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U.S. should unleash Iran's opponents

By MURIEL TURNER, UPI Outside View Commentator   |   Sept. 7, 2012 at 6:37 AM   |   Comments

LONDON, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- A funny thing happened during Tehran's effort to present itself as a major player on the world stage and in Middle East diplomacy: the largest country in the region criticized in no uncertain terms the actions of Iran's client state, Syria.

Iranian leaders thought they had pulled a major coup by hosting a meeting of the Nonaligned Movement, the largest international gathering in the country since Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution in 1979. The Iranians hoped to show the world that theirs was the direction followed by Arab nations that overthrew dictators and that would challenge the positions of the West and Israel.

But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got a rude awakening when the two leaders whose support they expected in their bid for respectability did just the opposite.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi bluntly criticized Syria's Assad regime for its effort to suppress dissent and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke out strongly against Iran's nuclear stance and its human rights record and called for the freeing of all political prisoners.

Meanwhile, the United States is examining all kinds of measures to pressure Iran to halt its drive to acquire nuclear weapons -- naval maneuvers not far from Iran's shores, a missile defense system for neighboring countries, another cyberattack like Stuxnet, tightened sanctions. These also are intended to deter Israel from attacking Iran's nuclear facilities as fears grow within the Israeli government.

While these measures may be worthy of consideration, they are all external operations that are similar to other moves in the past that have done little to forestall the mullahs' plans. The West keeps setting deadlines and red lines for Tehran and they continue to be ignored.

A simpler -- and cost free -- alternative is available and it would have much greater long-term consequences. That is to free the Iranian Resistance to rally Iranians within and outside the country to bring about leadership changes and restore Iran to its rightful place among the world's democracies.

The United States can do this with the stroke of a pen. At present, the People's Mujahedin of Iran is listed by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist organization, a designation that never should have been made and that should be withdrawn immediately, as similar designations by the European Union and United Kingdom were removed years ago.

It is particularly ironic that the United States maintains this listing despite the fact that it was the PMOI that blew the whistle on the Iranian regime's clandestine nuclear weapons program and alerted the world about this immense threat. The Iranian regime heretofore had kept the program secret and was rushing toward obtaining the material and the technology to acquire nuclear weapons.

For some unexplained and unfathomable reason, the United States has tied reconsideration of the terror listing with the relocation of Iranian dissidents in Iraq from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty, and despite serious misgiving, the Resistance has moved most of its members to the prison-like facility near Baghdad.

Another 680 Ashraf residents will relocate next week, almost completing the move, and in spite of the serious humanitarian issues at Camp Liberty and the continued Iraqi attacks at Ashraf, along with theft of the residents' possessions.

What more does the State Department want? Last February, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the relocation of Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty "will be a key factor in any decision regarding the (PMOI's) status." Ashraf residents have gone out of their way. They have been more than flexible and have given up the modern town they built with their resources and endeavors over 25 years.

Less than four weeks remain until the deadline set by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the government to act on the terror listing, and there's no reason to wait until the last moment.

The United States should delist the PMOI now for many reasons, humanitarian and geopolitical. Like its neighbor Syria, Iran is on the verge of dynamic political change. But it need not be at the cost of tens of thousands of lives because the Iranian opposition is much better organized than the Syrian.

What better way to forestall the threat of a nuclear armed Iran than a regime change? Freeing the Iranian Resistance would be a major step in that direction.

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(Baroness Muriel Turner of Camden was deputy speaker of the British House of Lords until 2008 and is a member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom.)

--

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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