Members of Congress from the left to the right applauded Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for removing a major Iranian dissident group from the U.S. terrorist list, although they complained that her action was “long overdue.”
The congressional supporters of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran and its formerly armed wing, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MeK), had joined top national security officials under former President George W. Bush and even a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee more than two years ago in a concerted campaign to get the dissidents off the blacklist.
The resistance was included on the list in 1997, when President Bill Clinton was trying to open talks with Mohammad Khatami, who some considered to be a moderate Iranian president.
The dissidents now will be free to reopen an office in the United States and solicit funds to promote democracy in Iran.
Rep. Daniel E. Lungren, California Republican, said the removal of the resistance from the terrorist list sends a signal to the theocratic regime in Iran.
“This long-overdue action by the United States should send a clear message to the mullahs in Tehran that we will not let up in our resolve to end the Iranian nuclear program,” said Mr. Lungren, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.
The resistance first exposed Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program in 2002.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Democrat, also called Mrs. Clinton’s decision “long overdue” and expressed hope that the action will “empower the Iranian people and enable them to bring about democratic change in their country.”
“By delisting, we are leveling the playing field, enabling the Iranian resistance to more effectively wage its legitimate battle against the barbaric regime in Tehran,” said Mrs. Lee, also a member of the Homeland Security Committee.
Sen. Carl M. Levin, Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Brad Sherman, California Democrat, said they hope the removal of the resistance from the list will encourage other countries to resettle many of the 2,000 dissidents confined to camps in Iraq.
The dissidents used camps in Iraq to wage an armed struggle against Iran until 2003, when the U.S. overthrew Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and ordered the resistance to surrender their weapons. The new Iraqi government, which is developing close ties with Iran, used the U.S. terrorist designation of the resistance as an excuse to attack them repeatedly.
Mr. Sherman, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “Now it is time to press Baghdad to provide MeK residents with better living conditions.”
Rep. Ted Poe, also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, noted that the resistance has been “actively working” with U.S. intelligence agencies to provide information about conditions inside Iran.
“We have seen that the real terrorists are the mullahs of Iran and the tiny tyrant in the desert, [President] Mahmoud Ahamadinejad, not the freedom fighters hoping for a democratic Iran,” the Texas Republican said.
Mrs. Clinton was under a federal court order to justify keeping the resistance on the terrorist list. Her decision is expected to be published Wednesday in the Federal Register.
Britain removed the resistance from its own terrorist list in June 2008, and the European Union followed suit seven months later.
• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email email@example.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.