As time is running out for US State Department to respond to a July 2010 D.C. Appeals Court order, on why it has continued to keep the most vocal Iranian opposition group, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK) on its list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations (FTO), its unnamed officials have started to show their teeth in a futile attempt to maintain the designation on non-statutory grounds.
Last week, the MEK legal team won another victory when the Court accepted their writ of mandamus, granting expedited consideration for their motion and ordered the government to respond to the petition by March 26.
Short of proof, the State Department has used bureaucracy and time killing tactics to avoid making a decision for over 550 days. That has now come to an end.
Sources with knowledge of the dossier, point to Vice President Joe Biden, who holds the Iran-Iraq file in the White House and the US Ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, as main obstacles. Biden has reportedly prevented Secretary Hillary Clinton from making a favourable decision in spite of the Court rulings and repeated calls from Congress.
Just as the mandamus writ was introduced, Secretary Clinton told a congress hearing, that the MEK's cooperation in abandoning Camp Ashraf, their home to the north of Baghdad for three decades, would be a "key factor" in dropping the terrorist label.
Her statement, more than anything, is an unequivocal confirmation that the State Department has no evidence backing the designation. The MEK cooperation or lack thereof, in relocating its members, is by no means statutory criteria for being on the FTO list.
Earlier this year, unnamed senior US officials told the media that the MEK were involved in recent assassinations of Iranian scientists in Tehran; a claim rejected by the organisation as a disgraceful lie that was never affirmed by anyone with a name beyond Iranian officials.
This week, just after the D.C. Court had approved the MEK's new petition, articles flooded the web targeting the former US officials who had publicly advocated justice to be done and had kept reminding the State Department to honour its obligation to protect the Iranian dissidents in Camp Ashraf. In 2003, Ashraf inhabitants had voluntarily disarmed in good faith in return for US forces' written assurances to protect them.
There is no doubt that the US has failed to uphold that commitment. At least 47 residents of Ashraf including 8 women were murdered in cold blood by the Iraqi army over the past couple of years, with US troops just standing by, watching the carnage.
With the delisting campaign well underway over the past two years, the timing of these sudden defamatory articles bears a clear mark of the State Department's invisible hand trying to manipulate public opinion.
One article is again quoting an unnamed US Official - who some have hinted to be Daniel Fried, Hillary Clinton's special adviser on Camp Ashraf - using slander and insults to target the MEK leadership in Paris and its heavyweight American supporters accusing them of obstructing the peaceful resolution for Camp Ashraf!
Ambassador Fried, who is also in charge of the Guantanamo Bay Prison project, has complicated the situation by apparently advising Secretary Clinton to condition the MEK's delisting on non-legal arguments such as evacuating Camp Ashraf. That leaves little trust for those whom he needs to convince when he resorts to bullying tactics. One Polish politician remembers Fried from the time he was US Ambassador to Warsaw and considered him to be "haughty" with a "superpower mentality."
The Administration even went so far to ask the Treasury to probe the group's American supporters for accepting speakers' fees; a move warmly applauded and praised by the Iranian regime's media.
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