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The proposed Persian Gulf terrorist swap could be a defining moment for U.S. foreign policy.
The proposed Persian Gulf terrorist swap could be a defining moment for U.S. foreign policy. Iran, according to MSNBC, has offered to turn several al-Qaida operatives over to the United States -- including Osama bin Laden's third-oldest son, who reportedly is plotting new attacks on Americans. In exchange, it wants members of the notorious Mujahadeen al-Khalq, or MEK. The Mujahadeens aren't exactly Boy Scouts. The U.S. State Department says they are Islamic Marxists who surfaced in the 1970s, murdering Americans in Tehran. They supported the 1979 Embassy takeover after the shah was deposed but soon ran afoul of the new government and had to flee from the country. Like al-Qaida, the MEK is well organized. Not only has it killed dozens of high-ranking Iranian officials, it managed a decade ago to conduct near-simultaneous attacks on Iranian embassies and installations in 13 countries. MEK leaders surrendered to U.S. forces after Saddam's fall. It might not be difficult to send them to Iran. If the Bush administration perceives the MEK to be the military wing, it may be reluctant to surrender the MEK. But if the administration argues some terrorists are good because their cause is just, that weakens the very foundation of the war to eradicate al-Qaida and other militant groups. It has been more than a week since the terrorist-for-terrorist proposal was reported. It could be that negotiations are secretly under way or that MSNBC had a bad source. If the story is right, the United States should cut a deal. The advantages of supporting "friendly" terrorists simply do not outweigh the drawbacks, either morally or strategically.

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