American Views

On-the-Record Briefing

Ambassador Cofer Black, Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Remarks at On-the-Record Briefing on the Release of the Annual Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002 report
Washington, DC
April 30, 2003...

.... QUESTION: What does the State Department think about the ceasefire that was signed between the MEK and the U.S., U.S. CENTCOM, in Iraq?

Since this group is still on the terrorist list, as I understand it, Americans are not supposed to deal with them at all. And that's always been kind of a -- there is a problem in Washington, D.C., because they keep an office open here.

So can you tell me how this squares with the MEK's terrorist status?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Sure, I'll be happy to, happy to try. The Secretary has recommended that the President determine that the laws that apply to countries that support terrorism no longer apply to Iraq. The President's determination to provide greater flexibility in permitting certain types of trade with and assistance to Iraq; thus, we can treat Iraq like any other country not on the terrorist list.

I think it's important to underscore some facts here. MEK is designated by the U.S. Government as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. This organization mixes Islam and Marxism in their battle to establish what they claim would be a secular state in Iran.

Until the recent war in Iraq, they were allied with the government of Saddam Hussein and received most of their support from this regime. They have assisted the Hussein regime in suppressing opposition within Iraq, and performed internal security for the Iraqi regime. MEK, or as some recently referred to as the People's Mujahedin, has also attacked and killed Americans.

The MEK and its many aliases, including the political NCRI, are designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The United States Government does not negotiate with terrorists. MEK's opposition to the Iranian Government does not change the fact that they are a terrorist organization. We understand the agreement on the ground in the field is a prelude to the group's surrender. Commanders make tactical decisions to end conflict with enemy combatants successfully.

There's a lot of activity in various areas underway in Iraq -- of which this is one -- I would refer you to CENTCOM and their briefers to get better insight to the decision-making and the actions of our commanders, coalition commanders on the ground.

This is a pretty special group. They are a Foreign Terrorist Organization. They are not well liked in Iraq; they could not be put with the general prisoner population. They are following the orders of the coalition commanders, and their situation will be addressed in the coming days and weeks.


Bob Ney’s letter to The Hill

From Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio):
Recent statements by the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) through a paid full-page advertisement and a letter to the editor of The Hill contain outright lies, exaggerations and deceptions.

The MEK uses dozens of pseudonyms, such as the National Council of Resistance and the People’s Movement of Iran, to hide contributions and spread its propaganda. In fact, because of the MEK’s long association with and support for Saddam Hussein’s regime, the former Iraqi information minister may very well have been the one who taught the MEK his craft of making false statements in the face of incontrovertible facts.

That the MEK continues to peddle its lies should not be a surprise to those who are aware of the group. Both the Clinton and Bush administrations placed it on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations since the early 1990s. The MEK remains alongside groups such as al Qaeda and Hamas to this day.

Contrary to the MEK’s claims, and unfortunately ignored by the few members of Congress who still support them, the MEK’s headquarters, at least before the U.S. bombing of Iraq, was just 40 kilometers west of Baghdad.

In fact, the U.S. State Department notes Saddam Hussein himself paid for the headquarters. In addition, several news organizations have reported the MEK’s leader, Masud Rajavi, had been living in the home of Iraqi Gen. Ali-Hassan al-Majid, otherwise known as “Chemical Ali.” That residence recently met the same fate as two MEK bases in Iraq when coalition bombs destroyed them.

In the face of so much documented evidence, it is astonishing for the MEK and a few members of Congress to claim the support of 150 fellow representatives. There is only one reason that the MEK repeatedly refuses to disclose a current list of Congressional supporters: It does not exist.

At one point, it may have; in fact, when MEK representatives first visited my office several years ago, preaching democracy for Iran, I was glad to join them in what appeared to be their effort. However, I quickly discovered that the MEK are not the proponents of democracy they claim to be but are in fact documented terrorists with a history of killing American citizens and supporting Saddam Hussein. Today, no more than a handful of members supports the MEK, and even that number is dwindling.

