Militant groups can change. Both Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, for example, used violence before becoming influential political forces in their own right. The MEK is one of those, say its increasing number of American advocates.
Yet current US officials and many Iran experts – hawks and doves alike – question the MEK's ability to change in light of the group's unique history and its cult-like characteristics. They say the fact that it is widely despised inside Iran also makes it a dangerous tool to change Iran’s Islamic regime.
All have been stunned by the speed, heft, and sheer wealth of the current delisting campaign, after years of determined but fruitless efforts.
Removing the terrorist designation is critical to the MEK to bolster its legitimacy. It would also enable the MEK to openly fund-raise in the US – despite having used fraudulent techniques in the past that prompted FBI investigations into smuggling rings, forgery, and fraud schemes that resulted in prison time for dozens of members.
A host of former American officials, in speech after speech since December, dismiss the MEK's terrorist designation. At more than a dozen events in Washington and Europe since December, they assert instead that the group offers a popular "third way” between failed dialogue with the Islamic Republic and military action.