down on k street

Senior Officials, K Street: Terrorist Group Is Nice Now, Everybody!

We don't negotiate with terrorists.Your Wonkette has been kept awake at night, dear readers, upon learning that national treasures like official mayor-of-all-things 9/11 Rudolph Guiliani, former attorney general Michael Mukasey, former intelligence official Michael V. Haydn, and a bunch of very important K-street lobbying firms were under investigation due to their advocacy for the terrorist group Mujahedeen Khalq (or MEK). Luckily, however, the federal investigation of MEK bypassed K-street lobbyists in March and now, rather than indict anyone for materially supporting terror, the state department appears ready to do the Right Thing and take the MeK off the list of terrorist groups.

According to Jay Solomon and Evan Perez at the Wall Street Journal,

WASHINGTON—The Obama administration is moving to remove an Iranian opposition group from the State Department’s terrorism list, say officials briefed on the talks, in an action that could further poison Washington’s relations with Tehran at a time of renewed diplomatic efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.

And who would know better than “officials briefed on the talks”? Besides the lobbyists, I mean. Anyway, it’s cool, so what if they did some messed up stuff, maybe killed a few Americans, had anti-American views. No big deal, man. That was in the PAST, man. Quit living in the PAST. Let’s just go ahead and let bygones be bygones, amiright? They’ve been trying REALLY HARD to turn things around for the past two years.

The MeK has engaged in an aggressive legal and lobbying campaign in Washington over the past two years to win its removal from the State Department’s list. The terrorism designation, which has been in place since 1997, freezes the MeK’s assets inside the U.S. and prevents the exile group from fundraising.

Of course, the best way to solve a misunderstanding with a terrorist group is to negotiate with them. This has long been the cornerstone of our foreign policy and our go-to tactic when coping with the challenges posed to the existing global order by transnational armed groups. (See: Reagan, Ronald; Contras; Iran.) Surely we can just talk this one out.

Senior U.S. officials said on Monday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet to make any final decision on the MeK’s status. But they said the State Department was looking favorably at delisting MeK if it continued cooperating by vacating a former paramilitary base inside Iraq, called Camp Ashraf, which the group had used to stage cross-border strikes into Iran.

Well, if “senior U.S. officials” say something to the Wall Street Journal, it must be true. Now that we’ve heard from “senior U.S. officials” and “officials briefed on the talks,” maybe “other officials briefed on the talks” will be willing to help us understand why we should be offering our congratulations to MeK for getting off the list. If, of course, the Wall Street Journal would be willing to give these officials anonymity for no clearly discernable reason and then uncritically write down what they say.

Other officials briefed on the MeK issue said Mrs. Clinton purposefully tied the closing of Camp Ashraf to the designation issue to defuse a thorny diplomatic issue between Washington and Baghdad. The U.S. military had provided security at the camp before pulling its forces from Iraq last year. Baghdad now controls the camp and has threatened to return MeK members to Iran if it isn’t swiftly closed.

Ah ok. There’s now near unanimity between the “officials briefed on the MeK issue,” “officials briefed on the talks,” “other officials,” and “senior U.S. officials.” You really can’t ask for more than that. But your Wonkette is still skeptical. Isn’t terrorism kind of…bad? Shouldn’t we be careful about allowing such a designation to ride simply on the political sophistication of the group’s constituent members, and their ability to work within established institutions and networks of power?

The group, despite its history of terrorism and anti-Americanism, reoriented itself after Saddam Hussein’s 2003 fall and the capturing of Camp Ashraf by U.S. forces. The MeK renounced violence and turned over its weapons. And it has cooperated with the U.S. and U.N. in gathering intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. This ideological shift by the MeK has been accompanied by an intensive lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill. A number of former senior U.S. officials said they were offered payments to speak on behalf of the MeK, including James Jones, President Barack Obama’s former national security adviser, and James Woolsey, the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Oh, so they’ve CHANGED. That’s a relief. Could there possibly be a downside to delisting them, even kind of?  Maybe we can get some unnamed “Critics” to voice some thinly supported concerns, you know, to balance the claims made by the “senior U.S. officials,” “officials briefed on the talks,” “officials briefed on the MeK issue,” and “other officials briefed on the talks.”

Critics of the MeK allege that the organization has no major support inside Iran and that its leaders, who are based outside Paris, run the group like a cult. They also worry that any perceived U.S. support for it could undercut the Iranian opposition, known as the Green Movement, which pushed for democratic change during 2009 street protests.

Still, the organization has large support on Capitol Hill. And some lawmakers are seeking to use the possible delisting of the organization to begin providing U.S. financial support. Congress took similar steps in the 1990s to provide funding to Iraq’s opposition and, in particular, the exiled politician, Ahmad Chalabi.

