U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has belatedly, and despite resistance from within her department, allowed justice to prevail by delisting as a Foreign Terrorist Organization the People's Mujahedin of Iran.
This battle had been ongoing since 1997, when the State Department decided to outlaw the PMOI in a misguided effort to appease the mullahs in Iran and open a line of communication to perceived "moderates" there. But under the mullahs' oppressive regime that idea went nowhere and simply condemned PMOI to a political no-man's land.
That situation was exacerbated when the Europe Union and the United Kingdom, following the U.S. lead, also listed the PMOI. Yet from its virtual "pariah" status its members fought back with courage and commitment and have for the past 15 years traveled the tortuous route to eventually achieve legal redress.
First were the battles in courts at the European Union and in the United Kingdom, all of which were successful and led to delisting in those venues. But the U.S. legal battle was tougher and longer because the PMOI had adversaries in Foggy Bottom who wouldn't or couldn't admit that their initial assumptions were dangerously wrong.
Finally, the U.S. Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia -- after the State Department had ignored its initial guidance that the FTO listing be rescinded -- gave the government until Oct. 1 to implement its ruling. Now, at the 11th hour, Secretary Clinton has issued her decision.
It has taken the efforts of many to elicit this conclusion: the hardy 3,400 residents who endured displacement from their 25-year, self-constructed homes in Camp Ashraf to prison-like conditions near Baghdad; the umbrella group of the Iranian Resistance, the National Committee of Resistance of Iran, led by the charismatic and courageous Maryam Rajavi; the resistance's legal team; supporters from around the world, both in the Iranian diaspora and among legislators, human rights activists and military leaders -- many with first-hand knowledge of the cause from their own experiences in the Iraq conflict.
Despite those vested interests of those who did everything they could to besmirch the reputation of Rajavi and those suffering at Ashraf and Camp Liberty, the truth prevailed -- PMOI is not a terrorist organization.
In retrospect it is ironic that in perpetuating the concept of a terrorist PMOI the United States was playing into the hands of the theocratic government of the mullahs and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran who fear -- and rightly so -- that an organized and recognizable Iranian resistance group will inevitably inspire the majority in Iran who yearn to return to the democracy that was taken from them in 1979.
Yes, the winds of change that began in North Africa are spreading eastward. No wonder the mullahs are supporting Syria's Assad; what other friends do they have left?
Of course, they still have their puppet government in Iraq, led by Nouri al-Maliki, who has been the prime oppressor of the thousands at Ashraf/Liberty. But he can no longer use the excuse that the PMOI is a terrorist organization; his sponsors in Washington say otherwise.
Now, the best way to ease the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran is to facilitate a regime change in Tehran. And that is on the horizon. The Iranian resistance doesn't need troops or arms; it needs the support of freedom-loving people and of governments that eschew tyranny.
When Ahmadinejad addressed the UN this week, we heard the same old rhetoric. But he knows his time is short and so are the days of the oppressive regime that sponsors his presidency.
Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, soon Syria, and next Iran? The Middle East is changing and another player has been freed to join the fray.
Well done, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It took too long but you have now made the right decision.
(Lord Ken Maginnis of Drumglass, is a member of the British House of Lords. He was the member of Parliament for Fermanagh and South Tyrone from 1983-2001.)
(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.)
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