July 22, 2017

Danielle Pletka’s Misguided Attack on the MEK Advocates


Why is the Pot Calling the Kettle Black?

Approximately two weeks ago, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute published an article on the AEI website entitled “Lobbying for terrorists, more on the MEK”[1], in which she takes to task several high profile advocates for the MEK based on her reading of the Washington Post article by Joby Warrick and Julie Tate, “High-priced advocacy raises questions for supporters of Iranian exile group”[2]. Unfortunately, neither Pletka, nor Warrick and Tate bothered to do the necessary background research in order to present an accurate picture of the situation. The Warrick and Tate article is riddled with inaccuracies and they rely on an Iran “expert” who has been named as an agent of the Tehran regime—not exactly an unbiased and creditable source. By presenting a biased portrait of the MEK, all three writers skew the picture and present a warped portrait.

Warrick’s and Tate’s mistakes are lamentable in the case of a major newspaper not taking greater care to present an accurate picture; Pletka on the other hand should know better than to attack the high profile advocates of the MEK. She herself played the same role for the disgraced Iraqi Shiite conman Ahmad Chalabi[3], advocating passionately on his behalf in 2004 in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times[4] when things began to unravel for the Iranian agent[5]. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Had Pletka bothered to do some proper homework of her own, instead of relying on shoddy investigative reporting at the WP and disinformation being peddled by the State Department’s Iran Desk, she could have bothered to ask fellow AEI Senior Fellow Ambassador John R. Bolton about the group.

Unfortunately Ms. Pletka has been remiss on the subject of the MEK in the past as well. Thirteen months ago she wrote an article—“Lobbying for Terrorists”[6] on the AEI blog that cited a screed by Michael Rubin[7] and an alleged FBI report[8] that strangely is authorless and lacks an FBI file number, issues to which counter-terrorism expert and former 17-year veteran FBI Special Agent Richard Schoeberl draws attention in a reply[9] to Pletka’s 2011 article. Schoeberl writes: “I’ve seen the so-called ‘report’. I, myself, have written reports on terrorist organizations. And believe me, this amateurish collection of vague and unsubstantiated charges is no FBI ‘report’.”[10] Further into his reply, he writes: “This document could not have been prepared in November 2004…” and goes on to show that it is a poorly fabricated fake.[11] One would think that Pletka had learned her lesson from her poor scholarship and done the necessary homework, but apparently she wants to keep her position with the State Department, and the truth be damned.

Now one may ask whether Pletka is simply asking for the law concerning registration of foreign agents not to be flouted here—ostensibly that’s what her article is requesting. However, Pletka knows that the situation is a bit more complicated. Indeed, let’s take a look at a few points about the MEK’s terror designation and the record[12] of court review of the MEK’s status. Note the following:

  • On June 1, 2012, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled[13] that the State Department’s delay in deciding the MEK’s delisting petition was “egregious”[14] and added[15] that if the State Department fails to make a decision, the court will unilaterally drop the terrorist designation itself.
  • According to The Washington Post[16] another court order[17] in July 2010 asked the State Department to reconsider the MEK’s designation or produce credible evidence, “strongly suggesting” that the designation should be removed. To date, the State Department has delayed relisting the MEK for over 600 days due to a lack of a single piece of evidence.
  • In 1997, a senior Clinton administration official candidly told the Los Angeles Times that “inclusion of the People’s Moujahedeen was intended as a goodwill gesture to Tehran and its newly elected moderate president, Mohammad Khatami.”[18]
  • In the past decade, two dozen rulings by French, English and European courts have said in one way or another that the MEK has no links to terrorism. Indeed, the French Investigative Magistrate ruled in May last year that the MEK’s actions against the Iranian regime were “resistance against tyranny.”[19]

The public appearances of former U.S. government officials as advocates for the human rights of the residents of Camps Ashraf and Liberty, calling upon the administration to abide by U.S. court rulings and side with a majority of the Members of Congress, is an act of conscience, an act of honor, and an act of sanity. It is an act of conscience as the 3400 members of the MEK at these two camps have all been threatened by the current Iraqi government that is taking orders from Tehran and which is permitting agents of the Iranian secret police to terrorize and oppress the MEK members in these two camps. It is an act of honor because these American officials have not forgotten the promise made to each one of the MEK residents of Ashraf and Liberty that they would be protected by the United States as certified protected persons under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, a promise made in writing[20] in 2004. And it is an act of sanity as these brave and honorable Americans realize that the MEK is on our side in the war on terror, and the State Department unfortunately is continuing to try to appease our enemies in Tehran.