Well, unnamed “critics of the MeK,” whoever you are, if we’ve learned anything in the past 12 years, it’s that “some lawmakers” really have their fingers on the pulse of the international scene, so there’s that. And also, nothing can go wrong when you provide funding for an opposition leader. Nope, nothing at all. [NYTimes/WSJ]

About the author

Kris E. Benson writes about politics for Wonkette and is pursuing a doctorate in philosophy. This will come in handy for when they finally open that philosophy factory in the next town over. @Kris_E_Benson

View all articles by Kris E. Benson
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  1. nounverb911

    So there are good Iranian terrorists and bad Iranian terrorists? How can you tell without a scorecard?

    1. BaldarTFlagass

      Good: Already signed exploration rights for Persian oilfields over to BP, Exxon-Mobil, and Conoco, effective the day after the coup. And basing rights for USAF and USN.

      Bad: Pray to Mecca 5 times a day or more.

  2. BaldarTFlagass

    I know how to figure out if they are a terrorist group or not: Give them a small portable nuclear weapon and see what they do with it.

    1. tessiee

      Best relationship advice I ever read in a self-help book: Give the other person complete freedom, and then watch what they do.

      1. BaldarTFlagass

        If you love something, set it free… If it comes back, it's yours; If it doesn't, hunt it down and kill it.

  3. bikerlaureate

    If, of course, the Wall Street Journal would be willing to give these officials anonymity for no clearly discernable reason and then uncritically write down what they say.

    Back in the day of onions-on-the-belt there were still editors employed at these quaint "publications"…

  4. Chick-Fil-Atheist™

    Oh fuck just go ahead and bomb the place already. Stop all this pseudo-diplomatic horseshit right now and just fucking launch already.

    Just give us enough time to buy Lockheed Martin and Raytheon stock beforehand. If we're going to ride this wave, at least let me profit from it.

    deit: Are we no-bidding KBR again? I mean, I am pretty goddamn sure that some oil somethin'r'other will likely get destroyed, so I just need 'em on my "to buy" list.

    1. HistoriCat

      I saw comments in the local paper about "only 20 million" people would be killed in Iran … so it's really no big deal!

  5. bagofmice

    Not to be pedantic, but doesn't something become official only after you sign your name to it? Shouldn't the notion of 'official' carry some responsibility?

  6. BaldarTFlagass

    I think that supporting freedom fighters in that part of the world is a great idea! What could possibly go wrong?

    1. MissTaken

      We're just showing today's Freedom Fighters™ how to be tomorrow's Axis of Evil™

      1. Lionel[redacted]Esq

        I don't know, Bristol seems the kind of girl that if you get a few 'coolers in her, she would go all cowgirl on you.

  7. Callyson

    Ah, the old the enemy of my enemy is…

    …an asshole? Yeah, but he's our asshole.

    Le sigh…

  8. Lionel[redacted]Esq

    Critics of the MeK allege that the organization has no major support inside Iran and that its leaders, who are based outside Paris, run the group like a cult.

    Sounds like a group Mitt Romney can work with.

      1. Lionel[redacted]Esq

        See, I sort of figures something along the lines of:

        Critics of the MeK Mormon Church allege that the organization has no major support inside Iran Christianity and that its leaders, who are based outside Paris Salt Lake, run the group like a cult.

  9. Baconzgood

    They can't be terrorist. They want to kill brown people at the moment. When they start killing white people then we'll relist them again.

  10. Both Sides Do It

    Y'know how Pynchon's stuff relies on making the economic and business interests involved in political events and foreign policy a lot more explicit than they normally are?

    He just couldn't do that if he wrote about the current system, right? There's no sub to the text. We Hunt For Red Octobered all that shit to the point where lobbyists can just say in the paper of record "it would help us make money if this terrorist group were not a terrorist group anymore, so let's not call them a terrorist group" and politicians can respond "money yes well money where's that list right off you go have lots of money fun" and no one gives a shit.

    All the weird sex in the world isn't going to be able to make fiction work if reality is that crazy. That's not to say, Mr. Pynchon if you're reading, that you shouldn't try.

  11. SorosBot

    Because assisting terrorist groups who were fighting governments we don't like worked so well in the 1980s in Afghanistan.

  12. BaldarTFlagass

    “officials briefed on the talks,” “officials briefed on the MeK issue,” and “other officials briefed on the talks.”

    Who the fuck is doing all the briefing? Don't tell me, Daniel Feith.

      1. BaldarTFlagass

        I was gonna say Michael Jordan but figured that might peg the obscurometer. And you commented before I could repair Daniel Feith to Douglas. Had that Pipes guy in mind, I guess. Maybe those fucks are more obscure than MJ, though.

    1. V572 Is this him?

      You mean the "stupidest fucking guy on the planet," according to SFGOTP runner-up Gen Tommy Franks?

  13. Mumbletypeg


    Cue Manchu or someone to start writing a little ditty filling in the lyrics to "Down On Main St." with substitute-meaning spoof words. I don't have the heart to, that song always got to me. Bob Seger, dolefully stalking the barely legal stripper who evoked his nostalgia with her Night Moves.

    1. BaldarTFlagass

      Just thinkin' bout them points of her own, sittin' way up high, is causing a nether-bits-stir.

    2. tessiee

      It's a bar on Main St. in Ann Arbor, the name of which escapes me at the moment, but I was surprised when I saw the article and picture, thinking, "THAT's the place? I've walked past it a bunch of times!".

