Trump Decertified The Iran Nuclear Deal. Now What?

After describing it as the “worst deal ever” and threatening to scrap the entire accord, U.S. President Donald Trump has decertified the Iran nuclear deal, describing it as against U.S. national security interests, and outlined significant measures targeting the regime in its entirety. Trump took a major step in ordering the Treasury Department to fully sanction Iran’s notorious Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), describing the entity as Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s “corrupt terror personal terror force and militia.”

This is a major U.S. policy shift vis-a-vis Iran dating back to the early 1950s since Eisenhower turned against the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh.

The U.S. Treasury Department followed suit by designating the IRGC “pursuant to the global terrorism Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 and consistent with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.” Such a move against the Guards will have major implications in Iran and the region.

In an expression of his deep disregard of the Iran nuclear deal Trump said, “In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies in regards to Iran, then the agreement will be terminated.”

While always harsh on Trump, the Weekly Standard provided good reasoning for his recent decision.

“It is unassailably obvious that the Iranian regime has not complied with the agreement. The Iranians have not given international inspectors unfettered access to nuclear and military facilities, as the agreement requires. They have attempted to acquire banned nuclear and missile technology. They have exceeded the agreement’s limits on advanced centrifuges and heavy-water production. They continue, moreover, to sponsor terrorism around the world and abet the brutalities of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.”

 The U.S. House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee approved a new law imposing more sanctions on Iran for its Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Program on Thursday. A legislation, set to come under consideration in the House, will require Tehran to accept harsh new conditions on the JCPOA or face a “tidal wave of sanctions.”

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the first to blow the whistle on Iran’s nuclear program back in 2002, welcomed Trump’s decision.

NCRI President Maryam Rajavi said previous “U.S. administrations’ policies of turning a blind eye on flagrant human rights violations in Iran, the regime’s deadly meddling in the region and concessions made to it in the course of the JCPOA have been disastrous, and for which the people of Iran and region have paid heavily,” according to a statement.

This comes after the NCRI’s Wednesday conference releasing a 52-page report titled “Iran’s Nuclear Core: Uninspected Military Sites,” shedding light on the regime continuing its nuclear weapons ambitions through secret military sites. Back in April this coalition also provided extensive information on over forty different missiles sites checkered across the country.

Voices opposing Trump’s decision, however, argued Iran continued to abide by the JCPOA.

“The Trump administration is right that Iranian behavior destabilizes the region, but wrong when it says that such behavior contradicts the ‘spirit’ of the agreement,” former U.S. diplomat Wendy Sherman argued in a recent New York Times piece.

The JCPOA text itself begs to differ.

“The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action states the anticipation of JCPOA participants that ‘full implementation of this JCPOA will positively contribute to regional and international peace and security,’” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. “However, Iran’s other malign activities are serving to undercut whatever ‘positive contributions’ to regional and international peace and security were intended to emerge from the JCPOA.”

One wonders how Sherman would respond to a new intelligence report citing the German intelligence service.

“Iran tried to obtain illicit technology that could be used for military nuclear and ballistic missile programs, raising questions about a possible violation of the 2015 agreement intended to stop Tehran’s drive to become an atomic armed power…”

The Iran nuclear deal is comprised of key botches:

  • The JCPOA fails to confirm Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful, delivers no agreed-upon punishments for Tehran’s violations and actually paves the path to nuclear weapons,
  • provides a very opaque inspections regime, especially on military sites,
  • permanently benefits Iran in return for “sunset” nuclear restrictions,
  • sets no limits on Tehran’s ballistic missile program,
  • and Iran, known as the leading state sponsor of terrorism, is emboldened to expand its influence and escalate its destabilizing activities.

The ball is now in Congress’ court to decide on the future of the accord.

Having passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act in 2015, Congress now has 60 days to launch legislation based on accelerated procedures bearing the potential of snapping back nuclear sanctions on Iran and take even further action against the IRGC.

All states considering establishing economic ties with Iran will also have to think twice. The IRGC has tentacles spread to at least 40% of Iran’s economy through front companies. This includes key oil, gas, telecommunications and construction sectors.

Foreign firms seeking relations with Iranian firms will risk violating US sanctions. BNP Paribas learned this the hard way in 2015 after being slapped a record $8.9 billion fine for violating Iran sanctions.

The Trump administration will most likely seek further non-nuclear sanctions against the Iranian regime. This would need at least 60 votes in the Senate, meaning eight Democrats have to jump aboard.

