Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Congressmembers Criticize Khatami Administration in Tehran

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Congressmembers Criticize Khatami Administration in Tehran

Article excerpt

CONGRESSMEMBERS CRITICIZE KHATAMI ADMINISTRATION IN TEHRAN

Some 220 members of Congress, evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, signed a statement criticizing the government of Mohammad Khatami in Iran and presented to the press Sept. 16 by Soona Samsami, representative in the United States of the National Council of Resistance in Iran. Presiding over the conference in a hearing room of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC was Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), who was joined at the conference by Reps. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

Expressing concern that the Department of State had included the People's Mojahedin, affiliated with the National Council of Resistance of Iran, on its list of "terrorist organizations," the statement expressed strong reservations about how that action affected the application of anti-terrorism legislation adopted by Congress in 1995.

"It was not Congress's intent," the statement read, "that a legitimate opposition to the Iranian regime be included within that particular list of terrorist groups. This has essentially had the effect of opening up the main opposition group in Iran to further attacks by the Iranian regime's state-sponsored terrorism machine."

The congressional statement quoted a senior Clinton administration official as having said that inclusion of the People's Mojahedin on the list of terrorist organizations was "intended as a goodwill gesture to Tehran and its newly elected moderate president, Mohammed Khatami."

"This designation is indeed a wrong-headed approach and appears to directly contradict at least the spirit of the anti-terrorism law, and we believe the decision should be reviewed immediately" the statement continued. "In fact on Jan. 16, 1998, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ruled out dialogue with `the Great Satan,' which he branded `the enemy of the Iranian nation.' Khatami himself took up the theme only days later, attacking the United States in a strident speech completely at odds with earlier statements."

In her statement, Samsami noted that the election of Mohammed Khatami as president of Iran "whetted the appetite of the advocates of appeasement. The futile and costly search for that elusive commodity, the `moderate mullah' was on again. They claimed that Khatami was different from other mullahs, and the U. …

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