'Flagrant betrayal': Luminaries blast Biden's Iran envoy for 'abetting the suppression of liberty'

As Iran tries to crush anti-government protests, the State Department undercuts the Iranian resistance.

Updated: November 29, 2022 - 11:08pm

A bipartisan group of high-profile former lawmakers, military officers, and other senior officials lambasted President Biden's special envoy for Iran for what they described as a "betrayal" of both the cause of freedom and the Iranian people, who've been protesting against their government in what analysts describe as the greatest threat to Iran's Islamist regime since its inception in 1979.

The joint statement, issued Monday, blamed Robert Malley, who's been spearheading the Biden administration's efforts to negotiate a new nuclear deal with Iran, for comments by the State Department earlier this month discrediting Iran's most prominent opposition group, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK), which seeks to overthrow the Iranian regime.

Earlier this month, a State Department spokesperson told the media outlets Foreign Policy, Radio Farda, and Iran International that the U.S. government sees the MEK as a liability rather than an asset.

"While the United States revoked the designation of the MEK as a foreign terrorist organization in September 2012, the United States does not see the MEK as a viable democratic opposition movement that is representative of the Iranian people," the spokesperson said. "The State Department continues to have serious concerns about the MEK as an organization, including allegations of abuse against its own members."

The comments appeared to be in response to a Foreign Policy article, which included Iran's accusations that the U.S. works with the MEK to attack Iran — accusations adamantly denied by the State Department.

"Rather than being content with denying the Iranian claim, Mr. Malley saw an opportunity to appease the regime by making these false and disparaging allegations," said the joint statement. "What Mr. Malley needs to understand is that his action, taken while tens of thousands of Iranian women and men are fighting and dying for freedom from tyranny, is a flagrant betrayal of both the Iranian people and a foundational principle which our country has long honored."

The joint statement said Malley, whose office is housed in the State Department, released the comments about the MEK through a public affairs officer, a claim which Just the News has not been able to independently confirm.

In response to the State Department earlier this month, the MEK said the department was "rehashing previous allegations" against the MEK as a "gesture of goodwill" toward the Iranian regime as it cracks down on anti-government protests.

"The future of Iran will be determined by our people and freedom fighters in the campaign for freedom in the streets of Iran now and through the ballot box tomorrow," said a Paris-based spokesperson for the MEK. "Foreign powers have nothing to do with it."

The MEK is part of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a coalition of Iranian opposition groups whose stated mission is to end the theocratic regime currently in power and promote a "free and democratic" Iran.

Just the News has previously reported on so-called "Resistance Units" associated with the MEK shaping and guiding anti-government protests, conducting operations against the regime inside Iran.

Iranian leaders have blamed the MEK (along with the U.S. and Israel) for the demonstrations, waging a campaign against the group — and seemingly undermining the State Department position that the MEK lacks support inside Iran.

"Perhaps at some junctures, the belief was that [the MEK] has no support ... and that there's no need for us to refer to them any longer. But this is not our view anymore," Kazem Gharibabadi, deputy for international affairs of the Iranian judiciary, told Iranian state media in June. "In the [Iranian year] 1400 [beginning March 20, 2021], a very good and joint campaign began, and heavy pressure was brought to bear on countries that were hosting [the MEK]."

Gharibabadi, who was in New York earlier this month on a United Nations visit, added that there's "no meeting between U.S. and European delegations where we haven't discussed" the MEK.

Earlier this year, an annual rally organized by the MEK and NCRI was canceled "due to terrorist threats and conspiracies," according to the event's organizers. An Iranian diplomat, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium last year for plotting to bomb a NCRI rally in a suburb of Paris in 2018. He was accused of following orders from Iranian intelligence.

Among the 23 signers of the new joint statement rebuking Malley were former Sens. Joe Lieberman and Robert Torricelli, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, legal expert Alan Dershowitz, former FBI Director Louis Freeh, former Obama National Security Adviser James Jones, and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey. Read the full text here:

In the joint statement, the group accused Malley of seeking "to appease the Iranian government by publicly discrediting one of [the] regime's primary opposition groups" in hopes of reviving stalled talks to reach a nuclear deal with Iran.

Malley supported the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which placed temporary curbs on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting large-scale sanctions on Iran. Since former President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal in 2018, Malley has been a vocal advocate of restoring it.

Three U.S. diplomats, including Malley's deputy, Richard Nephew, stepped down from the nuclear talks in late January in protest of concessions to Iran. The officials had wanted the Biden administration to adopt a tougher negotiating stance.

U.S. officials have recently said nuclear negotiations aren't on the administration's agenda right now as Iran violently cracks down on protesters and supplies drones to Russia to use against Ukraine.

However, Malley has left the door open to talks, saying he would only resume "when and if" Iran stops killing protesters and providing Russia with drones.

According to the joint statement, though, the State Department is facilitating the regime's abuses by discrediting a key part of the Iranian resistance.

"To witness a senior American official repeating such false claims while MEK and fellow protesters are being brutally suppressed is outrageous, and in fact facilitates the regime's killing machine on the streets and campuses across Iran," the statement read. "If Mr. Malley mistakenly believes that adopting the regime's false, anti-MEK propaganda will persuade the terrorists to revive JCPOA negotiations, he needs to be relieved from this important mission. The Administration and [Secretary of State Antony] Blinken must reach out with support, and not condemnation, to the thousands of freedom fighters being killed and imprisoned in Iran. Mr. Malley's reckless action aids and abets the suppression of liberty and democracy in Iran."

Just the News has reached out to the State Department for comment for this story.

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