Unshackling the Iranian opposition is what it takes to rattle the Tehran mullahs

The Hill
By Alex Carlile, British House of Lords

Now that a new date has been set for nuclear talks between Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog in mid- May, to be followed by another round of nuclear talks between Iran and the five UN Security Council members and Germany on May 23, should the world breathe a sigh of relief regarding the threat of a confrontation with Tehran?

In other international crises, this very well could be the case. But when it comes to Iran, it seems the show just goes on and on. For almost a decade, the script has been the same; the cast of characters just keeps changing.

The problem is that this is reality, not a show.

We’re talking about the most fanatical regime on earth obtaining the most dangerous weapons. At first, the West thought it could enter into negotiations with “moderates” in Tehran, only to find there were none. Then there was the idea to seek a deal with Ali Khamenei, the regime’s supreme leader – as if Khamenei had not been actually pulling the strings all along. While the pretence of negotiations continues, Tehran keeps enriching uranium and nudges closer to the point where it has nuclear weapons within its reach and when it decides.

With its stalling tactics Tehran has bought itself ample time. But there have been big political plums for Tehran, too.

In its process of appeasement, the West compromised the Iranian Resistance by adding the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main Iranian opposition movement, to its list of foreign terrorist organizations, and tacitly acknowledging that this was done only to mollify the mullahs.

Ironically, the Iranian opposition has been the eyes and ears of the world in finding and revealing Tehran’s clandestine drive to acquire nuclear weapons – and as many senior U.S. officials have acknowledged, it was they who exposed Tehran’s plans.  Yet, the State Department remains reluctant to remove it from the terrorist list, despite such removal by the EU and UK after successful court challenges founded on solid evidence; and despite a federal court ruling in July 2010 that the MEK has been deprived of its rights in the USA too.

After almost two years of procrastination and foot dragging by the State Department, the MEK has taken its case to court. On May 8, the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, will hear its plea to order the Secretary of State to act within 30 days on the removal of the designation. This move has gained support of about 100 members of Congress and an unparalleled group of distinguished former American national security officials, political leaders, and former military commanders.

This listing has been a gift for Tehran, enabling its efforts to murder the dissidents and justify its harassment of the 3,400 Iranian dissidents, members of the MEK, who have been living in Iraq for the past 25 years. These brave Iranian dissidents – who have nothing to do with terrorism – have paid dearly for this unjust labelling and have been subject to two violent attacks that cost dozens of lives and wounding almost 1,000 defenceless residents

Meanwhile, these unarmed men and women have been moving slowly from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base near Baghdad for processing by the UN refugee agency for removal to third countries. But the Iraqi government, clearly acting at the behest of Iran, has done its best to make their lives miserable.

Conditions at the prison-like Camp Liberty have been barely tolerable, despite pledges made by the Maliki government to the UN and U.S., and the residents have even been denied the right to improve conditions for the sick and elderly, including equipment and facilities for paraplegics.
When the original transfer was agreed to, Secretary of State Clinton promised to assure the safety, security and humanitarian treatment of these dissidents. It is time for her to intervene personally on their behalf.

Also, their property must be protected. They have not been allowed to take most of their belongings from Ashraf, and it appears that the Iraqis will attempt to confiscate them and give them to their puppet-masters in Tehran.

Clearly, the U.S. and the West have three actions to take:

•    Stop Iran’s stalling regarding its nuclear program.
•    Protect the dissidents at Ashraf and Camp Liberty until they are free.
•    Remove the MEK from its unfair terrorist listing.

If we are serious about putting the threat of a confrontation to rest, we must allow justice to prevail and remove the shackles from the hands of Iranian dissidents so they can wrest their homeland from the clutches of the mullahs before the Tehran tyrants get their hands on the bomb. Tehran should get the message that the era of freebies has come to an end.

And this loud message does not cost a penny or a life.

Lord Carlile of Berriew is a Liberat Democrat member of the British House of Lords and also serves on the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom

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