- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2013

An Iranian dissident group long accused of terrorism by the United States remains the most serious threat to Iran’s brutal, theocratic regime, a U.S. report says — even though the group’s armed wing surrendered its weapons 10 years ago and now is confined to a refugee camp in Iraq.

The Iranian government “considers the Mojahedin-e-Khlaq to be the organization that most threatens the Islamic Republic of Iran,” says the report prepared by the Library of Congress and the Pentagon.

The report on Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security said that one of the spy agency’s main responsibilities “is to conduct covert operations against the Mojahedin-e-Khlaq and to identify and eliminate its members.”

The Mojahedin-e-Khlaq (or MeK) was the militant wing of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran until U.S. forces disarmed the rebel army in the 2003 invasion of Iraq that overthrew Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi dictator had allowed the rebels to operate in Iraq to disrupt Iran, his longtime regional enemy.

The rebels, originally touting a blend of Islam and socialism, had supported the 1979 Iranian revolution but turned against the regime as it became more fanatical in its pursuit of worldwide jihad.

In the early 1990s, Iran’s spy masters recruited disgruntled MeK members and “used them to launch a disinformation campaign” against the Iranian resistance, says the report prepared in December by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress for the Pentagon’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office.

During that period, Iranian leaders also insisted that the U.S. and other foreign nations designate the resistance as a terrorist group, if they wanted to open talks with the regime in Tehran.

President Bill Clinton added the resistance to the U.S. terrorist list in 1997, as he tried to open negotiations with Mohammad Khatami, who was considered a moderate Iranian president at the time.

Britain took the resistance off its terrorist list in 2008, and the European Union followed in 2009. The State Department, under a federal court order, removed the resistance from the terrorist list last year.

Even though the disarmed dissidents were relocated last year to a refugee camp in Iraq, they have “remained a viable organization,” the report says.

“The Iranian government and its intelligence apparatus consider the MeK the most serious dissident organization with regard to the revolution,” the report says.

The resistance, which developed strong support in Congress, has sources inside Iran and publicly revealed Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program in 2002.

No peace in sight

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan candidly conceded Thursday that prospects are poor for peace talks with Taliban militants, who many observers believe may be stalling until most American forces withdraw next year so they can defeat a weak Afghan army and re-establish an Islamist regime.

Ambassador James Cunningham told reporters in Kabul that a peace process “hasn’t even begun.”

“Our goal is the beginning — if not the conclusion — of a serious process on peace and reconciliation as soon as possible, but so far that hasn’t been possible,” he said.

The Obama administration reached out to the Taliban nearly a year ago, but the Islamists soon broke off negotiations. Some reports said they were angered by the U.S. refusal to release Taliban terrorists held at the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The U.S. toppled the Taliban in 2001 because the extremists sheltered Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

The Taliban had ruled Afghanistan for five years in a brutal regime that imposed strict Islamic law and prohibited women from getting an education. They regrouped into a terrorist army after U.S. forces overthrew them.

Several Afghan officials this week told Washington Times reporter Ashish Kumar Sen that they fear a Taliban takeover after a U.S. withdrawal.

“Civil war will erupt, and the Taliban will once again gain control of Afghanistan,” said Naeem Lalai Hamidzai, a lawmaker from Kandahar province.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email [email protected] The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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