Ms. Pletka, were you registered as a foreign agent under the rules of the Foreign Agents Registration Act[21] when you lobbied the White House on behalf of Ahmad Chalabi? If not—and I seriously doubt that you were registered—what gives you the hutzpah to ask others to do so? Do your homework and dig deep enough, and you will realize that the MEK is made up of true Iranian patriots that prize liberty, democracy, and religious freedom for their country, and for all the nations of the world. The real terrorists are the mullahs of Iran. It’s the mullahs and their lobbyists inside the Beltway that should be targeted, not their sworn enemies.


Rabbi Dr. Daniel M. Zucker is founder and Chairman of the Board of Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East, a grassroots organization dedicated to teaching the public and its elected officials of the need to promote genuine democratic institutions throughout the Middle-East region as an antidote to the dangers posed by Islamic fundamentalism. He may be contacted at contact@ADME.ws.




1]  Danielle Pletka, “Lobbying for terrorists, more on the MEK”, American Enterprise Institute, July 6, 2012, http://www.aei.org/article/foreign-and-defense-policy/terrorism/lobbying-for-terrorists-more-on-the-mek/

2]  Joby Warrick and Julie Tate, “High-priced advocacy raises questions for supporters of Iranian exile group”, The Washington Post, July 5, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/high-priced-advocacy-raises-questions-for-supporters-of-iranian-exile-group/2012/07/05/gJQABoacQW_story.html

3]  Aram Roston, “Ahmad Chalabi: Iraq’s master manipulator”, NBC News, April 8, 2008,


4]  Danielle Pletka, “U.S. Only Wounded Itself When It Betrayed Chalabi”, Los Angeles Times, June 4, 2004, http://articles.latimes.com/2004/jun/04/opinion/oe-pletka4

5]  CBS, “Ahmad Chalabi’s Fall From Grace”, CBS News, December 5, 2007, http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500257_162-634635.html, and “America’s ‘Best Friend’ A Spy?”, CBS News, February 11, 2009, http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-500257_162-619025.html?tag=contentMain;contentBody

6]  Danielle Pletka, “Lobbying for Terrorists”, American Enterprise Institute, June 15, 2011, http://www.aei-ideas.org/2011/06/34139/

7]  Michael Rubin, “What’s Behind the Campaign to Delist the Mujahedin al-Khalq Organization?”, Commentary, February 24, 2011,


8]  Anonymous, “MUJAHEDIN-E KHALQ (MEK) CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION”, U.S. Department of Justice (Federal Bureau of Investigation), Los Angeles, California 90024,  [no file number], November 29, 2004, http://www.american.com/archive/2011/FBI%20-%20REPORT.pdf

9]  Richard R. Schoeberl, “It’s Time to Lift the ‘Terror Tag’ From Iranian Opposition Group MEK”, FoxNews.com, August 22, 2011, http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/08/22/its-time-to-lift-terror-tag-from-iranian-opposition-group-mek/

10]  Ibid.

11]  Ibid.

12]  “De-List MEK”, web-site accessed July 17, 2012, http://www.delistmek.com/court-rulings/

13]  Mike Scarcella, “D.C. Circuit Criticizes State Dept. in Dispute Over Iranian Group”, Legal Times, June 1, 2012, http://legaltimes.typepad.com/blt/2012/06/dc-circuit-criticizes-state-dept-in-dispute-over-iranian-group-.html

14]  James Vicini, “U.S. told to decide Iranian group’s fate in four months”, Reuters, June 1, 2012, http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/06/01/uk-usa-iran-mek-idUKBRE8501EQ20120601

15]  U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, “PMOI: Petition for a Writ of Mandamus”, No. 12-1118, June 1, 2012, http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/5A8913CA6D08CB2785257A100050A6D7/$file/12-1118-1376542.pdf

16]  Glenn Kessler, “Court tells State Dept. to reconsider terrorist label for Iran opposition group”, The Washington Post, July 17, 2010, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/16/AR2010071605881.html

17]  U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, “PMOI: Petition for Review of an Order of the Department of State”,

No. 09-1059, July 16, 2010, http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/8390067BF1E1E876852578070070EB87/$file/09-1059-1255582.pdf

18]  Norman Kempster, “U.S. Designates 30 Groups as Terrorists”, Los Angeles Times, October 9, 1997, http://articles.latimes.com/1997/oct/09/news/mn-40874

19]  David Gauthier-Villars, “France dismisses terror probe of Iranian opposition group”, The Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2011, http://www.iranfocus.com/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=23174:france-dismisses-terror-probe-of-iranian-opposition-group&catid=4:iran-general&Itemid=26

20]  Appendix A: “Letter of General Geoffrey D. Miller to People of Ashraf”, DLA Piper, Iran: Foreign Policy Challenges and Choices: Empowering the Democratic Opposition, DLA Piper US LLP 2006, p.102.

21]  FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act), http://www.fara.gov/.