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September 26, 2017

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US drops Iran opposition group from list of terrorist organizations citing reform

NEW YORK/TEHRAN -- The Obama administration granted a victory to a militant Iranian organization formerly allied with Saddam Hussein, taking the group off the U.S. terrorism list despite vehemently rejecting its claim that it is a pro-democracy opposition movement worthy of replacing Iran's Shiite regime.

In announcing the decision Friday, the State Department said the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) hasn't committed terrorism for more than a decade and credited its 3,000 members for nearly completing the peaceful departure from their paramilitary base near Iraq's Iranian border. Effective immediately, any assets the MEK has in the United States are unblocked and Americans are permitted to do business with the organization.

Derided by its critics as a cult, the MEK helped Islamic clerics overthrow Iran's shah before carrying out a series of bombings and assassinations against the Iranian government. It fought in the 1980s alongside Saddam's forces in the Iran-Iraq war but disarmed after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The group now claims to seek the peaceful replacement of Iran's government with a democratic, secular government — which U.S. officials contest. But they note that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who made the decision, focused strictly on whether its members still had the capacity and intent to commit acts of terror.

A senior State Department official said, however, that the administration does not regard the MEK as a viable opposition group that could promote democratic values in Iran. The official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Administration officials informed reporters about the decision last week, ahead of a court-ordered Oct. 1 deadline for Clinton to either strike the Iranian group off the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations or explain why it should be left on. The deadline resulted from a high-profile pressure campaign by the MEK to get off the blacklist, with champions including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

Several American military officials and defense contractors were killed by the MEK in the 1970s, U.S. officials maintain, and its attacks have killed hundreds of Iranians.

But U.S. officials rejected that the MEK's public lobbying pressured them into the decision.

Iran Condemns US for Taking Group off Terror List

Tehran's state media have condemned the Obama administration for taking an Iranian militant group formerly allied with Saddam Hussein off the U.S. terrorism list, saying it shows Washington's "double standards."

State TV said the United States considered the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq as "good terrorists" because it used the group against Iran.

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