Considering the existing consensus on Capitol Hill over Tehran’s Middle East meddling especially in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, supporting proxy groups such as the Lebanese Hezbollah and domestic human rights violations, this doesn’t seem an uphill battle.

The measures needed from this day forward are:

  1. Closing JCPOA loopholes and aiming to permanently prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
  2. Bringing a definitive end to Iran’s ballistic missile program, regional aggression and sponsorship of terrorism, and flagrant human rights violations.
  3. Dismantling Iran’s weaponization program through airtight control mechanisms covering all aspects of the regime’s nuclear program.
  4. Gaining true “anytime, anywhere” access to sites, civil and military, and interviewing nuclear scientists and experts. This is needed to clarify outstanding issues in relation to possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson provided the case against the IRGC.

“Iran supports the Assad regime, even as it commits atrocities against its own people, including with chemical weapons. Iran provides arms, financing, and training, and funnels foreign fighters into Syria. It has also sent members of the Iran Revolutionary Guard to take part in direct combat operations.”

Senior Iranian officials even prior to Trump’s speech had resorted to known rhetoric and threats.

“If the news is correct about the stupidity of the American government. . . then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American army to be like Islamic State,” IRGC chief Gen. Mohammed Ali Jafari said.

Former Iranian diplomat Hossein Mousavian wrote Trump’s decision returns “US-Iran relations to a state of overt hostility.” Interesting is that Mousavian has conveniently forgotten how Iran’s IRGC has a history of killing Americans, beginning with the 1983 Beirut bombing that left over 240 US military personnel killed.

The international community has no problems with the Iranian people who are rightfully proud of their thousands of years of heritage. It is the Iranian regime that wrongfully hijacked the 1979 revolution, unjustly claims to represent this nation and continues to create mayhem domestically, across the Middle East and beyond.

Trump’s strategic US policy revision for regime change in Iran is indispensable to ending and rectifying Washington’s disastrous past strategy vis-a-vis the Iranian people.

President Trump underscored, “In this effort we stand in total solidarity with the Iranian regime’s longest suffering victims: Its own people.”

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Blueprinting the Right Iran Policy

very reluctant US President Donald Trump recently gave the green light for the State Department to recertify Iran as complying with a nuclear agreement signed between international community representatives and Tehran two years ago.

This measure has hurled ongoing debates, launching a faceoff amongst those who consider the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as a liability and seek an immediate exit, and those who argue the world simply can’t live without it.

While there are also calls for renegotiating the deal or implementing the JCPOA to its exact meaning, as mentioned recently by senior US officials such as inspecting Iran’s military sites, there is another option before the Trump White House: supporting the Iranian people and calls for regime change.

What needs understanding is that Trump’s agenda of adopting a firm stance on Iran should not be minimized on the JCPOA. This would play into Iran’s hand, while Tehran continues its belligerence elsewhere.

The Trump administration has before it an opportunity to adopt meaningful leverage on Iran.

We must give credit to the Obama administration for establishing an international coalition and initially ramping up sanctions against Iran. This is what brought Tehran to the negotiating table, as economic strains began reaching the point of no return.

Obama’s mistakes afterwards were treacherous, however, succumbing to Iran’s demands. Tehran came to believe Obama sought a foreign policy legacy at all costs, and took full advantage. Whereas if the US led the international community in pressuring the mullahs, Tehran would have given in to all demands.

Never forget how despite all his saber-rattling remarks, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered the nuclear agreement approved in the regime’s parliament in 20 minutes.

Yet to those who believe continuing with the JCPOA as it is, a look back at the past two years is necessary. Iran has used the deal’s resulting in reportedly up to a $150 billion windfall to expand its Middle East hegemony. Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon are under substantial Tehran influence, leaving the region heavily battered more than ever before.

To add insult to injury, the JCPOA’s sunset articles provide Iran the option of patiently awaiting until they can produce all that is necessary for a nuclear weapon.

Iran is already cheating the nuclear deal due to Obama’s desperate positions in his final years. Tehran exceeded its heavy water production cap. Heavy water is the fundamental ingredient in a plutonium bomb. Iran has been testing more advanced centrifuges, again undermining JCPOA limits. According to German intelligence services Iran has been illicitly procuring highly sensitive nuclear and ballistic missile technology in Germany. Tehran has also exceeded its uranium enrichment cap, another major non-compliance factor.

The deal left the Trump administration little to work with, and no serious building block to build pressure on Tehran.

