TEHRAN — Former U.S. national security adviser John Bolton has admitted to receiving money from the cultish Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) group, at a time when the group was still not removed from Washington’s blacklist.
“How much of your antipathy towards Iran is to do with geopolitics, and how much is to do with the fact that you have a long association with a group called MEK which was once a terrorist group banned by the State Department while you worked there?” Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hassan asked Bolton in an interview.
Bolton, in a sarcastic tone, said, “You know that I took tens of thousands of dollars for speeches in liberal universities in the United States.”
“The fact is that [former U.S. secretary of state] Hillary Clinton, perhaps someone you support, took the MEK off the U.S. list of terrorist organizations,” he said.
In response, Hassan argued that “She took it off in 2012 and you spoke with them in 2010 when they were still a banned group … You were in Paris speaking at a MEK rally in 2010 when they were still a banned group according to the State Department.”
The MEK was established in the 1960s to express a mixture of Marxism and Islamism. It launched bombing campaigns against the Shah, continuing after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, against the Islamic Republic. Iran accuses the group of being responsible for 17,000 deaths.
Based in Iraq at the time, MEK members were armed by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to fight against Iran during a war that lasted for 8 years in the 1980s.
In 2012, the U.S. State Department removed the MEK from its list of designated terrorist organizations under intense lobbying by groups associated with Saudi Arabia and other regimes opposed to Iran.
Bolton and some other former and current officials of the Trump administration have attended the MEK’s meetings. Bolton has praised the terrorist group as a “democratic alternative” to the Islamic Republic.