Contrary to recent statements by the MEK, which to this day has never publicly repudiated Saddam Hussein, I say: I have never supported, and will never support, the current regime in Iran . I don’t support MEK either. There is no such thing as a good terrorist and there certainly is no such thing as our terrorist.


U.S. bombs Mujahedin; backers hide
By Sam Dealey- THE HILL

Congressional supporters of an Iraq-based terrorist organization kept a low profile this week after confirmation that U.S.-led coalition forces attacked their bases during the final days of the war.

The group, known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), is made up of Iranian dissidents based in Baghdad. Despite a history of violence against Americans and its common cause with former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, the group developed a significant following in Congress for its opposition to Tehran’s clerics.

In 1997, the State Department identified the MEK as a foreign terrorist organization. Last Tuesday, General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged in a briefing at the Pentagon that the U.S. bombed MEK forces.

“We are still pursuing elements of the MEK inside Iraq,” Myers said, adding: “It’s possible some of them may surrender very soon to coalition forces. … We’re still interested in that particular group.”

House supporters of the MEK, led by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), staunchly defended the group when The Hill reported April 2 that U.S. officials were targeting their bases in Iraq.

“They’re a combatant,” a State Department spokesman said at the time. “Targeting data is being provided to the Pentagon. We believe they are undertaking some of the actions in the south [of Iraq] where enemy combatants have disguised themselves as civilians.”

Ros-Lehtinen insisted at the time that the State Department spokesman was wrong and that her sources in the U.S. government assured her the MEK was not considered a combatant.

“This group loves the United States; they’re assisting us in the war on terrorism; they’re pro-U.S.” she told The Hill. “This group has not been fighting against the U.S. It simply isn’t true. … I have attended many classified briefings on the Hill, and never once has this group been brought up.”

Over the years, officials in the counterterrorism office at the State Department have regularly tried to meet with lawmakers who support the MEK in an effort to dissuade them.

Aides to Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House International Relations subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, did not return several calls for comment after Following confirmation from Gen. Myers confirmed that the MEK was regarded and treated as an enemy during the war.

Earlier this month, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) expressed shock upon hearing that the State Department considered the MEK combatants. “If these reports are accurate, that’s the end of it for me,” he told The Hill three weeks ago.

Tancredo’s aides did not return calls this week seeking comment either.

Although the MEK’s political arm, the National Council of Resistance, has garnered signatures of support from a number of U.S. lawmakers, it’s unclear whether those members were adequately informed about the group when they signed on.

Ros-Lehtinen claims 150 colleagues signed a letter she circulated last year in support of the MEK. Although the letter was released in November, Ros-Lehtinen has repeatedly declined to name those Congress members who backed her.

“A list has not been published because most members who initially signed on have withdrawn their support and the list has dwindled down to no more than a handful of Congressional supporters,” charged Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), a vocal critic of the MEK.

Several lawmakers said they asked to have their names removed when they learned more about the group. In addition, Reps. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), the chairman and ranking member of the House International Relations committee, respectively, wrote a counterletter to their colleagues providing “full” and “accurate” information on the MEK.

The group’s supporters on Capitol Hill may decrease after Myers’ comments. On Thursday, other senior administration officials echoed Myers’ comments to reporters. “The [MEK] forces were fully integrated with Saddam Hussein’s command and control [and] therefore constituted legitimate military targets that posed a threat to coalition forces,” said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher in Washington.

“We know there’s a presence of the … [MEK] inside of Iraq, and indeed we have been targeting them for some time,” said Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks from Central Command in Doha, Qatar. “There’s work that’s ongoing right now to secure some sort of agreement that would be a cease-fire and capitulation,” he said.

On Monday, The Associated Press reported a military spokesman saying that a cease-fire had been negotiated with MEK forces in Iraq.