As a result, abandoning the deal allows Iran make a dash for nuclear weapons capability and leaves the US to blame. In such a scenario, it would most likely take more time for Washington to form an international coalition necessary to re-impose necessary measures.

The Obama approach encouraged the Europeans and other parties to rush to the Iranian market. This effectively has been providing further billions to the notorious Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as this entity controls more than 40% of Iran’s economy. Such a disastrous dogma has also left the Trump administration reluctant, or even unable, to fully overhaul Washington’s comprehensive Iran policy and hold Tehran accountable.

In its first six months the Trump administration slapped three different rounds of sanctions, mostly through the Treasury Department, in response to Iran’s ballistic missile test launches, support for terrorism and regional extremism, and egregious human rights violations. While such action is necessary after all the cost-free concessions provided by Team Obama, they fail in forcing Iran to think twice about its measures. However, there is light at the end of this tunnel.

Congress sent a very powerful message to Tehran recently through the House 419-3 and Senate 98-2 votes, slamming an unprecedented level of sanctions and restrictions on Iran. This bill experienced its share of riddles and obstacles, as reservations and alterations have continuously hovered over the Russia and North Korea sections. The Iran chapter, however, continuously enjoyed vast bipartisan support. And Tehran is receiving the message loud clear.

Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor-in-chief of Keyhan daily in Iran, known to be the Supreme Leader’s mouthpiece, described the new bill as the “mother of all sanctions.”

While long overdue, and despite the fact that the IRGC should officially be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the State Department, the Guards are now blacklisted amongst the Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT).  “The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), not just the IRGC Quds Force, is responsible for implementing Iran’s international program of destabilizing activities, support for acts of international terrorism and ballistic missiles,” the text reads in part.

Drastic measures will be implemented following Trump’s signature: all US-based assets and property associated to any individual or entity linked to the IRGC will be seized and frozen. No US individual or entity is permitted to any affiliation, including financial, business or other services, with any individual associated by any means to the IRGC. With all IRGC-affiliated individuals and entities placed under sanctions, this move will have a paralyzing effect for Iran’s belligerent efforts. The IRGC Khatam al-Anbiya conglomerate, currently involved in cooperation with over 2,500 companies, will be targeted severely. A domino effect will launch as sanctions target all related firms. Secondary banking sanctions against the IRGC will ban any and all financial institutions from delivering direct and/or indirect banking services to any individual or entity linked to the IRGC.

These sanctions should be imposed immediately to act as a launching pad for the Trump White House to take the next necessary steps. Iran’s footprints in Syria and Iraq have resulted in utter death and destruction. Tehran’s lethal influence in the Levant and Mesopotamia must be brought to an end. Moving on, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have both spoken of regime change as a forward-looking approach when it comes to Iran.

Ambassador John Bolton, former US envoy to the United Nations, said it most clearly at a recent Iranian opposition rally in Paris: “The outcome of the president’s policy review should be to determine that the Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 revolution will not last until its 40th birthday,” come February 2019.

Iran’s missile launches: A sign of strength or weakness?

How should we evaluate Iran’s medium-range missile strikes, boasted by the mullahs as an official response to the June 7th twin attacks allegedly staged by ISIS in Tehran? As a sign of strength showing Iran’s ability to take on ISIS while also sending a message to all adversaries, most importantly Washington? Or a desperate attempt by the mullahs to maintain a straight face against increasing domestic and foreign crises?

Iran last resorted to such drastic measures of launching ballistic missiles from its soil back in the final days of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988 after suffering major defeats, and once again in 2001 against former bases of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in Iraq in response to a vast opposition camp inside the country. This proves Tehran will fall to such lows when pinned against the wall as a last resort.

The question is, why would Iran launch expensive medium-range missiles, knowing it has yet to perfect a precision guiding system (as three of the seven missiles landed in Iraq and three others were far off their targets in Deir Ezzur)? Furthermore, Iran boasts of having tens of thousands proxy shock troops in Syria propping the Assad regime and there are also reports of Tehran launching missile factories in Syria. So why the need to use such poorly guided medium-range missiles from their own turf?

This was nothing but a publicity stunt following the June 7th attacks, and Iran seeking to take advantage of the entire scenario to press the gas pedal on domestic crackdown and justify their foreign meddling in the Middle East and beyond. I have explained my thoughts extensively in a Forbes and Al Arabiya English article.

Despite targeting Syria in this missile attack, Iran mainly intended to deliver a message to Saudi Arabia. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) accused Riyadh and also Washington over the June 7th attacks.

