The Obama administration should be doing more to support Iranian resistance groups — including the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq (MEK), a "cult-like" terrorist organization that has engaged in suicide attacks against their own countrymen, according to the U.S. State Department — in an all-out effort to affect regime change in Tehran, two American lawmakers said at a recent press conference in Washington, DC.
The lawmakers’ call for greater U.S. support for self-styled resistance groups opposed to Iran’s government comes as the Islamic regime has accused groups protesting the recent disputed presidential election of receiving Western backing, an allegation that has been used to justify a harsh crackdown on dissent.
At a Capitol Hill press conference on June 26th, Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, declared that the U.S. government, which has imposed stringent economic sanctions on Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution and supported Iraq’s invasion of the country in the 1980s, had too often sought "to mollify or appease those in charge" of that country. Instead, Filner argued the U.S. should explicitly side with Iranian "resistance groups", including the MEK, which he described as a "democratic, non-nuclear, secular group fighting for freedom for all the people in Iran."
The U.S. State Department notes that the MEK "advocates the violent overthrow of the Iranian regime and was responsible for the assassination of several U.S. military personnel and civilians in the 1970’s," and that the group maintains "the capacity and will to commit terrorist acts in Europe, the Middle East, the United States, Canada, and beyond."
Following the Iranian revolution the MEK fled Iran for neighboring Iraq, where it received support from Saddam Hussein’s regime to launch "suicidal, mass wave attacks against Iranian forces." The MEK’s fighting on behalf of the Iraqi regime in a war that killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians is generally seen as undermining their credibility among the Iranian public.
Human Rights Watch has also accused the group of perpetrating serious human rights abuses, including torture, at a number of secret prison camps.
Nonetheless, citing the internal unrest in Iran over last month’s disputed presidential election and the fact that an invasion "is not an option today," Filner said the U.S. government should be doing much more to support "one of the biggest resistance groups in Iraq, the so-called MEK.
"They say, ‘Let us do the job; get out of our — just get out of our way,’ because we have not helped the internal resistance movements," Filner said. "We can help internal resistance movements in Iran, and we should not stand in their way of trying to get rid of the present regime."
Joining Filner in the call for greater U.S. support for the MEK was Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who briefly fought alongside the Afghan mujahideen in their war against the Soviet Union. Though declared "freedom fighters" by the Reagan administration, the mujahideen proved to be fertile recruiting grounds for the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
Conceding that, like the Afghan mujahideen, the MEK is not "perfect," Rohrabacher said that "during the American revolution there were a lot of imperfect organizations around too. But the fact is, the mullahs are what now — they are the ones who are murdering their people. They are the ones who are threatening world peace."
Rohrabacher also rejected the premise of a question about whether overt U.S. support for terrorist groups opposed to the Iranian government might undermine future U.S.-Iran negotiations.
"Who wants to cooperate with Hitler or the mullahs who are murdering their own people? We don’t want to cooperate with those bums," Rohrabacher responded. "They’re murdering their people. They’re threatening to blow people up with nuclear weapons. We don’t want any — to establish a relationship with the mullahs that’s going to make it more cooperative with them."
Filner and Rohrabacher appeared at the press conference with Soon Sansami, currently the executive director of the Women’s Freedom Forum. Previously she was the spokesperson for the National Council of Resistance, identified by Filner as "the umbrella Iranian internal resistance movement in the United States." The U.S. Treasury Department lists the group as a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" organization and one of many "aliases of [the] MEK."