Toppling Saddam Hussein has reaped other benefits to the war on terror. Not only did the US nab Achille Lauro hijacker Abu Abbas, but the coalition attacked a terrorist group that killed American military attaches and backed the takeover of the US Embassy in Iran in the late 1970s. The target: the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran, a pro-Saddam Hussein group also known as Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).
The MEK has been on the State Department terrorist list since 1994 – but that didn’t stop the New York Times from running a full-page ad for the MEK earlier this year, and it hasn’t discouraged 150 US congressmen from endorsing the group and its political front, the National Council of Resistance.
The MEK murdered two American military attaches in the 1970s and still commemorates the killings every day during morning reveille. MEK supported the 1979 takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran which began the 444-day American hostage crisis. The FBI describes MEK’s ideology as “Marxist-Islamic.”
MEK supporters in Washington have poured money into political campaigns of candidates and lawmakers from both parties, and won significant political support on Capitol Hill by saying the group was the only credible opposition to the mullahs in Iran. One of the most prominent MEK endorsers was former Senator Robert Torricelli (D-NJ), but the list includes many Republicans.
Conservatives are divided. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the Central Asia and Middle East Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee, recently said the MEK “loves the United States. Theyre assisting us in the war on terrorism; theyre pro-US.” However, International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde wrote colleagues that the MEK is an anti-US terror group and said that to support the MEK was to support Saddam Hussein. He added, “Some colleagues have signed similar letters in the past and then been embarrassed when confronted with accurate information about the MEK.”
MEK supporters on Capitol Hill didn’t believe reports two weeks ago that MEK fighters were joining the Fedayeen Saddam death squads in attacks on US soldiers and Marines.