However, we should also take into notice that Tehran launched its missiles into the deserts of eastern Syria. And while the IRGC accuses Saudi Arabia and the U.S., rest assured Iran’s mullahs are not so foolish as to launch missiles into the Kingdom or target American interests in the Middle East.

Iran’s leaders may be extremists, but they are very pragmatic and know exactly when to back off. One such lesson was learned when the U.S. Navy in 1988 launched Operation Praying Mantis and nearly annihilated Iran’s naval forces in retaliation to the Iranian mining of the Persian Gulf during the Iran–Iraq War, with subsequent damage to an American warship.

The Iranian regime’s senior hierarchy and IRGC were in dire need of such a missile launching especially following five months of setbacks:

a) The election of Donald Trump as President of United States and the end of Obama’s dreadful era of appeasement.

b)  Iran being placed “on notice” by the Trump administration.

c)  Washington slapping two rounds of sanctions and a recent Senate resolution calling for sweeping action against Iran’s ballistic missile program, support of terrorism and human rights violations.

d)  The U.S. military taking direct action against Assad’s airbase in April, more recently attacking Iran-backed troops and two Iran-made drones in southeast Syria, and downing an Assad regime bomber near Raqqa.

e)  And possibly most significant of all, at a time when the Trump administration continues to weigh its comprehensive Iran policy, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is heard in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing emphasizing Washington will support elements inside Iran seeking peaceful regime change.

All this places a heavy burden on a regime that only enjoys merely four percent popular support, as explained by a candidate in last month’s faux presidential election.

As a result, to maintain a straight face Iran will resort to any and all desperate measures. All the while, such a turn of events and severe setbacks have come at the worst possible time for Tehran, as the PMOI/MEK, under the political umbrella of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), are preparing for their annual Paris rally scheduled for July1 this year.

Over 100,000 Iranians and hundreds of American, European and Middle East dignitaries gather to voice their support for NCRI  President Maryam Rajavi and her ten-point plan for the future of Iran enjoying gender equality, peaceful coexistence, abolishing capital punishment, torture and crackdown, and bringing an end to Iran’s nuclear program, meddling and support of terrorism.

As a result, from the mullahs’ perspective desperate times call for desperate measures. Considering the bleak-looking future for Tehran, expect more such reactions.

Sanctions on Iran signal a new horizon

The United States Senate recently voted overwhelmingly 92-7 in favor of moving forward on evaluating further sanctions against Iran and especially targeting the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Following eight years of Obama’s appeasement, this is a significant turn of events resulting in major concerns amongst Tehran and foreign counterparts.

A key signal of Iran’s concerns and status quo in the new balance of power can be received in the somewhat conflicting and hasty remarks heard from senior officials and media outlets across the board in Iran.

“They held the Riyadh summit and claimed of isolating Iran. What isolation was this when such a large number of states stood alongside the Iranian people and the country following the recent terror attack?” said Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani on Iran’s IRIB state TV station.

“The most repulsive of such measures was the recent US Senate initiative in support of terrorists and establishing new sanctions against Iran. Exactly when the Iranian people are the target of terrorists in the parliament, sensing no shame the US Senate passed a bill against the Iranian people in support of terrorists. This shows how the US Senate enjoys no emotions at all… in this bill, packed entirely with support for terrorists, they went the distance and issued sanctions on Iran’s missile program, IRGC and Quds Force…The US should not think differences of opinions in Iran will provide any window of opportunity for their devilish maneuvers,” he added.

Iranian MP Alaedin Borujerdi, Chair of the Security Commission in the Iranian Parliament, resorted to unorthodox comments in regards to the new US Senate measure.

“It is unacceptable to consider Congress separate from the US government. This is a clear and specific violation of the Iran nuclear deal (known as the JCPOA) and is unacceptable… If this bill is ratified the Trump administration must veto it, or else it should ready itself for the consequences of such flagrant JCPOA violations,” he said according to Akhareen Khabar website.

The terms “the US Senate on the same day that” or “the US Senate precisely hours after the ISIS attack” are common codes seen in the outlets of both factions of the Iranian regime. This is a clear reference to the failed attempt of a number of appeasement advocates seeking to halt the US Senate from evaluating the new Iran sanctions bill.

The state-run Iran Jib webiste ran a piece on June 10th titled, “Senate passes measure to review anti-Iran sanctions,” shedding interesting light into the mentality of Iranian regime officials.

