An exclusive report by NBC News cites two U.S. officials confirming links between an assassination campaign against Iranian scientists and an Iranian exile group designated as a foreign terror organization by the State Department since 1997. Two officials confirmed to NBC that the group, the Paris- and Iraq-based Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), was involved in the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists.
The State Department designates the MEK as a “foreign terrorist organization,” though the group’s supporters have mounted an aggressive lobbying effort aimed at getting delisted through claims it laid down arms in the early 2000s.
The NBC story cited two U.S. officials linking the MEK to the recent spate of assassinations, and a third who neither confirmed nor denied the allegation:
Two senior U.S. officials confirmed for NBC News the MEK’s role in the assassinations, with one senior official saying, “All your inclinations are correct.” A third official would not confirm or deny the relationship, saying only, “It hasn’t been clearly confirmed yet.” All the officials denied any U.S. involvement in the assassinations.
The group, through its political wing (which was also added to the State designation), denied any involvement in the latest attacks. A “representative” of the group in Washington also denied involvement.
The NBC report also claimed that Israeli intelligence services “financed, trained and armed” the MEK, though the story did not go on to substantiate any direct links between the Israeli government and the assassination campaign.
The U.S. denial of involvement last month, after the latest killing by a bomb blast in Tehran, was unequivocal: “I want to categorically deny any United States involvement in any kind of act of violence inside Iran,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, condemning the attacks.
Founded in the mid-1960s as an armed revolutionary group, the MEK fought against the Shah and his U.S. backers — allegedly killing Americans — in the 1970s, but then split with Iran’s clerical leadership in the early 1980s. Eventually, the group ended up based in Paris and Iraq, where, from the latter location, it was helped by Saddam Hussein to raise arms against Iran during the war between the two countries. Since 1997, when such designations were introduced, the MEK has been considered a “foreign terrorist organization” by the State Department. As many as 3,400 members of the group, which it claims are former fighters who laid down their arms in the early 2000s, are still based in Iraq.