Posted by: sean | May 5, 2008

One man’s terrorist

Raymond Tanter from WINEP and MESH has a post up about why the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), the Iranian militants who have committed terrorist attacks against the regime in Teheran and who were hosted by Saddam’s Iraq, should be delisted from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Besides the fact that the MEK is against the Iranian regime, basically, his argument boils down to the fact that they haven’t committed any acts of terrorism for a few years:

On April 25, Patrick Clawson, deputy director of research at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote that designation “should be based only on terrorism issues,” and that State “cited no alleged MEK terrorist activity since 2001, yet have increased allegations pertaining [to] the group’s non-terrorist activities.” Country Reports 2007 continues this trend of making allegations that are irrelevant to terrorist designation.

Tanter attempts to argue that MEK doesn’t have the capability to carry out terrorist attacks, whereas we all know that anyone with a back pack, a bus pass and household peroxide can commit an act of terrorism. So while this argument isn’t very convincing, he tells us, “de-listing would provide diplomatic leverage over Tehran, as the West is presently failing to constrain the Iranian regime’s nuclear program, sponsorship of terrorism, and subversion of Iraq.”

In other words, the US should use a terrorist group for political bargaining. Of course this is nothing new: the Bush family has a long history of using Cuban terrorists to apply pressure on the Castro regime. What’s striking, though, is the moral indignation Republicans muster when someone supports talking to groups like Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah (most of the violence committed by the last group having been aimed at military targets). Charges of moral equivalency and weak knees in the face of terror are immediately brandished.

Well, Orlando Bosch blew up a passenger plane killing all 73 civilians aboard. Jose Dionisio Suarez and Virgilio Paz Romero assassinated the Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier in Washington. The Mujahedeen-e Khalq assassinated the deputy chief of the Iranian Armed Forces General Staff, Brigadier General Ali Sayyaad Shirazi and attacked Iranian embassies and installations in 13 different countries at the same time. They also bombed the head office of the Islamic Republic Party and the Prime Minister’s office killing 70 people, including the Chief Justice, the President and the Prime Minister.

Either terrorism is an acceptable tactic, or it’s not. Washington can’t understand why the rest of the world sees America as hypocritical, but Tanter’s desire for the US to have its cake and eat it too should give us a hunch.

UPDATE: Thinking more about this today has reminded me of the question of when a group can legitimately be de-listed as a terrorist organization. If the fact that MEK hasn’t committed any acts of terrorism since 2001 is really enough to prove that they’ve mended their ways, then the same ought to apply to Hezbollah as well, because depending on who was responsible for the Argentinean attacks and the kidnapping of Tannenbaum, they haven’t committed any acts of terrorism since 2000, the mid-1990s or even the late 1980s.

Otherwise, supporting terrorist groups or rebels or militias in a neighboring country has long been a staple of statecraft. In Africa, Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia, Uganda and Eritrea, each supports groups in their neighbors’ territory. Iran and Syria support Hamas and Hezbollah; Syria supported the PLO in Jordan; while Israel supported the SLA in Lebanon; and Iran trained the Iraqi Badr Brigage to fight against Saddam. Hell, the first car bomb in Iraq wasn’t unleashed by Zarqawi, but rather by Iyad Allawi with the help of the CIA. So while I abhor the use of violence against civilians as a political tool, I’m not naive and do know it happens all over. It’s the smug hypocrisy of the “War on Terror” that really gets my goat in the same way that the “Fair and Balanced” slogan annoys me way more than the actual Fox News coverage.



  1. […] Other alliances include the Afghan mujahideen and Washington against Moscow, or the US and the MEK against Iran. To argue that the the two are necessarily the same is either obtuse or […]

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