The United States has removed the Iranian exile group Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO or MEK) from its list of foreign terrorist organizations.
The State Department said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the decision, effective on September 28, in view of the MKO’s public renunciation of violence, the absence of confirmed acts of terrorism by the group for more than a decade, and their cooperation in the closure of their paramilitary base in Iraq.
The move means Washington will no longer block the group's property and interests in property in the United States and that U.S. entities may engage in transactions with the MKO without obtaining a license.
The MKO’s Paris-based leader, Maryam Rajavi, welcomed the decision in a statement, vowing to step up its international campaign against the Tehran regime.
“This has been the correct decision, albeit long overdue, in order to remove a major obstacle in the path of the Iranian people's efforts for democracy," Rajavi said.
But in its statement, the State Department said that with its decision, it does not forget the MKO’s past acts of terrorism, “including its involvement in the killing of U.S. citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on U.S. soil in 1992."
It added that it still has "serious concerns" about the group, “particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members.”
A senior State Department official said the department does not see the MKO as a movement interested in adopting democratic principles.
Renounced Past Violence
MKO, also known as the People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran, was involved in a series of deadly attacks in the 1970s and 1980s against the shah’s regime and later against the clerical establishment. Its members fought alongside former Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein's forces in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War.
The MKO has been on the U.S. blacklist since 1997.
The group, which surrendered its weapons to U.S. forces after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, says it has renounced violence.
To rehabilitate its image, it has carried on an extensive lobbying campaign for years -- enlisting dozens of high profile U.S. politicians, and former U.S. intelligence and military officials to support the lifting of the U.S. terror designation.
Officials said last week that Clinton had made the decision to remove the MKO from the terrorism list, but the formal announcement was made only after appropriate notification of Congress.
The move came ahead of an October 1 deadline set by a U.S. court by which Clinton had to decide on the fate of the group.
It also came after the group completed its agreement to move more than 3,000 of its members out of the camp in Iraq where they have long been based. A convoy of the final 680 residents of Camp Ashraf arrived at the U.S.-run Camp Liberty near Baghdad on September 16.
The MKO’s removal from the U.S. terror list is expected to raise tensions between Washington and Tehran, which considers the group a terrorist organization.
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP