An editorial in the New York Times notes that “he was paid to deliver speeches in 2011 and 2012 defending a cultlike Iranian exile group that was on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.”
Lewis writes that he attended one such “cultlike” meeting in Paris (details and disclosures here)… “A couple years ago.” He makes the following points:
1. Many prominent, bipartisan Americans attended this event, such as former DNC Chairman Howard Dean, who thanked former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for removing the MEK from the foreign terror organization list, and Democratic lawyer and scholar Alan Dershowitz.
2. The group’s former “terrorist” designation is misleading. “When you’re part of an armed resistance and you’re not a government, you’re deemed to be terrorists,” Dershowitz explained.
It hardly seems fair to single out Giuliani, on the basis of his affiliation with this group, when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and DNC Chairman Ed Rendell, have both been been compensated for speaking to the MEK. Republican names like former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Ambassador John Bolton are boosters of the group. The MEK has many Republican and Democratic supporters.
Still, from a future Secretary of State, Giuliani made some rather questionable remarks that day, especially his apologizing on foreign soil for America’s behavior. Giuliani described the Camp Liberty as a “concentration camp,” and added, “I am embarrassed. I am ashamed. And I’m here to apologize,” Giuliani said of this betrayal. He also said he wouldn’t support any candidate for president who didn’t call for regime change in Iran, and continued, “Where is Ronald Reagan when we need him?”
The backstory on Giuliani’s statement is that years ago, as part of a deal with the United States, the Iranian dissidents laid down their arms, in exchange for being given a safe haven in Iraq. However, when America pulled its troops out of Iraq, the MEK were turned over to the Iraqi government, which is influenced by the Iranian regime. As a result, the camp was attacked several times – not the ‘safe haven’ that was promised.
In the Washington Post, Josh Rogan notes that “the group does have legitimate grievances and has been the target of deadly attacks by Iranian-backed forces inside Iraq. There are also reports that the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services have used the group’s members at various times to conduct covert operations inside Iran.”
The core issue is whether Giuliani profited from advocating for the MEK while they were still listed as a foreign terrorist organization. This is just one of the important questions about Mr. Giuliani, in light of his possible future appointment in Trump’s administration.
That said, speaking out against the human rights abuses waged on MEK is something to be lauded instead of disparaged.
Lewis concludes, “Good luck filling an administration that hasn’t spoken to this group.”