Pentagon hawks were going to use MKO as a proxy force against Iran but a pentagon official says "they are not our allies"
An Iranian opposition group, the Mujaheddin-e-Khalq, has been a valuable source of information to the U.S. government, about not only Iran's activities in Iraq but also its secret nuclear program. More than a year ago, the organization also tipped American military officers that Ahmad Chalabi, then a major Iraqi ally of the Pentagon, was allegedly providing sensitive information to Iran's clerical regime. Chalabi denies such assertions.
Given that background, it would seem that everything would be just rosy between the MEK and the U.S. government. Not so. In October 1997, the State Department designated the MEK as a foreign terrorist organization, an allegation its leaders deny. The MEK supported the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran but later fell out with the radical mullahs there and established a base of operations in Iraq, with the support of Saddam Hussein's regime. After invading Iraq in March 2003, U.S. military forces took control of the MEK, whose members number about 3,800. Today, the organization's members are based at a camp northeast of Baghdad, under U.S. guard.
The MEK has been a source of conflict in the U.S. government. Some administration officials and members of Congress support the group. But a senior administration official says that the United States mishandled the MEK issue after the Iraq invasion. Defense Department hawks, this official says, even toyed with the idea of rearming the MEK as a proxy force against the Islamic regime. "Iran became convinced that we were going to launder the MEK, " he adds, "and turn them into a designated regime-change force."
Not so, says a senior Defense Department official: "They are not an ally of ours, and we have no stake in them." Iranian leaders would like to see MEK members returned to Iran, but that's unlikely to happen. Last summer, the organization was given "protected person" status under the Fourth Geneva Convention by the U.S. military. So now the MEK enjoys the unique status of being the only designated terrorist group under Pentagon protection.
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