The Mujahedin-e Khalq group (People’s Mujahedin of Iran, MEK), founded in the sixties, was one of the driving forces behind the 1979 anti-Shah revolution. It later split with the new Iranian leadership and unleashed a terrorist campaign in the country. As calculated by Iranian media, out of the 17,000 killed in Iran in terrorist attacks since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, about 12,000 of them were victims of terrorist acts by the MEK.
In 1997, the group was included in the U.S. State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations; it was included because among the MEK’s many victims there were several American citizens. It was also listed as a terrorist organization by several other countries, as well as the European Union.
Things change however, and because the MEK is probably one of the most powerful forces opposing the current Iranian government, the U.S. found the group useful as a convenient «proxy» for its policy aimed at overthrowing the regime in Iran. A lengthy, and rather vociferous, campaign led the MEK being struck from terrorist lists, first by the EU (January 2009), then by the U.S. (September 2012) and finally Canada (December 2012).
The MEK formally denounced its terrorist policy in the early 2000s but Iranian scholars tend to believe that in fact, such activity has not in reality been curbed. For example, It is widely believed that it was MEK members who were responsible for several well-known cases of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists in recent years, often attributed to Israeli special services.
Several high-ranking officials from the current and previous U.S. administrations attended Thursday’s event on Pennsylvania Avenue; former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, former Obama National Security Adviser Jim Jones and former Representative Patrick Kennedy, were among the many luminaries.
Too much has been said in recent years about the use of «double standards» in U.S. diplomacy and its distinction between «good» and «bad» terrorists. This case demonstrates the most blatant example. Indeed, it is not the exactly what this or that organization does that matters; rather its objectives are what counts. If its current intentions coincide with those of U.S. foreign policy, an organization can easily be removed from the terror list and even acknowledged as a «Parliament-in-exile» as in MEK’s case, along with its umbrella organization, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
It should also be noted that among MEK’s most ardent backers we find a landmark figure of U.S. policy concerning the «Great Middle East»; Representative Dana Rohrabacher, famous for his untiring support for all kinds of separatist movements from Kosovo to Pakistan.
Among his latest initiatives is a call to block all aid to Pakistan and support for the separatist (basically, terrorist) movements fighting for self-determination for the Baloch people of the country. The long term goal is clearly in complete harmony with America’s approach to Iranian exile groups. The idea is to create so much instability, by nourishing a variety of terrorists and separatists, that it will either lead to secession and the formation of buffer states (pro-American by definition), or result in the kind of total chaos that would justify American interference.
Of course, Representative Rohrabacher does not lay down U.S. foreign policy but his initiatives are clearly useful as touchstones to test public opinion at home and abroad.
The fact that one of his ideas has materialized as the office for an Iranian «Parliament-in-exile» only reinforces the belief that other actions of the kind are likely to follow.