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Time to Empower Iranian and Syrian Resistance

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The Group of Friends of Syria came together for conference in Paris last Thursday to coordinate their efforts in finding a very much-needed solution to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. It is obvious that the Syrian dictator has only one answer to the democratic demands of its people - brutal repression. The atrocities unfolding in the city of Homs and other Syrian cities are justified by Assad under the pretext of "fighting terrorists and armed groups'', demonising propaganda campaign directed by the Syrian state-owned media and news agencies.

The regime's message to the people is viciously clear; anyone challenging the supremacy of Assad's rule over Syria is a terrorist.

In a decade minted by the 'War on Terror', the attentive use of the word is just another dimension of the Syrian regime's repressive campaign against the legitimate popular opposition.

The terrorist labelling is a carefully prepared choice serving two essential strategic purposes. The first is to provide a "tolerable" and widely-accepted cover for the use of disproportionate violence against civilians. The second is to breed suspicion around Syrian opposition internationally to deter international response to the acute humanitarian crisis in Syria.

This tactic has not been very successful in the international arena and other than Iran, its surrogates and a few other countries; no other government has bought this argument in its face value. To be fair the verbal condemnation of Assad's regime has been resolute and supportive of the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people who have lately witnessed encouraging progress in international community turning words into actions aimed at stopping the killings.

The Syrian regime's strategy to maintain power is not nothing new. In fact, Assad is imitating his mentors in Tehran, the religious tyrants who have exploited the same strategy in the last 15 years with extreme brutality.

On October 8, 1997, President Clinton's administration took the formal decision to designate the MEK/PMOI (the People's Mujahedin Organisation of Iran), the main and most organised Iranian opposition as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). The State Department officials at the time described the act as "goodwill gesture to the newly elected president Mohammad Khatami - erroneously perceived as a "moderate" by some in the US administration.

In September 2002, the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in the Clinton-administration, Martin Indyk, told Newsweek, "[There] was White House interest in opening up a dialogue with the Iranian government. Top Administration officials saw cracking down on the [MEK], which the Iranians had made clear they saw as a menace, as one way to do so."

The allegation of terrorism levied against the main Iranian opposition, MEK, in 1997 has its roots in the Iran-Contra (Iran-gate) scandal () on the mid-1980s. The Tower Commission Report released on February 26, 1987 cited a letter by an Iranian go-between, Manouchehr Ghorbanifar, to his US counterpart as saying that one of the nine demands of the Iranian regime from the US was the "(issuance) of an official announcement terming the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) Marxist and terrorist."

The terror tag placed on the MEK is the weak point of the U.S. policy vis-à-vis the Iranian regime and the real source of its shortcomings. On the one hand, it has allowed the theocracy in Tehran to advance its position in the region through export of terrorism and religious fundamentalism and on the other hand to enhance its grip on the people inside the country through repression by misusing the "War on Terror", whereas it is well known that this regime is itself the central-banker of international terrorism .

Evidently, the U.S. policy to maintain the PMOI/MEK on the FTO list in order to encourage reforms in Iran, famously hipped policy of "carrot and stick" has been counterproductive. It has disturbed the political balance drastically in favour of the Iranian regime wearying the U.S. position in the region and undermining the Iranian people's legitimate Resistance for democratic change.

Today the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has an opportunity to right this wrong. Near 100 U.S. Congressmen and 401 members of the European Parliament as well as over 4000 Parliamentarians from National Parliaments of the European countries have called for such move and the ruling of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit warrants it.

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Such a decision would be a decisive blow to the Iranian regime and its closest ally in Syria. The continued listing of MEK is an open invitation to the Iranian regime to continue the violent scenario of repressing the popular uprisings in 2009 and 2010 and gives Assad in Syria the excuse to carry on brutally repressing the Syrian population.

Let's hope Mrs Clinton deprives the Iranian mullahs and Bashar al-Assad of this opportunity by immediately de-listing the main Iranian opposition movement, MEK and hence empowering the Iranian Resistance.