Friday, September 19, 2008

Blacklist Blues

The Washington Times
September 19, 2008
James Morrison

A leading member of the British House of Lords is lobbying Congress to protect a disarmed Iranian opposition force now under U.S. detention in Iraq.

Robin Corbett fears that if U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq and turn over the 3,500 detainees in Camp Ashraf to the Iraqi government, pro-Iranian officials in Baghdad will deport many of them, especially the leadership, to Iran and certain death. "There is a real threat, at least to the leadership," he told Embassy Row on Thursday. "Because of Iranian influence [on the Iraqi government], they will turn over the leaders, and there will be a bloodbath."

Mr. Corbett, chairman of Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom, said House and Senate members he met this week told him they share his concerns. His committee includes hundreds of members of the House of Lords and House of Commons from all British political parties. It also includes a former home secretary, former solicitor-general and former lord advocate for Scotland.

Mr. Corbett is also building congressional support for his second goal of getting the United States to remove the resistance, known as the People's Mojahedin of Iran, from the terrorist blacklist.

"There is a lot of interest, and a lot of support," he said.

The Clinton administration put them on the terrorist list in 1997 to meet a key Iranian demand when the United States was trying to repair relations with Iran. The U.S. case against the resistance concerns actions in the 1970s, including killing U.S. military personnel and civilian contractors in Iran and supporting the takeover of the U.S. Embassy. Resistance spokesmen attribute those actions to another group with a similar name.

"We bring tighter economic sanctions against Iran [over its nuclear program] on the one hand, and on the other, we shackle the resistance," Mr. Corbett said.

A new law requires the State Department to review all organizations on the terrorist list every five years. The Iranian resistance is due for a review this year. Mr. Corbett hopes congressional pressure will force the State Department to remove them from the list, especially after Britain's highest court this year ordered the British government to remove the resistance from its own terrorist list.

"Look," he added, "I'm not asking [the United States] to organize a parade for them down Pennsylvania Avenue. But [the resistance] are friends of freedom. Take the handcuffs off."