Operation: Irani Freedom?

As if any more evidence was needed, the USA has once again proved that how it deals with terrorists has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with larger US strategic goals.

Everyone knows that the USA tries to destroy certain terrorist groups, mainly those that target US assets or Israel. And everyone who is reasonably well-informed and not blinded by American nationalism also knows that the US supports other terrorist groups and many kinds of state terrorism. But generally speaking, the USA doesn't actually include the terrorists it supports on its official list of terrorist groups.

The Irani group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) is an exception. Until last year this organization periodically assassinated Irani leaders (including the president and premier in 1981), attacked Irani embassies, and launched mortars into Iran from their sanctuary in Iraq. Equipped by Saddam Hussein, the MEK helped crush the Shi'i and Kurdish revolts following the first American war against Iraq. In 1997 the USA, seeking to improve relations with Iran and seeing no loss in condemning an Hussein-allied group, added the MEK to the official list of terrorist organizations.

Things changed with the conquest of Iraq. Neoconservatives, looking ahead to the expected overthrow of the Irani regime, sought to protect MEK. But other forces in the administration pushed the other way. They hoped to improve relations with Iran and feared undermining American credibility with the unusually obvious hypocrisy proposed by the neocons.

It seems the neocons have won the argument. After the invasion, MEK members were confined to their camp outside Baghdad until the USA could decide what to do with them. Now the decision has come, and it seems to be the first step in signing up the MEK as a proxy army for aggression against Iran. After a 16-month review, the USA has reclassified them "protected persons", a classification under the laws of war that ensures members of the MEK will not face charges in Iraq or be extradited to Iran.

How could the USA protect people that America itself brands as terrorists? A senior American official explained the nuances, "A member of a terrorist organization is not necessarily a terrorist." In this case, apparently, none of the members of a terrorist organization are terrorists.

We could be seeing the opening moves in administration plans to destabilize or possibly even invade Iran. Middle East expert Juan Cole thinks so. In a post last week, he explained and debunked the latest allegations of Irani complicity with the 9/11 highjackers — the same sorts of insinuations and carefully-worded quarter-truths that launched us on the conquest of Iraq. Cole fears that a second Bush term will give us an invasion of Iran. That may be a little alarmist at this point, a covert destabilization campaign seems more likely (anyone remember 1953?). But let's not rule out some sort of crisis exploding over Iran's development of nuclear weapons, perhaps kicked off by an Israeli bombing of their facilities. In that situation, it might not matter who's in the White House.

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