UANI, Joe Lieberman and the MEK

by Ali Gharib

I only have a few words to add to Jim’s post about United Against a Nuclear Iran naming Joe Lieberman as its new president. Those words are: Mojahedin-e Khalq. That’s the ex-terrorist Iranian opposition group, often known as the MEK, that has campaigned tirelessly for decades for regime change in Iran, and Joe Lieberman is one of their favorite advocates in Washington.

Here’s a bit of something I wrote in June about Lieberman’s positions on Iran and the MEK:

As far back as 2008, Lieberman was joking—yes, joking, as if this were a laughing matter—about the “appeal” of bombing Iran. In a 2010 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations that re-purposed many of the talking points Lieberman had used to push for the invasion of Iraq, he spoke of a six-month deadline—six months! in 2010!—for Iran to roll back its nuclear program before the U.S. had to seriously consider a military strike.

Lieberman’s been at it since then, too. In 2012, he said that a military strike could cause Iran’s nuclear program to “be delayed for enough years that we may hope and pray that there will be a regime change.” And that is the central point of Lieberman’s advocacy: he wants a U.S. policy of regime change. Just this month, he participated by video in a confab of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), the ex-terrorist Iranian opposition group that relentlessly pushes for regime change.

“Inevitably,” Lieberman addressed the MEK members directly, “as individuals you may ask yourself: Is it possible that we can bring about a change of regime in Iran? And I want to say to you that it is. I’m confident that it is and it will happen.” The US, he said, “should be working closely with your resistance group.” The event was even the subject of a “sponsored report“—whatever that means—from The Washington Times that helpfully categorized Lieberman’s statements as “American support for regime change and the Iranian opposition.”

I mention this because of the raft of deal opponents who just won’t stop insisting that actually they don’t want war with Iran, they just want a “better deal.” If that’s the case, they ought to stop naming Joe Lieberman to prominent positions in their organizations. As it stands now, the hawkish former Democrat holds positions in several major anti-deal groups in Washington. Jim noted his roles at the AIPAC anti-deal spin-off (which has also promoted MEK materials in its advertisements), the American Enterprise Institute, and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, adding to that now his elevation from advisory board member at UANI to being its leader.

Fellow board members who actually support the Iran nuclear deal, such as Graham Allison and its Lieberman’s immediate predecessor, Gary Samore, might take note.

But hawkishness on Iran is a matter apart from support for the MEK. The group is reviled in Iran; it has launched terrorist attacks there; many impartial analysts have described it as a cult. Eli and I have already written about UANI’s targeting of legal humanitarian trade with Iran, and how it belies its professed solidarity with the Iranian people. Now, we can add UANI’s promotion of a pro-MEK hawk to that score. What’s worse, though, is the group’s elevation of a man who has such a cavalier attitude toward war with Iran and who wants official US policy toward the Islamic Republic to be regime change.

We’ve seen this move before with the Iraq war, and UANI seems determined to have Joe Lieberman, who, as Jim noted, was Honorary Co-Chair of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, return to star in the sequel.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.



  1. I’m not sure about some of the things said here, but I am sure that Joe Lieberman is an honorable man who served Democratic interests his whole life and is a staunch defender of human rights. Criticizing him is like criticizing the Dalai Lama for advocating for the return of Tibet. Joe’s commitment to anti-nuclear issues goes back a long way and for people to dump on him is wrong headed…Bush I can understand, but Joe? Give me a break.

  2. Mr Lieberman is no longer a Senator from Ct. as his agenda became widely known since 2001. His positions likewise encouraged a ‘persona non grata’ status in his New Haven residence, forcing his return to Stamford, Ct. His successor, likewise , pledging his allegiance to Israel instead of the US will suffer the same fate in his next election.

  3. So weird to keep harping about the MEK. It’s off the terror list, just like Cuba is off the terror list. Are we going to keep using that as a permanent adjective for the Cubans as well? The MEK is obviously no friend of Iran and actively works for regime change, just as scores of other NGOs do every day around the world against regimes in North Korea, Syria, etc. Skimming through searches it easily appears that much of the claims made against MEK came about during the Iran-Iraq war. Now it seems that stage protests, organize grassroots campaigns and see a bunch of their members get arrested and imprisoned in Iran on a regular basis. Not exactly heinous activity, but then again, I’m not an expert. I do agree with the other comment though that Lieberman is a stand up guy and one I fondly voted for when he was on the VP ticket. I have no problem with him joining UANI since I don’t support nuclear weapons anywhere.

  4. By way of disclosure, I oppose the nuclear agreement with Iran, largely because of the fact that it doesn’t link reforms on human rights issue, especially censorship of social media platforms and news media within Iran. I think any society becomes stronger when there is free, open debate amongst its people and government. Governments that censor speech are weak and afraid of what would happen in a free media society. That being said, I also have no problems with what UANI and the MEK and other anti-nuclear groups are doing to lobby and kill this deal. Ultimately Congress is going to decide and it seems many members are going to vote their conscience which is as it should be with something this important. I think the rhetoric is getting too extreme like everyone bashing Chuck Schumer, arguably the guy next to Harry Reid who has carried the administration’s water the most, for opposing the deal, especially since it appears there are enough votes to keep a veto override off. Why then go all in attacking people who make deliberate and deeply personal choices? I think we need to just all take a step back and allow this process to move smoothly forward.

  5. Interesting that I voted for Joe L. as a vice president. Had I known better at the time, I would have voted libertarian. MKO murdered American officials during the king of Iran’s time and would do anything to come to power. They were the death squads sent out to kill Kurds and other Saddam opposition groups during a time that Saddams own Mukhaberat would not take on these veil acts. Mike F. above brings a great point as to Cuba being on the terrorist list and now being removed. This is an incorrect comparison- the Khemar Rouge or Jim Jones are the comparable group to the MKO.
    Becareful what you wish for Joe L., MKO will do and say anything to get to power, but if you think they will have a democratic or outstanding human rights look at how they treat their own people in Iraq’s Freedom Camp. People are shot if they try and leave.

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