“On the day that Tehran, after being the target of an ISIS terrorist attack, was receiving waves of condolences and sympathy from various countries, the US Senate was accusing Iran of terrorism, and under this pretext launched a review of new harsh sanctions… by sending a late and unfriendly message of sympathy to the Iranian people, the US, by establishing its place in the regional triangle of consensus-building against Iran, proved it has no intention of decreasing regional instability and fighting terrorism,” the piece reads.

Resalat daily, the outlet associated to the ultraconservative ‘Motalefe’ faction, went as far as accusing the US of being allied with ISIS.

“What are the recent measures taken by the US Senate? The alliance of America and ISIS against Iran. The US Senate has agreed to impose new sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran… this decision came exactly when ISIS, with the support of the US and Saudi Arabia, launched a terrorist attack in our country… Although the supporters of imposing new sanctions against Iran under the pretext of human rights violations and terrorist activities claim this bill will not hinder the JCPOA, various analysts believe this paves the path for violating the nuclear deal and are already issuing warnings…” the articles reads.

These sanctions have also become fuel for factional disputes.

Iranian MP Mostafa Tajzadeh, a member of the so-called “reformist” faction in Iran, warned the IRGC not to impose further pressure on the faction of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

“I have been and currently am completely against military officers entering the political spectrum and elections, and I first consider it against the interests of the IRGC and the paramilitary Bassij… I know and believe such meddling will significantly damage our unity, security and national interests… IRGC commanders should understand we are undergoing a very sensitive time period. The recent US sanctions are signs of anti-IRGC measures, and it appears they will be seeking to target the IRGC itself with sanctions,” he said according to the state-run Bahar website.

And to add insult to injury, “Western manufacturers are shying away from supplying equipment for an Iranian port that India is developing for fear the United States may reimpose sanctions on Tehran, Indian officials say,” according to Reuters.

As a result, the sanctions triggered by the US Senate can be signs of a new horizon and a very dangerous outcome for Tehran, especially since the Trump administration continues to weigh its comprehensive Iran policy.

As Congress adjusts to Trump, Iran put under the pressure it deserves

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U.S. President-elect Donald Trump – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

By Heshmat Alavi

Maybe the single subject Democrats and Republicans can truly agree on in Washington, today and maybe for a long time to come, will be upgrading sanctions on Iran. President-elect Donald Trump is also expected to place his support behind this initiative, too. Continue reading “As Congress adjusts to Trump, Iran put under the pressure it deserves”

Why We Shouldn’t Worry About Giuliani’s Ties to an Iranian Resistance Group

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Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani

November 28, 2016

Last week, Politico published an article critiquing the Mujahidin e-Khalq, or MEK, an Iranian resistance group, and the U.S. politicians who support it, especially former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. As a former Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and someone familiar with the MEK and Giuliani’s work on the organization’s behalf, I can say unequivocally that Benjamin’s assertions are outrageous—so outrageous that I must respond.

First, I want to be clear about one thing: This isn’t about Rudy Giuliani. Arguably the broadest and most impressive bipartisan coalition in a generation has supported the MEK in its campaign for regime change in Iran. This includes two former chairmen of the joint chiefs, two former CIA directors, a former attorney general and the former chairs of both political parties. The ideological range includes everyone from Howard Dean and Patrick Kennedy to Newt Gingrich and John Bolton. From this perspective, the outlier isn’t Rudy Giuliani; it’s Daniel Benjamin.

Let’s review a little history: The MEK was part of the coalition opposing the shah of Iran in the late 1970s, where it resisted the regime through political and military action. Its leadership was devastated by the shah’s secret police both by execution and imprisonment. The vacuum of leadership was briefly filled by a Marxist group that was rejected by the incarcerated MEK leaders. Many of these Marxist leaders were killed by the shah or by the mullahs after their ascent to power in 1979, and the MEK eventually regained its original leadership. As soon as it became clear that the mullah’s ambition for Iran was a theocracy, the MEK became an opposition group and fled into exile in Paris and Iraq.

 

Throughout this time, the MEK did take part in legitimate political and military action against the Iranian regime, but I have seen no evidence to support the assertion Benjamin makes that it took part in terrorist activities against Iranians or Americans.

The refugee camps of the MEK in Iraq in the 1980s were, by necessity, under the protection of the government of Iraq. MEK fighters were aligned with Iraqi Army during Iran/Iraq War. But Benjamin’s claims that they assisted in Saddam Hussein’s repression of the Kurds have been denied by both MEK and U.S. Army leaders in Iraq. Upon the arrival of U.S. forces in 2003, the MEK willingly handed over its weapons, accepted U.S. protection and actively exposed the Iranian regime and its proxies’ terrorist activities. This included saving American lives by identifying IED locations. This, more than anything, explains the group’s support by former U.S. military personnel, including the former army anti-terror officer and the U.S. military police general assigned to the camp.

