Yesterday, the Iraqi government announced its intention to expel the anti-Iranian Mujahedeen e-Khalq (MEK) from Iraq:
“The Iraqi government is responsible for their security and it continues to implement its plans to shut down the camp and to either deport its population to their country or to a third country,” it said in a statement after the visit led by Iraqi national security advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie.
“Remaining in Iraq is not an option for them,” the statement added.
The MEK, also known as the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI), is the largest and most militant group opposed to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
MEK was founded in the 1960s by a group of college-educated Iranian leftists opposed to the country’s pro-Western ruler, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Although the group took part in the 1979 Islamic revolution that replaced the shah with a Shiite Islamist regime, MEK’s ideology, a blend of Marxism and Islamism, put it at odds with the post-revolutionary government. In 1981, the group was driven from its bases on the Iran-Iraq border and resettled in Paris, where it began supporting Iraq in its eight-year war against Khomeini’s Iran. In 1986, MEK moved its headquarters to Iraq where it received its primary support to attack the regime in Iran.
While it’s now understood that, despite the Bush administration’s claims, Saddam Hussein’s regime did not have any significant relationship with Al Qaeda, Saddam did have relationships with other terrorist organizations, one of which was the MEK. In addition to receiving financial, logistical and material support from from Saddam to carry out attacks inside Iran, “MEK forces also assisted the Iraq regime in the repression of Kurds and other minorities in northern Iraq.”
After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Sec. Donald Rumsfeld declared the MEK “protected persons” under the Fourth Geneva Conventions, which is to say that a designated terrorist group known to have carried out attacks that killed Americans enjoyed greater legal protections than your average Iraqi picked up after curfew. The decision to protect the MEK — possibly for the purpose of carrying out future attacks against Iran — also revealed one of the underlying premises of the U.S. war on terror — the idea that we would make “no distinction” between terrorists and those who harbor them — to be just empty rhetoric.
This was not lost on Iran. Understandably irritated by the U.S.’s sheltering and protecting an anti-Iranian terrorist organization, the Iranian government has long demanded that the U.S. disband the MEK and and repatriate its members. (In 1981, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali al-Khamenei, who was then the president, survived an MEK bomb attack in which he lost the use of his right arm.) Now it seems they may get their wish.
Interestingly, the Iraqi government’s announcement was made just days before Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is due to visit Tehran. Clearly, the decision to grant one of Tehran’s dearest requests and expel a US-allied, anti-Iranian terrorist organization represents another huge blow to the theory that Tehran enjoys influence in the Iraqi government.