Middle East Times
By RT. HON. LORD WADDINGTON
LONDON -- When the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran is the subject of discussion, one crucial question is often raised. The PMOI claims to be the democratic opposition to the regime, but how effective is it as a movement and how effective will it be in the future?
There is one thing on which both its detractors and its supporters agree. It is an undoubted fact that the PMOI is by far the largest and best-organized of any Iranian opposition group. Based in Camp Ashraf in Iraq, the 4,000-strong PMOI has for long been at the heart of the Iranian people's struggle. Its influence and standing can, to some extent, be judged by the fact that it was the PMOI that back in 2002 brought to the attention of the world Iran's nuclear weapons program; and it has been the PMOI which in more recent times has helped bring to light Tehran's attempts to destabilize Iraq and exposed its arming and funding of terrorist militias within that country.
Today, the role that Iran's opposition can play has become critical to the entire Iranian crisis. After talks with representatives of the world's major powers including for the first time a senior U.S. State Department official, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator emphasized the regime's long-standing insistence that the suspension of uranium enrichment is not up for discussion; and in this crisis situation this must mean that the role which the opposition can play has become all-important.
For years the debate over the PMOI has centered on the fact that at the insistence of Iran it has been listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, United Kingdom and European Union. The terror label has for the last seven years hindered the group's activities.
But earlier this year, on May 7, the movement won a notable victory in the U.K. Court of Appeal and as a result of an order of that court it is no longer listed as a terrorist organization in Britain.
The listing in Europe which was based on the British listing should have ended forthwith, but it seems that at the insistence of the French government a new listing has been made. It is almost certainly a listing without legal validity because it can be based on no evidence save that rejected as valid by the British Court. But this new EU decision will now have to be contested and resources, which ought to be going to help free Iran of the mullahs, being used instead to remedy a gross injustice perpetrated by people who ought to be upholding not flouting the law.
But now, having proved to the satisfaction of the British courts that it is not a terrorist organization, the task of the PMOI is to demonstrate its sense of responsibility by putting forward methodically and carefully its case for democratic change in Iran. That case was put with enormous force and authority when on June 28 a crowd of 70,000 crammed a conference hall in the outskirts of Paris to show their support for the PMOI.
In the hall there was jubilation at the U.K. de-listing and anger at the continued appeasement of the regime by the EU. But there was also a strong feeling that the crisis over Iran was coming to a head and that by next year the crisis will be resolved one way or another. There was a similar feeling in Camp Ashraf in June when at another great gathering of the PMOI a petition in its support and against the regime which had been signed by 3 million Shiite Iraqis was announced.
The message surely is clear. As a climax approaches the PMOI has shown itself to be a viable alternative to the regime and is clearly capable of bringing change to Iran. It could well be the group to end the Iranian crisis on the streets of Iran's cities.
What is certain is that with negotiations with the Iranian regime having reached an impasse and war unthinkable as a way of breaking that impasse, the PMOI must continue to demonstrate that it is a viable alternative and others should support not hinder it as it works to bring change to Iran.
Rt. Hon. Lord Waddington GCVO DL QC: David Waddington is a former U.K. home secretary under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former leader of the House of Lords.