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"I can't believe the U.S. government is going to be particularly excited about working with them ... because in the U.S. government, I would hope there would be people who would understand that this is not where the political future of Iran lies," said Patrick Clawson, director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Reuters

The MEK, former an Iranian dissident group has seemed to be on the wrong side of history, began to shake off its painful past last year when the State Department took it off the official U.S. list of terrorist organizations. The European Union made a similar decision in 2009 after a prolonged court battle.

 

Now that it is no longer on the U.S. blacklist, the MEK can hire registered lobbyists and raise funds on its own, rather than rely on wealthy Iranian-American sympathizers.

 

Democratic former Senator Robert Torricelli signed up as a lobbyist earlier this year for the [so-called] National Council of Resistance of Iran, the Paris-based political arm of the MEK.

 

Once one of Capitol Hill's biggest fund raisers, Torricelli pulled out of the race for a second Senate term in 2002 amid an ethics scandal.

 

His lobby registration form says he will be "meeting with U.S. government and congressional officials, and advising on general strategy."

 

Other notable backers of the MEK include former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell and ex-CIA director James Woolsey.

 

A 2009 study by the RAND Corporation think tank depicted the MEK as a cult-like movement run with military-style discipline, gender separation and "near-religious devotion" to its Paris-based leaders - a description the MEK denies.

 

"I can't believe the U.S. government is going to be particularly excited about working with them ... because in the U.S. government, I would hope there would be people who would understand that this is not where the political future of Iran lies," said Patrick Clawson, director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

 

By Susan Cornwell

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