when he was trying to open talks with the Iranian regime.

U.S. forces disarmed the resistance in 2003 after toppling the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who had given the dissidents safe haven to undermine the Iranian regime.

The new campaign is the latest development in a growing effort to take the Iranian resistance off the list. Britain removed the dissidents from its terrorist list in 2008, and the European Union dropped the resistance from its list a year later. In April, French courts dismissed terrorism-related charges against resistance supporters, many of whom live in Paris.

Fifty-eight Iranian-Americans professionals last week appealed in a letter to Mrs. Clinton to remove the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) from the terrorist list.

“The continued designation of the PMOI is unfounded, unjust, inhumane and to the detriment of the Iranian-American community,” they said.

They noted that any U.S. citizen who aided the resistance in any way could face charges of supporting terrorism, and that the Iranian regime uses the U.S. terrorist designation as an excuse to arrest and execute domestic opponents.

They also warned that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is determined to shut the camp this year and move the residents to another location. They fear Mr. Maliki, in his efforts to build relations with Iran, could deport them to Tehran, where they would be executed. Iraqi forces repeatedly have attacked the residents of Camp Ashraf, killing dozens and injuring hundreds.

Former Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge - both Bush appointees - and former FBI Director Louis Freeh - a Clinton appointee - defended the resistance in an article Monday on FoxNews.com.

They complained that the State Department has “slow-rolled” the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by taking more than a year to meet the court order and “infuriated the Congress.”

Writing in the Huffington Post last week, Mr. Gerson called the charge of terrorism “spurious.” He criticized an earlier article as a “mind-boggling attempt” to defame Mr. Mukasey, Mr. Ridge and Mr. Freeh for defending the resistance.

He said the earlier article “makes the sensational charge that the [resistance] is, indeed, a terrorist organization and that former top U.S. national security officials are willing to prostitute themselves by saying the opposite.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washington times.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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