For the last several years, Mujahideen-e Khalq, a group billing itself as the “democratic opposition” in Iran, has been running a slick and hugely expensive lobbying campaign to get itself removed from the official government list of terrorist organizations. They succeeded in garnering support from an astonishing array of bipartisan elites, including Rudy Giuliani, Howard Dean, Michael Mukasey, Ed Rendell, among many others. They appear to have succeeded. Here’s Spencer Ackerman:

Washington’s favorite Iranian terrorist group has likely won. By a forthcoming edict of the State Department, you can now no longer call the Mujahideen-e Khalq — formerly Saddam Hussein’s proxies against the Iranian regime — a terrorist organization. Erasing its status as a cult is a different story.

The State Department is set to remove what everyone simply calls the MEK from its list of terrorist groups, in advance of a court-imposed deadline for a decision. That will leave the organization free to fundraise and operate without attracting the attention of the FBI. The impact on U.S.-Iranian relations may be marginal, but the symbolism is enormous: As tensions with Iran over its nuclear program remain high, the Obama administration is wiping away the stigma from a cultish group that wants to overthrow the Iranian regime so badly it has attacked Iranian and other civilians to advance its agenda. And it comes after a long and deep-pocketed lobbying effort attracted a host of Washington politicos to advocate for the group.

I find myself constantly having to adjust my background cynicism upwards these days. Because the most grim part of this story is that even the most cursory bit of googling would have turned up the face that MEK is the stuff of dystopian films. See for example here, here, here, and here. From the Times piece:

Though Maryam and Massoud [the leaders of MEK] finagled it so they could be together, they forced everyone else into celibacy. ”They told us, ‘We are at war, and soldiers cannot have wives and husbands,”’ Afshari said. ”You had to report every single day and confess your thoughts and dreams. They made men say they got erections when they smelled the perfume of a woman.” Men and women had to participate in ”weekly ideological cleansings,” in which they would publicly confess their sexual desires. It was not only a form of control but also a means to delete all remnants of individual thought.

That’s only a tiny taste of their checkered history, which included bombing American companies, and their taking Iraq’s side in the Iran-Iraq war, which means they are utterly loathed inside Iran.

But the fact that Giuliani, Dean and company would choose to associate themselves with this organization in such an obviously corrupt way is indicative of the general decline of elite quality that is afflicting this country. Islamist, terrorist, Marxist, and cult are probably the four most toxic adjectives in American political discourse, and yet we have literally an Islamo-Marxist cult with a history of terrorism, including murdering American soldiers, that has bought its way off the terrorist organization list. And recent history is stuffed with examples of this sort of enemy-of-my-enemy thinking blowing up in our face! Does anyone remember how arming the Afghan mujahideen in the 80s worked out?

Not to mention that providing “material support” for terrorist organizations is a felony for which dozens of Muslims have been prosecuted.

In any case, we can file this under Toynbee’s quote: “Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.” Paul Pillar, who published a related article on Iran in our magazine, has more.


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Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanlcooper. Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at The Week. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New Republic, and The Nation.