Following the Conference on Syria in Istanbul on 1 April, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton said:
"With respect to the role that Iran is playing inside Syria, it's deeply troubling. And I think it's important to underscore that when I travel in the region - there are three concerns that countries have about Iran. The first, the pursuit of nuclear weapons, which would be incredibly destabilizing and it would intimidate and cause reactions of many kinds by countries that would feel threatened. Secondly, the interference by Iran in the internal affairs of its neighbours, and certainly the role that Iran seems to be playing inside Syria is an example of that. And thirdly, the export of terrorism. In the last six, eight months we've had Iranian plots disrupted from Thailand to India to Georgia to Mexico and many places in between. This is a country, not a terrorist group....The people deserve better than to be living under a regime that exports terrorism."
Well said. It sounds as though regime change should be the only game in town.
But when former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani became the latest US politician to back the overthrow of the Tehran regime, it was not invasion he had in mind. It was internal revolution.
Opposition parties in Iran are brutally oppressed, so much so that the most viable organised resistance in the country has been exiled for over thirty years.
The Mujahedin-e Khalq, known as the MEK, believes it can replace the unelected, clerical regime with a democracy. Their manifesto champions a non nuclear Iran, with equal rights between men and women, and a free press. But the major opposition to the Mullah's are hampered from realizing those dreams of freedom - because both Iran and the US designate them as a terrorist organisation.
A powerful movement has built up to 'delist' the MEK, which has succeeded in Europe and is backed at the highest levels in America. As President Obama continues to struggle to find a solution for Iran's increasingly threatening nuclear stance, he should realise that the most powerful weapon the US can deploy now is not the sanctions of diplomacy, nor the missiles of war. It is to "delist" the MEK as a terrorist organisation, and thus allow the resistance to create its own change, and find its own path towards a democratic Iran. Such a simple act would send a strong message to a regime that has long sought to extinguish the MEK. And yet even within America it is causing controversy.
Senior figures like Giuliani who are brave enough to stand up and support a group of activists wrongly labelled terrorists have outrageously had their motives questioned. Suggestions have emerged that such eminent and important figures as Louis Freeh and Tom Ridge are only speaking out because they are being paid by the MEK, and their real interest is in starting a war.
Not only are such sensationalist claims an insult to many of the most prominent figures in US political, military and legal life over the past four administrations - that their allegiance can somehow be bought - but it is also a deliberate distortion of the truth. What Giuliani and the other US dignitaries mean when they call for regime change is not war. It is the empowerment of movement to change.
The MEK is an organisation that epitomises the spirit of the Arab Spring. By removing the proscription label, which the British Supreme Court described as 'perverse', a new political dynamic can be created. Why am I so sure that you can trust the assertion that the MEK is not a terrorist group - or as others have claimed a cult? You only have to look at the history.
Freeh admits the MEK were listed by the US State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation in 1997 merely to 'appease' Iran, as part of a failed policy of currying favour with the Mullahs. Freeh should know - he was the director of the FBI at the time.
It was also argued that the then President, Mohammad Khatami, was a moderate and trustworthy ally, and consequently the West believed the slurs of Tehran officials who said the MEK was a terrorist cult.
Many of those self same lies are being re-circulated today.
Fortunately they were disproved in 2003, when coalition forces finally met the dissidents at Camp Ashraf, after the invasion of Iraq. Every single one of the 3,400 exiles was interviewed and investigated by a specialist task force. Not a shred of evidence was found that any of them were linked to terrorism, or indeed, to any other form of criminality. Brigadier General David Phillips, along with several other US military commanders in charge of the protection of Camp Ashraf, have subsequently joined the campaign for the MEK to be delisted. Some have been surprised that such luminaries have spoken out in support of the organisation - and sought to find ulterior motives for their involvement.
But to even consider that so many of America's best legal, political and military minds are involved in a kind of conspiracy is preposterous. It is also short-sighted, and flies in the face of evidence uncovered at Ashraf almost ten years ago. More importantly it plays into the hands of the Iranian regime.
Look across the Atlantic and you will find that the UK delisted the group in 2008, and the following year the Council of the European Union removed it from the list of designated terrorist organisations.
The only people left to benefit from MEK's current status in the US are the Mullahs of Iran.
The degree of condemnation and brutality with which the regime has treated the MEK over the past three decades is proof of how seriously they consider them a threat to their oppressive rule.
It is time to break those shackles, and open up the opportunity for a new political landscape to emerge by way of internal regime change, rather than war. Surely the brave young men and women of the coalition forces, who so gallantly sacrificed their lives in the cause of freedom, deserve that.Suggest a correction