This is where the American foreign policy establishment begins to divide. The MEK provided critical intel on the Iranian nuclear program that was invaluable in countering Tehran’s efforts to develop atomic weapons. The leader of the movement, Maryam Rajavi, committed herself publicly to a democratic, non-nuclear, secular Iran at peace with its neighbors with gender equality and a ban on capital punishment. By organizing thousands in the Iranian diaspora and building political support in Congress and parliaments across Europe, it became the most organized and disciplined of the Iranian opposition groups.

Some current and former State Department employees, including Mr. Benjamin, have a different concept. They remain committed to the idea that the MEK was a terrorist organization—a notion, I believe, which stems from an illusion of American reconciliation with the mullahs. In 1997, a group at State succeeded in convincing President Bill Clinton to place the MEK on the State Department list of terrorist organizations. Some claimed at the time that this decision was mainly intended as a goodwill gesture to Iran. The State Department gave as its reasons the MEK’s long record of violence, but I can tell you that as a member of the Foreign Relation Committee, I reviewed the State Department file on the MEK and found no evidence, no testimony and no reason for the designation except placating Tehran.

Thousands of Iranian-Americans and literally hundreds of members of Congress protested. In 2011, as a private attorney, I led a team of lawyers in a State Department inquiry to resolve the issue. After four hours of testimony, we yielded to the State Department to present their contradictory evidence. They had nothing.

With no evidence and the threat of an order by the U.S. District Court, Secretary Hillary Clinton removed the MEK from the State Department list of terrorist organizations in 2012.

Defeat came hard for the Iran apologists within the department. Mr. Benjamin isn’t the first to argue that the broad coalition of former U.S. intelligence, military, diplomatic and congressional leaders can’t be believed because some accepted speaking fees to attend MEK meetings around the world. The fact that these people faced combat for or dedicated their entire careers to our country, and are among our most respected leaders seems to be of no consequence. It’s an argument that requires no rebuttal except to note that by this standard the views of Thomas Paine, Elie Wiesel and Winston Churchill—all of whom accepted speaking fees from various international organizations—would have been silenced as well.

Not the least of those who spoke out was Rudy Giuliani. In 2012, the 3,000 MEK refugees settled along the Iran/Iraq border were under imminent threat. The tension was complicating Iraqi relations with the United States. Secretary Clinton requested that I assemble a persuasive group of distinguished Americans to travel to Europe and persuade Mrs. Rajavi to relocate the refugees to a former U.S. military base near Baghdad. I appealed to Louis Freeh, Ed Rendell, Michael Mukasey and Rudy Giuliani. Each accepted, canceled commitments, paid his own transportation to Paris and argued persuasively that the MEK assist the United States by relocating.

Like any broad coalition in a large diverse country like ours, the perspectives of the Americans in this coalition vary. Some believe that in the political vacuum following an economic or political collapse in Tehran, a determined and well-funded political opposition like the MEK could seize power. Others believe that the MEK might simply be part of a broader coalition, a simple pressure point or just a source of continuing intelligence. The rationale for support might differ, but this diverse group of Americans is united in two ways: All believe that the MEK is a genuine democratic force and that regime change in Tehran is the best option to keep the peace, avoid a nuclear Iran and advance American interests.

This leaves us with the central theme of Mr. Benjamin’s argument: Rudy Giuliani’s participation in this coalition disqualifies him for consideration as secretary of state.

Experience and participation in public policy issues was once a condition for high government service. It’s now a complication, because a record of advocacy creates controversy. But the selection of secretary of state needs to be different. Among the most likely crises facing the new president is an escalation in the struggle with the fundamentalist Islamic Republic of Iran. Rudy Giuliani has lived that struggle for a decade. Mr. Benjamin may quarrel with his efforts but it’s important to note that voices in the American foreign policy establishment as diverse as Senator McCain, Secretary Clinton, Deputy Secretary Blinken and John Kerry’s own personal representative on the MEK, Jonathan Weiner disagree. Each has thanked Rudy Giuliani and the other Americans involved in these efforts.

The president-elect may or may not choose Mr. Giuliani as secretary of state. What shouldn’t happen is for countering Tehran and assisting our country to be seen as anything other than a valuable contribution to his consideration.

Originally published in the Politico