Monday, April 17, 2017
Sen. John McCain meets with Iranian dissidents relocated to Albania
by Daniel Chaitin
John McCain: Iran is not a 'force for good'
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., met with a group representing Iranian dissidents in Albania on Friday.
Speaking to members of the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, the largest of five organizations in the National Council of Resistance of Iran, at their headquarters in Tirana, McCain spoke about his opposition to the Iranian regime. "Someday, Iran will be free. Someday, we will all gather in that square," McCain said.
He also congratulated members of the group for successfully relocating to Albania from Iraq where they had been subject to attacks from militias backed by Iran.
"There is no doubt that the people in this room have suffered," McCain told the gathering, also attended by Maryam Rajavi, the group's president-elect. "They have suffered not only themselves but in the loss of their loved ones because of the Iranian tyranny, and I express my condolences to everyone in this room who has lost a loved one as a result of the Iranian tyranny and terrorism."
After the event, McCain met separately with Rajavi, the group said.
McCain has spent the first week of the congressional recess traveling across Eastern Europe. He's made stops in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro.
His office did not immediately return a request for comment on his visit to Albania.
The dissident group, also known as the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, has revealed information on Iran's nuclear and terror activities over the years.
The MEK says 140 MEK members were killed in seven attacks on Camps Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq by the Iranian regime, the Iraqi army and the pro-regime Iraqi terrorist militias.
In 2004, following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the MEK residing at Camp Asraf handed over their weapons and submitted to U.S. military protection. This was after the U.S. reportedly bombed the encampment as part of a deal with Iran, which promised to repatriate some members of al Qaeda if the U.S. attacked the MEK. The U.S. handed over responsibility to protect the dissidents to the Iraqi government in 2009, which moved the group to Camp Liberty in 2012.
After Camp Liberty was repeatedly attacked, the MEK appealed to the United Nations to allow them to return to Camp Asraf, which they said provided better protection. The U.N. High Commission for Refugees and the U.S. supported an effort to move Camp Liberty residents out of Iraq and Albania had offered to take the refugees in.
The last remaining members of the group departed Camp Liberty and were resettled in September.
The U.S. had listed the MEK as a terrorist organization for past alleged attacks on Americans, for which MEK has denied having any role. One senior official in the Clinton administration described the designation as a gesture of goodwill to then-Iranian president Mohammad Khatami. The MEK was removed from the list in 2012.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to better describe the structure of the MEK and to correct the original version which incorrectly said the last remaining members of the group departed Camp Liberty and were resettled in August.