  14. Baconzgood

    Yeah, But I want to know what the Sr. officals had to say when they were briefed on the other officials briefed on the talks on officals.

  15. Callyson

    The deliberations over the MeK's status come as the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, are gathering in Baghdad next week for negotiations with Iran aimed at curbing its nuclear program…
    Diplomats and Iran analysts worry that any moves to delist the MeK could result in Iran driving up its demands at the negotiating table. Tehran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons, but also says it needs advanced weapons systems to guard against the U.S. and other hostile states. The MeK issue will likely be perceived in Tehran as another American-led effort to topple Iran's theocratic government, these analysts said.

    Brilliant timing…


  16. MissTaken

    See?! Kim Jung Un needs to set up a K Street lobbying firm and eventually we'll bring N. Korea into the fold, too. We may even give him some fun rockets that go boom to play with!

    1. SorosBot

      Now that they've returned Avery Jessup from her forced marriage to Kim Jong Eun maybe we can normalize relations.

  17. weejee

    MeK? Methyl ethyl ketone? Had Ollie North been giving Saint Ronnie some MEK to huff, and that's why the greatest president ever has such a silly senseless grin on his face?

    1. tessiee

      I can't speak in any sort of informed way about what sort of substances Jolly Ollie may have been supplying… but no, that's not the reason why. St. Ronnie had a silly senseless grin on his face all the time because he was a fucking imbecile.

  18. hagajim

    Once again the enemy of our enemy is our friend – at least until they turn on us. Yay!

  19. OneYieldRegular

    I can understand how this could be confusing. When you're waterboarding someone, beating someone else, and having a bunch of someone elses disappeared into secret torture prisons hidden around the globe, your judgment of who's a terrorist and who isn't runs the risk of being clouded.

  20. FakaktaSouth

    I just read a whole article that included specifics on how you do "penis enlargement surgery." The parallels between that article and this one – both are all about paying money to make a bunch of dicks seem better – is staggering.

    PS full disclosure – I didn't really read that much of the dick article, they said something about cutting the ligament that makes a pecker stand up and I had to stop.

    1. tessiee

      So, result of the surgery would be a patient with a big, limp one?
      I have to say, that doesn't sound like a very good idea.

  21. BaldarTFlagass

    Oh, MEK, we're so sorry, didn't mean to put you on that list. We meant to put Planned Parenthood on it. Just a typo…

  22. V572 Is this him?

    When articles are sourced to "officials briefed on the talks" shouldn't the title of the article just be "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE"? And then shouldn't it end with ###? Someone has to teach today's journasaurs how to write a proper press release.

    And by the way, give MEK a break. Nobody wants to play "The Blame Game." And the number of people wanting to play "The Accept Responsibility for Your Actions Game" is smaller still.

  23. lulzmonger

    "We don't negotiate with terrorists – we always pay the going rate for them."

  24. fuflans

    kris: i appreciate the erudition and thoughtful in-depth geopolitical commentary and…

    WAIT! no!! no!! i don't! i really don't!! i am vapid and i have lady bits!!

    can't we please have more buttsecks and ruined GOP careers? please?

  25. glamourdammerung

    Or President Obama could just publicly state that our policy is that we are not going to attack Iran for no reason and that anyone suggesting otherwise and/or making stupid comments about how great bombing Iran would be is simply mentally ill or a garden variety idiot. Of course, that would give the Iranian hardliners no bogeyman which would kill most of their limited support.

    1. tessiee

      I beg to differ, O zucchiniful one. It would take away the hardliners *previous* bogeyman — Iran — and give them a brand spankin' new one — Obama — and then…
      Oh, wait.
      They already think he's the bogeyman, don't they?
      *perks up*
      Well, it would annoy them, which is a pretty good reason all by itself, right?

  26. Wile E. Quixote

    And also, nothing can go wrong when you provide funding for an opposition leader. Nope, nothing at all.

    Hey, it sure worked out well for the Germans in 1917 when they provided Lenin with a special train to travel back to Russia.

  27. Wile E. Quixote

    A number of former senior U.S. officials said they were offered payments to speak on behalf of the MeK, including James Jones, President Barack Obama’s former national security adviser, and James Woolsey, the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency.

    Al Qaeda, are you listening? Start writing checks to the villagers and you too can go from being an awful, horrible terrorist group to being noble freedom-fighters.

  28. Guppy

    Now they can join the ranks of respectable political organizations, like Sinn Fein and Fatah.

  29. arihaya

    sigh,,, if Obama really that stupid to delist MEK and giving it formal support … well, prepare for Chalabi-style blowback

  30. tessiee

    Who is the silver-haired gentleman on the left side of the picture?
    I haven't seen quite so perfect an evil smile since the last time Wonkette ran a picture of Pope Benny.

  31. ttommyunger

    MeK, K Street, the "Family", Heritage Foundation, Club for Growth, etc. etc. The common man has no power, no voice, no choice nowadays. I haz depressed.

Comments are closed.