The U.S. State Department removed a terrorist designation from the Mujahedin-e Khalq, the Iranian anti-regime group that has acquired in recent years the backing of some pro-Israel figures in its quest for legitimacy.
Numerous media reported MEK’s removal on Sept. 21, although the State Department has yet to formally announce it.
MEK, founded during the years of the Shah, was designated as terrorist for, among other reasons, attacks it carried out against U.S. officials in the 1970s.
It was reviled by Iranians during the 1980s because of its alliance with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war.
The group, described by a number of reporters who have covered it as cult-like, complied with U.S. orders to disarm after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, although a number of reports have said the group’s agents have in recent years carried out attacks inside Iran, including on Iranian nuclear scientists.
The group sought delisting in part to facilitate the process of allowing thousands of its members in Iraq to seek asylum oversees.
The Iraqi government is seen as close to Iran and an Iraqi army raid on Camp Ashraf last year killed dozens of members of the group.
Iranian Americans sympathetic to the plight of MEK enlisted the support of a number of pro-Israel figures, including Nobel Peace laureate and Holocaust memoirist Elie Wiesel; Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz; and Irwin Cotler, the former Canadian justice minister.
Pro-Israel groups generally abjured associations with the group because of its terrorist status.
A number of groups and individuals opposed to aggravating already fraught U.S.-Iran relations opposed delisting, in part because it would be seen by Iran as ratcheting up tensions.
However, U.S.-Iranian relations have never been worse, with the Obama administration increasing the Islamic Republic’s isolation and speaking openly of the possibility of a military strike to keep it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Additionally, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, might have had little choice except to delist the group.
Friends of the group have brought its case to the courts, and a federal court had ordered Clinton to explain why the group remained designated as terrorist.
Also, in recent weeks, MEK had complied with an Iraqi government demand that it evacuated Camp Ashraf, which is near the Iranian border. The evacuation reportedly was a U.S. condition for delisting the group.