Bolton's Terrorist Tango

Bush pick for U.N. ambassador makes smooth with Iran's MEK

WASHINGTON, D.C.—John Bolton, President Bush's nominee for U.N. ambassador, will face tough questioning that could derail his nomination when he soon comes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in confirmation hearings. The latest revelations about Bolton are that he has freely admitted to willingness to use information against Iran from a group the State Department labels a terrorist organization.

Up to now Bolton, the former undersecretary of state for arms control, has been portrayed as the wild man of the neo-conservative contingent, disdainful of the U.N. in particular and international diplomacy in general. Questions have been raised about his role in providing then secretary of state Colin Powell phony information on weapons of mass destruction for his famous U.N. speech.

More lately, Bolton has been fanning the flames against Iran. Until just recently, the only Bush people favoring a moderate approach to that nation's nuclear ambitions were second-tier members of the State Department. Tony Blair recently persuaded Bush to take the European line and work toward negotiations.

Now Michael Roston of a armscontrolwonk.com points out that on June 24, during testimony before a House International Relations subcommittee, Bolton talked about an organization called Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), which operates openly in the U.S., but which, he agreed, has "qualified as a terrorist organization" in the eyes of the State Department. Officials there have listed the group as such for some time.

Bolton said he didn't have "any inhibition about getting information about what's going on in Iran" from MEK, which has steadfastly objected to being characterized as a terrorist outfit.

Last spring, the State Department stated its case again MEK, saying its members "assisted the Government of Iraq in suppressing the Shia and Kurdish uprisings in southern Iraq and the Kurdish uprisings in the north. In April 1992, the MEK conducted near-simultaneous attacks on Iranian Embassies and installations in 13 countries, demonstrating the group's ability to mount large-scale operations overseas. In April 1999, the MEK targeted key military officers and assassinated the deputy chief of the Armed Forces General Staff. In April 2000, the MEK attempted to assassinate the commander of the Nasr Headquarters—Tehran's interagency board responsible for coordinating policies on Iraq. The normal pace of anti-Iranian operations increased during the "Operation Great Bahman" in February 2000, when the group launched a dozen attacks against Iran.

"In 2000 and 2001," the State Department continued, "the MEK was involved regularly in mortar attacks and hit-and-run raids on Iranian military and law-enforcement units and government buildings near the Iran-Iraq border, although MEK terrorism in Iran declined throughout the remainder of 2001. In February 2000, for example, the MEK launched a mortar attack against the leadership complex in Tehran that houses the offices of the Supreme Leader and the President."

Bolton's position on MEK raises the question of whether the Bush administration is backing covert action against Iran by the group. And if we go to war with Iran, would MEK be to that conflict what Ahmad Chalabi was to our invasion of Iraq?

Bolton's rocky trip to confirmation comes as other Bush stalwarts on Capitol Hill are beginning to run into flak. The highly charged debate over Terri Schiavo took a new turn this week with the admission by one Republican senator that his office had indeed distributed a memo suggesting the GOP get in on the Schiavo affair as a way of gaining political advantage.

This morning's Washington Post reports that Brian A. Darling, legal counsel to Florida Republican senator Mel Martinez, admits to writing the memo stating it would be to the GOP's political advantage to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case. The party has insistently denied this charge, and yesterday the Washington Times on its front page ran the headline, "Was the Schiavo Memo a Fake?" The paper said it had surveyed every Republican member of the Senate and each one of them said "the memo was not crafted or distributed by him or her. Every one of them said he or she had not seen it until the memo was the subject of speculation in major news organs."

Martinez told the Post he had been assured by aides that his office had nothing to do with the memo. As a homestate senator in the Schiavo matter, he was a leading GOP figure on the issue. "I never did an investigation, as such," he told the Post about the memo. "I just took it for granted that we wouldn't be that stupid. It was never my intention to politicize it in any way."

Darling, a former gun-rights lobbyist, has resigned.

 
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