Imagine you’re a member of a terrorist organization — wait, no: your group is listed as a terrorist organization, but really you and all your friends have renounced violence, and all you want now is to overthrow the regime in your home country and put your fearless leader at the head of a new establishment. Then, after an intense nagging campaign in the halls of Congress, you’re taken off the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. Yay! But there’s more work to be done.
You and all your friends want to take charge in your home country, which happens to be running a suspicious and embattled nuclear power program. The U.S. government wasn’t OK with you dropping bombs and killing people and whatnot, but maybe you can convince the American military to do so? A few targeted strikes on a sovereign state’s suspected weapons-of-mass-destruction operation never hurt anybody. Put it like this: one way or another, you’re taking over in that country. But you’re going to need American blessing and American help. Who will you call?
If you were a member of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, an exiled Iranian militant group that lobbies members of Congress on a daily basis for regime change in Iran, you’d be facing this tough question. (It’s hard out there for an ex-terrorist.) Luckily for the MEK, it hasn’t had to look far: former Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, a Democrat from New Jersey, took up lobbying only two short months after leaving his job in the Capitol and now works on their behalf.
At the same time that it pressures American lawmakers for their endorsement, the MEK seeks to present itself as an asset in gathering intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. The group released a statement Thursday via Agence France Presse claiming knowledge of a hidden nuclear site near Tehran, but the only source is a vaguely referenced report that isn’t linked to. This supposed revelation amounts to unsubstantiated noise-making, but it is additional fodder for their campaign.
The MEK is one of nine delisted foreign terrorist organizations, according to the State Department’s website. None of the other groups, which include the Khmer Rouge and the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria, came up in a quick search of the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act database of foreign organizations operating in the United States, but the MEK has had a press office since 1988.
Torricelli dropped out of his bid for reelection to the Senate under a dark cloud of controversy at the last minute in 2003, when the Ethics Committee issued him a “severe admonishment” for accepting gifts from a contributor, David Chang. Several years later, he used donated leftover campaign funds to boost former colleagues who held sway over the fate his and his clients’ business interests, according to the New York Times. He’s got a close relationship with Senate Majority Leader Harry S. Reid (D-NV).
Torricelli conducts his lobbying work under Rosemont Associates, LLC, which has also lobbied for the government of Taiwan and the owner of Cablevision, a U.S. cable company. It’s seemingly innocuous stuff, and not too uncommon. On the other hand, it’s much more uncommon — and probably much less innocuous — to lobby for a former terrorist organization.
Julie Ershadi is a writer based in Washington, D.C. ’Congress You’re Fired’ image courtesy of Big Stock Photo.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | James Velasquez
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond